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    Practical Suggestions for Putting Up with People

    Loving your neighbor is a commandment that cannot be overlooked.

    By A Religious of the CSMV

    January 22, 2023
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    The Community of Saint Mary the Virgin (CSMV), an Anglican religious order in Oxfordshire, England, published This Is Life: A Book for the Busy, from which this excerpt is taken, in 1960.


    We come now to the two laws of love towards our neighbor, the general and the particular. The elder law had the one commandment only, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This implies that there is a right self-love, a sense in which we ought to love ourselves, and err if we do not. The right self-love loves self because God does, and for no other reason. It wants what God wants for itself, and nothing else. This is no more than common sense. How shall we not love the self that God has made, that he so loves, and for which our dear Lord took flesh, and died, and rose again? Pious writers sometimes speak of “hatred of self” as the necessary concomitant of love for God, and the mark of the saint; but that is wrong. We have to hate our sins, for they are blemishes on God’s beloved, but most emphatically we are NOT to hate ourselves.

    three farming women walking down a dirt road

    Jules Breton, The Friends, oil on canvas, 1873

    For the same reason, we are required to hate other people’s sins, but love themselves. It is easy to say that, and to point [out] the distinction in words, but very difficult to do it. You cannot separate a person from his faults that perhaps hit you in the eye, as maybe yours do him. How then is it possible to hate the one, and yet to love the other?

    The answer comes out of that description of what will happen on the Day of Judgement, to which we referred just now. The Incarnate Son of God has so identified himself with Man that he includes all men. In the dear old evangelical phrase, we have therefore to “see the Lord” in them. Sometimes this is quite easy, and you can’t help doing it. He has a way of peeping out from the most imperfect people on occasion, even from those who barely know his name, and in the truly holy and humble of heart he is never far to seek. But at other times and with many people he is so wholly hidden that to see him in them, and to act accordingly, calls for heroic faith. But the effort of faith must be made, for of all the hindrances to worship in our lives, there is none greater than failure in charity towards our neighbor …

    In the Anglican liturgy, intending communicants are expressly required to be in love and charity with all their neighbors. That this is a sine qua non of worthy reception is obvious. Nevertheless the lives of many otherwise religious people are spoilt by misrelationships like these. We are far too easy-going with ourselves about such things. We think they do not matter very much, and can’t be helped, and anyhow the other person is the most to blame, and we have done our best. But they do matter. They matter utterly, in any case; and when they are between Christians, whose duty it is to love each other as their Lord loves them, they are quite damnable and devastating in the harm they do, both to the individuals concerned and to the Church, as well as to outsiders who are scandalized. If we want to worship all the time, as we are called to do, and if we do not want to suffer from thrombosis of the soul, we must deal with them and correct them, at whatever cost. Here are a few practical suggestions as to how this may be done.

    First and foremost and all the time, let us frankly recognize that, if those blessed twins, the senses of humor and proportion, were always in full working order as they should be in a Christian life, such deplorable situations as we are envisaging simply would not arise. Those senses are intrinsic elements in love, and integral to a full human life. Let us thank God for them, and make full use of them. Where such situations do exist, the following points may be observed.

    Few people’s defenses can stand up indefinitely to the assault of genuine, effective love.

    First, as a necessary safeguard, one should bind oneself by a solemn promise made to God in prayer never to speak of anyone’s shortcomings to a third person without real necessity – never, that is, to do so merely to relieve one’s feelings and get sympathy. Failure to keep this promise must be confessed as sin.

    Second, one must be very brave and honest in searching one’s own heart. You can be pretty sure that pride comes into your unfortunate reactions to that person, and there may be jealousy as well. Out with it, then. Admit it and condemn it. If there has been open friction between you and the other, and words have passed between you that are matter for regret, then apologize without delay for your share in the fault. Someone has got to begin; it had better be you.

    Thirdly, one must take every chance that offers of showing friendly to the person whom one has got across. This approach, however, must be humble, not de haut in bas. Nothing is more alienating to an already exacerbated B than self-conscious magnanimity on the part of A. One should be at least as genuinely ready to put oneself in the other’s debt for help and kindness, as to put him in one’s own. In some cases this may involve turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to quite a lot for quite a time; but few people’s defenses can stand up indefinitely to the assault of genuine, effective love (i.e. effective as distinct from affective; love that acts, not love that feels), which is what these tactics are, and many ultimately staunch and lifelong friends have been made and won in this way. Moreover, truly Christian meekness is not weakness; it is strength, for it requires tremendous self-control. You put up with a lot, perhaps, and some may say that you are letting the other person wipe his boots on you and showing lack of spirit. Of course some characters do let themselves be dominated and browbeaten by others of a more aggressive temperament; but that is quite a different thing, and good for neither party. The generous forbearance that we are advocating here is good for both of you. It is good for A to practice active love to B, and to try “to see the Lord” in him, regardless of his feelings; and it is good for B to have the best believed of him. Further, only the truly humble person in the part of A, the one who is normally forbearing almost to a fault, will have the grace and power on occasion to stand up to B and – as the modern idiom has it – show him where he gets off. Such rare but unequivocal rebuke, given in gentleness and selflessly and prompted by the Spirit, will take effect where a score of heated tellings-off only make matters worse. But no one can hope to act A’s part like that, unless he is prepared to take occasional rebuke himself.

    Lastly, this line of action is a fulfilment of the “new commandment.” To put it mildly, our Lord puts up with a great deal from us. He helps us; yet in his great humility he seeks our help. He fully knows the worst of us, yet he believes the best. He loves us whole. He loves us redemptively, constructively, creatively. In fact, his love is what Saint Paul describes:

    Love is patient and kind;
    Love is not jealous or boastful;
    It is not arrogant or rude.
    Love does not insist on its own way;
    It is not irritable or resentful;
    It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
    Love bears all things,
    Believes all things,
    Endures all things,
    Hopes all things.
    Love never ends.

    That love he requires from us towards each other.


    Source: A Religious of the CSMV, This Is Life: A Book for the Busy. London, SCM Press, 1960 (106–112).

    Contributed By A Religious of the CSMV

    The Community of Saint Mary the Virgin (CSMV), an Anglican religious order in Oxfordshire, England, published This Is Life: A Book for the Busy, from which this excerpt is taken, in 1960.

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