On being liked

Why is it that we are so obsessed with being liked by other people? Why do we cling to this fleeting affection from those very same people who will so easily forget us? For my part, when I stopped caring what people thought of me, whether they would like me or not, whether or not I had any friends, I grew a lot closer to God because I realised that there is no one else on whom I can rely in every situation.

It is good for us that we sometimes have sorrows and adversities, for they often make a man lay to heart that he is only a stranger and sojourner, and may not put his trust in any worldly thing. It is good that we sometimes endure contradictions, and are hardly and unfairly judged, when we do and mean what is good. For these things help us to be humble, and shield us from vain-glory. For then we seek the more earnestly the witness of God, when men speak evil of us falsely, and give us no credit for good.

2. Therefore ought a man to rest wholly upon God, so that he needeth not seek much comfort at the hand of men. When a man who feareth God is afflicted or tried or oppressed with evil thoughts, then he seeth that God is the more necessary unto him, since without God he can do no good thing. Then he is heavy of heart, he groaneth, he crieth out for the very disquietness of his heart. Then he groweth weary of life, and would fain depart and be with Christ. By all this he is taught that in the world there can be no perfect security or fulness of peace.

– Thomas A Kempis, Book I, Chapter XII, Of the uses of adversity 

Of all the people I have hurt in my life, I have hurt God the most and yet He always welcomed me when I returned.

Now the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear Him.

And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

And He spoke to them this parable, saying:

What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing:

And coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost?

I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.

– Luke 15:1-7

I’m not just talking about people who don’t share your faith either. Sure, a lot of those people won’t like you but a lot of Catholics won’t like you, especially if they’re happy and comfortable where they are. We should never be comfortable! God is always pushing us further and further. Saints did not lead comfortable lives! They were persecuted, they suffered, they lead hard lives.

Don’t be surprised if your fellow Catholics don’t really get on with you and don’t worry if you are not best friends with every other Catholic who shares your views; just because you identify as a Traditionalist does not mean that you will, by default, get on well with every other Traditionalist. I think I thought that traditionally minded people would like me because I tick some boxes: I love the Old Rite, I wear a veil, I do pro-life work. Yes, and what? You think that means they’re going to think you’re the best thing since sliced bread? Er, no.

It is inevitable that you should feel the rub of other people’s characters against your own. After all, you are not a gold coin that everyone likes.

Besides, without that friction produced by contact with others, how would you ever lose those corners, those edges and projections—the imperfections and defects—of your character, and acquire the smooth and regular finish, the firm flexibility of charity, of perfection?

If your character and the characters of those who live with you were soft and sweet like sponge-cake you would never become a saint.

– St Josemaria Escriva, ‘The Way’

Look, you are not special in this regard. Whatever you are struggling with, millions upon millions of people have struggled with the exact same thing.

What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? the same that shall be done.

– Ecclesiasticus 1:9

Take comfort from that. You are not alone in this struggle against your vain wish to be liked by those who do not matter. We are on the path to sainthood, though that prospect is only a tiny speck on the horizon. Overcoming this hurdle is a baby step in the direction that leads to paradise!

Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found: call upon Him, while He is near.

– Isaiah 55:6

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