Home > Faith, Relationships > Two Kinds of People

Two Kinds of People

I heard once there are two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and people who don’t.

Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s really only one kind of people in the world: the kind that sees two kinds of people in the world. People for whom everyone registers according to a certain set of criteria, whether intentionally or not, or even consciously or not. The “like-me’s” and the “not-like-me’s”, perhaps, or the “desirables” and the “undesirables”. For example:

Fat people and skinny people
Pretty people and unpretty people
Pretty girls and everyone else
Rich people (aka “people who have something I want”) and average people
Intelligent people and stupid or ignorant people
Conservatives and Liberals (or pick your political dichotomy)
People who might be my friend and people who probably wouldn’t
People with authority or influence and people without it
People who appreciate me and people who don’t
Black people and white people
White people and minorities

Now surely no one thinks of everyone as always in one category or another. But everyone I think has a set of categories like this, or more than one. I know I do. It’s a sort of blindness, like walking through a breathtaking park and only seeing how much it needs to be mowed.

I’d like to be the sort of person with only one category of people around me: people who need love. Love sheds a lot of light on a person, or group of people, and makes it pretty difficult to relegate them to a category. And I think it’s a tall task to uncover someone who doesn’t need love. In our own ways we are all hurt, or forgotten, or angry, or alone in ways that only being loved can address.

I had an unexpected encounter with someone this week whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, someone who during her time in my life abused me emotionally in a fairly significant way. I don’t speak of her anymore except sometimes with others who know her, and then usually with a certain mutual understanding, like one speaks of a crotchety grandmother, or maybe Hitler. We rode the same elevator, she and I, and the people we each were with, and it was as tense a dramatic elevator moment as any Greys Anatomy writer could have devised.

I’m trying now to tie this story to the topic at hand and honestly I’m having trouble figuring out where I land on it. I can say with relative confidence that I have very little love for this person, and I can also say with the same confidence that that really bothers me. And not in a religious guilt sort of way, but in a way that goes right to the core of my faith. If what I say I believe is true, if there is a God who is all that is good in the world and whose nature is centrally love, then somehow this woman is loveable – and even loved.

Now would be a good time to bandy about the “love thy enemy” command, as though I knew what it meant. But that’s not the sort of command you just up and do, as with “fold thy laundry,” or “haveth some coffee,” two of the lesser-known biblical commands (at least around my house). As with most of the teachings Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount, this one falls under the pretty-much-impossible category, the sort of task that’s unaffected by determination and willpower, that I can’t just rouse myself to do. In fact, I don’t think that overall the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are things I’m meant to do at all, so much as be.

Be the sort of person who loves the people you want to hate.
Be the sort of person who doesn’t hold judgments over others.
Be the sort of person who does the things that are good, rather than just learning and talking about them.
Be the sort of person who only sees one sort of person in the world.
Be the sort of person who is perfect, like God.

If I were a master web coder I would have put checkboxes next to each of those things to illustrate how ridiculous they are to do. Jesus has left absolutely no room to think I am capable of these things under my own abilities and motivation. What he is describing is a person with a fundamentally changed world view, and I clearly can’t just up and make that happen.

I believe it’s possible though, which must be why my feelings for this person bother me. Being in an elevator with her brought back many of the feelings of dread that she previously inspired in me, though this time noticeably without the anvil that used to rest squarely on my chest long after she would leave. She was a significant part of a season of hurt, disappointment and loneliness in my life, when I lost much of my youthful optimism and dreams. I don’t blame her for that, because that’s the sort of thing that no one can really be blamed for; on the other hand she did do her damage. So my context for her doesn’t help her much – I’ve sometimes wondered how I would have felt differently about her had I known her five years earlier, when I was well-supported relationally and better resourced emotionally and spritually.

Eh, I could go on about what her upbringing may have been like from what little I know, and find some other reasons to sympathize with her, but this is perhaps all an exercise in meaningless pity. The inescapable reality I keep coming up against is that no matter what she has done or what was done to her, she is either loveable or she is not. Either love can see beyond any evil or it cannot. I am banking my life on the former.

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  1. July 20, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    What an excellent thought. These are my favorites:

    “Be the sort of person who loves the people you want to hate.
    Be the sort of person who doesn’t hold judgments over others.”

    I always knew that being the better person meant loving, accepting, and appreciating your “enemy”. Because once you do that, where is your problem?

  1. June 30, 2010 at 7:20 am

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