“Do you like him?” “Do you like her?” If you have spent much time around middle or high school youth you probably have heard one of these questions, asked skeptically about another student while not insinuating anything romantic. The tone, rather, would have made it clear that the person’s undesirable qualities made him/her hard to like.
For the most part we adults don’t come right out and ask such questions. Some of us feel the need, however, to set the record straight that we are aware of the shortcomings of certain associates or friends. We want it to be clear that we approve of particular attributes but not others. Why would we ever be defensive about liking someone? Why would we apologize about seeing the good in a person who was made in the image of God? Surely none of us expect that any human being exists who is without fault. Jesus was fully God and fully human yet the Pharisees did not like him.
In the Golden Rule Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) Some Christians say we should love others but we don’t have to like them. Wouldn’t it be better to love them and to like them?
Of course there will always be those who annoy us just as we are bound to irritate certain people. It is not possible for us to like everyone or for everyone to like us, but shouldn’t we like way more people than we dislike?
For some of us this is easier to do with children and youth. We can quickly point out and appreciate their special qualities. Most parents not only love but like their children. They have spent time getting to know the positive and the negative. Usually mothers and fathers focus more on the good characteristics of their kids. We should do the same for others.
Everyone has a unique personality and individual gifts. It is nice for us take the time to learn their stories and listen to what they have been through. This listening might reveal some common ground or reasons for empathy. In looking with grace-filled eyes for the best in people we often develop appreciation for them.
We can genuinely like those with whom we disagree. It is not that we have to spend a lot of time with people we find difficult or that we should allow others to have a bad influence on us. Liking someone does not mean that we approve of everything he/she says or does. It simply means that we unapologetically enjoy the good traits that God has bestowed on them.