I'm listening to the radio as I type. It's almost time for the daily obituary announcements. I feel old when I confess that I listen to those on the radio. Years ago I led a Bible study in a neighbouring community with many elderly women. Women who loved me as I was, in my conceit, and I often worry that one of them will pass away and I won't hear about it. Occasionally there has been a real shock when I hear the familiar name of someone unexpectedly passing away.
I pulled out a tea stained, fading copy of one of my all time favourite books. It's a book that one friend gave to another friend and she eventually gave it to me. There are three different kinds of underlining in it, which makes me smile just to type that. I opened it to this bit which we all took note of:
"Community is caring for people, but of course as soon as we start caring for people, we know that there are some people who will just drive us up the wall. Some we will really like, because they think like us. Then we risk falling into a world of mutual flattery. We are all so much in need of affection that when somebody gives it to us we want to hold onto it. Then we say to the other person, "You're wonderful! Keept at it! Keep flattering me! You know, it's nice." We're like little cats who need to be caressed. We then begin to purr.
But flattery doesn't help anyone to grow. It doesn't bring freedom but rather closes people up in themselves. We are attracted to certain people, and others put us off. We don't get on well with them. They trigger off our anguish. Perhaps they remind us of our fathers and mothers who were too authoritarian or possessive. Some people threaten us, others flatter us. Some meetings are joyful, and others are painful. When we begin talking about caring for people, then we begin to see how difficult it can be.......growth will come as we come closer to people who are different from us and as we learn to welcome and listen even to those who trigger off our pain."(emphasis added)
I have to confess that I am often quite relieved to hear around the tables in AA that I don't have to like everyone. I try to remember that means not everyone has to like me, either. But we are in community together. And it's a whole 'nother thought to embrace what they have to teach me, to welcome it. I tend to want to run the other way fast in a hands-over-my-ears kind of way. Lord have mercy.