I’ve met some very obstinate, morally offensive people. The type of individuals, who enjoy pushing people’s buttons. Is it ever morally acceptable to tell an individual that you don’t like them? How do we deal with such people?
[quote=Michael J Lord]I’ve met some very obstinate, morally offensive people. The type of individuals, who enjoy pushing people’s buttons.
We first must be careful about attempting to read other people’s hearts and about stereotyping them. It is possible to acknowledge that someone is settled in his opinions like a pillar in concrete (i.e., stubborn); it is also possible to acknowledge that someone commits objective moral infractions and that those infractions offend moral law. What we cannot do is to extrapolate from those conclusions that this is someone who “enjoy[s] pushing people’s buttons.”
[quote=Michael J Lord]Is it ever morally acceptable to tell an individual that you don’t like them?
Christians are commanded to love even their enemies, but there is no command that we like them. For a good explanation of the difference between Christian charity (agape) and natural affection, see C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. In a nutshell, Christian charity is to desire another person’s ultimate happiness (the Beatific Vision) and to do what is reasonably possible to contribute toward that end. Agape rises from the will and can thus be directed even toward people for whom we have no natural affection. Natural affection, on the other hand, is what we colloquially call being in “like.” It arises from the feelings; while it can be channeled and controlled, it is almost impossible to summon it ex nihilo.
Do you actually tell someone you dislike him? If it would serve the cause of Christian agape and lead him to ultimate salvation, it would be morally licit to do so. But will it serve that purpose? Look at it this way: If someone told you he disliked you and found you to be morally offensive, would it be likely to open your heart and mind to anything else he might say? Or, would it rather cause in you the Sour Grapes Syndrome (i.e., “Well, I never liked him, either!”)? So long as there is a possibility of continuing the relationship, telling someone you dislike him is only going to undermine what’s left of the relationship. Even when the possibility of casual acquaintanceship is lost, telling someone you dislike him only burns bridges. It may well be better to simply end the relationship without destructive commentary that will end any possibility that you can be God’s instrument in that person’s life in the future.
[quote=Michael J Lord]How do we deal with such people [that we dislike]?
By recognizing the duties we have toward such people to hope, pray, and work (to the extent that is reasonably possible) for their ultimate salvation, but to also recognize that we do not have to like them.
Another helpful book on this subject is Gregory Popcak’s God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts.
God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts:
(These books may also be available through your local Catholic bookstore.)