Recently, while listening to a podcast, I was introduced to a quote by Thomas Merton:
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Needless to say, I found this very convicting.
How many times have I counseled my youngest sister to make decisions that mirror my own, only to harbor resentment over her choice to walk her own path? How many times have I expected my husband, my best friend, and my coworkers to fully support my point of view, only to be shocked—shocked—when they disagree?
As I come to terms with my consistent failure to love others for what they are, rather than the reflection of myself I find in them, one question comes to mind:
If I could choose, would I actually want everyone to think and feel and be like me?
Recently, my husband and I confronted a major health scare. Everywhere we looked, we faced more tests and waiting. The journey to the ultimate diagnosis felt too long, too winding. I was a mess, consumed with worry and myopically focused on details, as if I could change our circumstances with follow-up questions or WebMD research. He, on the other hand, was a rock—confident, grounded, decisive, and mostly at peace throughout the whole ordeal.
I saw nothing of myself in him—and I’m so grateful.
This experience helped me realize I need practice loving others for what they are. I need to support the strategies of my co-workers over my own. I need to affirm the goals and aspirations of my siblings, even when I’m not so sure they make sense. I need to practice humility in my friendships and value diverse opinions within my inner circle.
The truth is, I want to be the kind of friend, sister, daughter, wife, co-worker who appreciates people for more than the reflection of myself I see in them.