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Why We Don’t Like People

Okay, maybe I should just speak for myself. Perhaps you are great at liking people, and generally I’m pretty good at it, myself, but looking at how Jesus liked people causes me to pause for a bit more understanding about the whole people thing.

Sure, we like people who have some appealing qualities that are immediately apparent. Like, if they are friendly and kind, confident, but not too much, smart, but not arrogant.

A Relational Disability
But, here’s the deal, most all of us bring a relational disability to pretty much any encounter with another human being. Ever since Adam and Eve added shame to our DNA, we carry around a hefty bit of insecurity. Subconsciously, our default question is, “Can I be liked and loved?” You may be one of those rare mutations that totally assumes your likability and love-worthiness, but if so, that just means that you haven’t been paying attention, because someone along the way has called that into question.

So, our insecurity about ourselves, no matter how well we mask it –even to ourselves, means that encounters with other people become auditions. We conduct an audition on the other person to see if they are worth liking. And here’s the primary test in the audition: Do they like us? Do they make us feel better about ourselves?

We’re not looking for relationships – we’re looking for mirrors. Magic mirrors. Wicked witch mirrors.

So, we really like people who like us and make us feel great about ourselves. And, conversely, we find people very unlikable who are slow to join our parade.

That’s not all bad, by the way. There’s something very good about being affirmed and valued. In many ways we are actually healed by such liking from others. So, don’t ditch your best friends. They’re gifts.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about how Jesus could see beneath the surface in people’s lives, was committed to like them from the beginning, and could imagine more for those he met. Jesus certainly examined people, including their motives, but he never conducted an audition in order to find fans.

We have a hard time seeing beneath the surface in others, because we don’t do too well with that in ourselves. It’s almost impossible for us to start with a commitment to others, and as far as seeing more for others, we are too busy trying to improve our own positions.

Now, I’m feeling insecure about writing these things, suspecting that you will judge me as way too negative, and probably assume that I wasn’t breast-fed when a baby, but since God really likes “truth in the inmost being,” why not be honest.

Naming what we do is the first step towards not doing it. I don’t want to conduct auditions. When I do, here’s what happens:
– I spend my time posturing, making sure they get the most favorable view of me. How else can they pass the audition.
– I limit whom I might like and like people for the wrong reasons.
– I become critical of others, and even cynical when few seem to pass.
– I nearly totally miss what God might have created and is doing in the life of someone else.

Lord, may I follow Jesus into the lives of others, looking to serve, bless, heal, and overcome. Thank you that my insecurity shows me how much I need your grace, forgiveness and love. My growing security in you helps me to laugh at my foolishness. Thank you.

Tomorrow: How a misguided view of God, holiness, truth, and sin makes us like people even less.


  1. MoreVinnie says:

    Thank you. So true.

  2. Andrew Stillwell says:

    Mark…like it.  check out my facebook profile/my band and listen to "lightning strikes"….about the posturing and the insecurity that you speak of.   insightful….thanks

  3. huggiesgirl says:

    I came here via a link from your son’s website; These last few posts on liking people are….well I don’t have a word, but let’s just say they challenged me and reminded me and affirmed me all at the same time.  Very cool.
    That "spiritual audit" thing, man do I do that a lot.  And I hate myself even as I do it.  Thanks for pointing out that I don’t need to; I don’t need to single-handedly maintain the “standard of being Christian;” There’s a weight off my shoulders 😉