My best friend’s mother is going through a tough time right now. She attends a weekly exercise class, and the instructor has been very unkind to her. She is convinced the woman does not like her. The instructor frequently insults my friend’s mother, embarrasses her in front of the group, and rebukes any kindness she offers. The situation is frustrating and painful.
The Religious Solution
My friend sat with his mother recently, and they talked it over. Both of them agreed the best course of action was to pray for the woman. Religious teachings and also the spiritual teachings of AA both align with this solution. However, when I heard it, I had a different thought.
Pray for Change
The root of the problem is not that the woman does not like my friend’s mother. The essence of it is how his mother feels about it. She loves social interaction and has a strong need to be liked. It is driving her crazy that no matter what she does, this woman still hates her.
The idea of praying for the woman sounds nice. But her intention in doing so is to change the woman’s behavior, and that will not happen. Now, if she were to sit and actively meditate, sending love, compassion, and forgiveness to the woman energetically; that might actually cause a positive reaction. I have always believed that the answer is not to try and change the other person’s behavior, but instead to look inward at what we can change within ourselves.
A Spiritual Solution
I suggested to my friend that his mother find a way to let go of the need to be liked. If she didn’t care who likes her or doesn’t, she would be better off. It is her need for acceptance that keeps her in misery. It’s much easier said than done because none of us enjoys being mistreated by a stranger. The freedom to accept that not everyone will like you, though, is amazing. Instead of praying for the woman to change, she might want to pray for the power to change herself.
Being Okay with Not Being Liked
Years ago, I was in an Al-Anon support group, and this older woman who I loved, admired, and respected said: “it’s okay not to like everyone.” Those words freed me because I always felt guilty when I had a negative thought or feeling against someone else. If I didn’t like someone for any reason, I would barrage myself with negative self-talk, and that never did any good. Not everyone will like you, and you will not like everyone, and that is okay.
I’m Not for Everyone
I read a lot of blogs, and one that I really liked a lot was on this very subject. An outspoken and prominent man who had a weekly blog kept getting hate mail from a reader. He ignored it for a while, then he responded with, “Hey man, I’m not for everyone.” I love his way of handling it. He did not need to be liked, and he did not defend who he was or what he said. His approach was to simply advise the man who disliked him to move on. What a beautiful solution!
Our interactions with other people are lessons to learn from. They can also be an excellent opportunity for change if we let them. So take stock and see if there is something about yourself that you want to change. Remember, it is okay that not everyone likes you. All that is important is that you, like you.