It is an unfortunate fact of life that we simply can't get along with everybody. If we are lucky, we have good relationships with our family and friends and in-laws, but every once in awhile, there is someone who becomes a literal ‘thorn in our side.' Sometimes, it is apparent why this happens. But other times, as much as we analyze and pick the relationship apart, conversation by conversation, we can't understand totally why this happens. Call it karma, call it fate, call it 'that's life in the big city' ~ it can play havoc with our lives. This is especially so, if it is a family member, a spouse, or an in-law. What do you do when it is a sibling, a parent or God forbid, a spouse?
I was immersed in a dysfunctional relationship where emotions on both sides overrode logic. I tried my best to avoid social encounters with this person. When I couldn't or didn't, I either bit my tongue in all conversations, held back lashing back to a minimum, or feigned sickness to avoid meetings. On occasion, I worked more, socialized less or buried myself in a book.
When this person was present, I felt stressed and prayed that the day turned out okay and not into a fiasco. Others were counting on me to mend the gap and just 'keep cool' or 'chill out' or anything short of sitting on me and duct-taping my mouth. They told me silence was golden. Even silence was stressful.
I tried many different avenues of being civil, thinking it may work out. But, when it didn’t work out, there was always a ‘stress' situation.
This was a 'long-history person' in my life. We simply were like mixing oil and water. We always were. Words spoken were not taken the way they were meant. Get togethers became strained. Attempts to make it better made it worse; and the chasm opened wide and threatened to swallow us.
This relationship caused additional spiritual stress for me: didn't God tell us to forgive seventy times seven? Aren't we supposed to 'love one another as He loves us"? How could I reconcile this fractured relationship with my faith? How could I change into something I wasn't or accept what I couldn't. I knew I could not or want to change this person. Over time, it was apparent it was futile and there was no solution.
One day, at church service, there was a vtisiting minister. His topic was "You Can't Get Along With Everybody." I was all ears. His sermon was loving, prayerful, scriptural and reality. He looked out at all of us and said, "You have to face the fact that you won't get along with everybody in life - it could even be someone close, a loved one or even a child of yours or a parent. You simply will not have a good relationship with him or her."
And then he offered, "Even Jesus did not get along with everyone. As a native Nazarene, he was not always welcome in his own neighborhood; people mocked him that "he was a carpenter's son - how can he think he is a Son of God; we knew him as a child playing. Jesus left his hometown and started traveling with his ministry. And when he and/or the Apostles were not welcome in a town, he told them to 'wipe the dust off their feet' and move on."
I talked with the minister after the service and told him how badly I felt about this relationship that I just couldn't seem to embrace or change. He answered, "There are some relationships you can't fix. Thank God they are few, but they simply will never be what they are supposed to be. Sometimes you have to walk away and leave them. Withdraw from them; they will eventually harm you. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on." BUT,...he continued…."Always ~ ALWAYS, pray for that person, forgive them and forgive yourself. But always pray for them."
This minister was not suggesting that I disregard any and all people that I had difficulty with and wipe them off like dust. We are all imperfect. And this wasn't a case of one being right or one being wrong - we were simply incompatible.
I found a serene feeling of letting go that day. And I followed his advice. I also began praying for that person. And that was very difficult for me. The first few prayers were stifled and stiff and seemed to get stuck in my throat. It felt so insincere. But I kept at it and in time, sincerely meant the prayer. I pray for this person to this day. I pray for peace and well-being. I remind myself that they are loved as a child of God just as I am.
With my change in attitude and prayer, I feel differently about this person. We may never be close or never see each other again, but the awful feelings of animosity and dread are gone. There is no judgment or blame here -- it's just that...."As one face differs from another, so does one's heart."
But even different hearts can learn to live in peace with themselves. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Louis B. Smedes
Marie Coppola Revised May 2019