As a child, anytime I hurt myself in any way, my devout Catholic grandmother would look at me and say, “God Punished You.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that phrase in my life. The words seared into my brain. As a child, I felt terrified by God’s power, and I didn’t want to upset him. In fact, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I wanted everyone to like me, and I wanted to love everyone.
Naturally, when my teacher in catechism class taught me the importance of kindness to all people and “Loving people like myself,” I took the words seriously. However, not until recently did I realize not only the lie of God, but also the lie of “loving everyone.”
As I look back on my adolescence, the permeating feeling I get is a deep sense of insecurity. My mom always tells me that as a two-year-old I had a lot of opinions. In fact, she says I was the most important two year she ever knew.
Truthfully, I don’t think it’s that I have a lot of opinions. Instead, I believe I am a thinker and try genuinely to understand the world around me. Also, I have ADHD, and my brain doesn’t process the world in the same way as most people. For me to engage with others, I find myself overloaded by the sensory experience.
I have trouble understanding social constructs. Over the year I’ve noticed people want to have “Groups” of friends, but groups of anything give me anxiety. Groups have rules and expectations that I’ve never been able to grasp. They also feel constricting and suffocating to me.
Biting my tongue has never been my strong suit. While other people can stand still and watch injustice, I cannot tolerate any level of prejudice or bigotry. Often I voice unpopular opinions, which can further isolate me from friendships. I had trouble maintaining friendships. I always felt like I was disappointing God when someone didn’t like me for something I said or for my actions.
As I entered adulthood, I became a loner. By the time I entered my mid-twenties, I knew that groups were not for me. I became a workaholic because at work I felt the best about myself. My employers always praised my work-ethic, intelligence, and my ability to adapt to change. My insatiable need to be liked by everyone was satisfied by becoming the perfect employee. In the business world, I thrived, but I still had little happiness in my life.
My relationships with men were deeply flawed. Since I learned at a young age to like everyone, I desperately wanted to please all of my partners. My boyfriends found me easy to manipulate, control, and abuse in whatever way they saw fit. Like a docile Doe batting her eyes, I never wanted to upset any of them. When I did speak up, there were verbal and physical fights. I learned quickly to embrace a passive role.
By my late twenties, I got sick and tired of feeling crappy all the time. I knew my life was moving in the wrong direction, and I sought professional help. For over a year, I worked with a psychologist to deconstruct my life. She taught me to identify red flags in relationships. One of the most important lessons she taught me was I didn’t need to like everyone.
We worked through my insecurities regarding my need for acceptance. My therapist taught me that it is impossible to like everyone. Additionally, she reminded me that not everyone was going to love me. The concept may seem simple to many, but took me years to comprehend. My religious upbringing taught me that this was false. To accept the truth of my psychologist, I had to let go of the lies my religion taught me as a child.
I’ll never forget the freedom I felt when I finally let go of the chains of guilt wrapped around my ankles. For the first time in my life, someone permitted me not to like someone. It may seem simple to most, but my entire life I felt like God was going to punish me if I disobeyed his rules. Everything wrong in my life, I attributed to his displeasure with my choices. My entire life I tried to please a God that didn’t exist, and I destroyed my self-worth and confidence.
When I let all of the lies and deceit go, I became free to be my own person. I embraced my feisty attitude and stopped being mousey and submissive in relationships. In fact, I met my husband, and he welcomed every part of my personality. He encouraged me to have opinions, to be strong, to advocate, and to be ok in my skin.
Christianity and the Bible lie to us when they tell us we must love everyone. There is no possible way to like everyone given all the opinions, personalities, and lifestyles people have in this world. We aren’t all going to get along. However, the most important lesson I learned is we don’t have to be liked by everyone.
If we spend our lives trying to please everyone else, we spend our lives not loving ourselves. We put ourselves in positions where we follow the status quo, so we don’t ruffle any feathers. Many of us bite our tongues, ignore injustice, and stay complacent and complicit. For many of us, it is easier for us to blend in than it is for us to be true to ourselves.
My Catholic upbringing taught me to conform, obey, and submit to the world around me. When I tried to fight what I learned, I was told I would be punished by God. The lasting impact of these teachings destroyed my spirit and individuality.
Breaking free of the chains of faith gave me freedom. I’m ok being ok with who I am. Today I can be authentic and genuine in my convictions. I can be friendly and respectful to others, but I do not have to like them. My world no longer crumbles when someone doesn’t like me.
I realized the Bible and Jesus were wrong about loving everyone. There is no possible way to obey this rule. We don’t need to like everyone to be good people. Our goodness can be demonstrated by how we treat the people we love. We can be kind to strangers and help out our neighbors, but we don’t have to like them.
Most importantly not everyone is worthy of our time. Our time on earth is precious, and time is better spent being around people that make you feel good. There is no reason to hang on to people in your life that hurt, demean, or abuse you.
Some people suck. It’s ok to let them go.