I don’t know about you but I find it’s hardest to love people who are hard to love. People who are hard to like. People who are unkind to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past couple of years in particular, in no small part because there are people in close proximity to me who have fallen into that category.
It makes me think about our 19 month old purebred British bulldog, Charlie… who loves everyone and everything… people, dogs, cats, birds, insects, you name it. If it’s alive, he loves it.
Since Charlie has always been such a loving dog, we didn’t think twice about volunteering to look after another dog… an older Portuguese Water dog named Lottie. Charlie was enthralled to have ‘company’ and immediately decided they were ‘best buds’. Anything Lottie did, Charlie did. If she walked down the hall, Charlie was walking right behind her, matching her pace. If she laid down, he laid down. If she got up and moved to a new place, Charlie got up and moved too. So cute… but not for long. It quickly became evident that Lottie didn’t have the same ‘lovin’ feeling towards Charlie as he had towards her.
Maybe she thought his ‘love’ seemed suspiciously like ‘stalking’. Maybe she was getting crotchety in her advancing age. Or maybe she just didn’t care for a certain British bulldog. Regardless, she let her displeasure be known. She barked at Charlie… lunged at Charlie… and even bit Charlie on a couple of occasions. The more he didn’t ‘get’ it… the more pronounced her actions became. It got to the point where she would lose it if she entered a room and even set eyes on him (who we were keeping in a different space as much as possible at that point). Lottie went out of her way to communicate that she wanted nothing to do with Charlie… a fact that truly seemed to perplex him.
No matter how extreme Lottie’s actions or reactions were, Charlie never once retaliated. Never once barked, bit, growled, or lunged. He loved Lottie even though she was being less than lovable and certainly less than kind toward him.
Right from the time he was born, it has been Charlie’s practice to exhibit loving behavior toward others. In fact, when we were considering which puppy to adopt, Charlie stood out from the rest because he just took whatever abuse the other dogs heaped on him… including lunging, snarling, and biting.
Charlie’s example reminds me of some truths that I need to apply more consistently in my life, starting today:
- If someone doesn’t love you, love them anyway.
- Be yourself even if someone doesn’t appreciate who you are.
- Know who you are and be that person. Not everyone will like you but that’s ok. You can still love them.
- It’s possible to love people you don’t particularly like. Consider your immediate and extended family, and I suspect you’ll come up with at least one person who falls into that category.
- Your attitude doesn’t depend on someone else. No one can take away your joy unless you let them.
- Love should be unconditional. That’s what we hope for from others so why should we give anything less.
- Love is a feeling but it’s also a choice. Choosing to love inspires us to feel more loving which, in turn, increases our joy.
- Not everyone can handle ‘full-on’ Charlie (which is why our dogsitting days are a thing of the past…).