I like people. Liking people doesn’t mean that I won’t disagree with a person’s opinion or dislike some of their choices. For me, liking someone means that you have respect for them.
I respect people for several reasons, the first being from an anthropological viewpoint. I find people fascinating, like a scientist would their field of study. The way people think and act is hugely complex and so I like them in the sense that I am interested in why they behave the way they do. I respect their complexity.
I also like people because I can’t help noticing things about a person that I like. Recently, I noticed the child who is usually considered disruptive in class but who on many occasions has stood up for his classmates when other children treated them unfairly, another time I noticed the stranger who offered help to a drunken women who was trying to manoeuvre her way out of a crowded shopping centre (while others ignored her plight) and I notice the everyday simple gestures of kindness that people make like smiling and giving way to people in the street. Moments of kindness can usually be found in most people at some level or another.
People don’t just offer moments of kindness (regardless of social competence) but they also have other gifts. When I interact with people I notice what they can do almost immediately. Such talents, skills and abilities can range from social, artistic, musical, athletic, mathematical or technical abilities. People’s abilities fascinate me. I have respect for their abilities, which makes it hard for me to dislike them.
It is true that I probably need a lot less interaction time with people than the average person because it requires a lot more effort from me to sustain the interaction due to my additional social communication challenges. However, I still enjoy spending time with and interacting with people. In particular, I love to laugh with people. So I like people in the typically understood way too.
Excuse me while I state the obvious but ‘like’ is different to ‘love’. For me, love is when you feel such a sense of belonging with someone who if they were to leave you would feel as thought you had lost a part of yourself. Then, there is the opposite of love: hate. For me, hate is repulsion such that the person you hate makes you feel psychologically or physically sick. Love gives you something of exceptional emotional value; it makes you feel whole. Hate takes away from you something of exceptional emotional value; it eats away at your soul (for want of better words).
When I was younger, my mother instilled in me the belief that the word ‘hate’ was an extreme word and made it clear that she did not want us to use it. As a young educated catholic child, I recall admitting to our parish priest during confession that I yelled ‘I hate you’ to my sister during an argument. The priest instructed me to recite a number of ‘Hail Mary’s’ to repent for that sin. Although, I no longer believe in sins, to this day I am uncomfortable hearing people use the word ‘hate’ so freely.
My young cousin Josie (not her real name) came to visit us recently and she said to me that she hated Justin Bieber. I said to her “Do you hate him as a person or do you hate his music?” She said “I hate him”. I said “How can you hate him if you don’t know him personally?” I went on to explain that I felt very sorry for celebrities like Justin Bieber because they have huge numbers of people expressing their hatred for them through social media without even knowing them as a person, which seems unfair and cruel.”
Not only do I like people but I also cannot blame or hate a person because of who they are. Last night, I watched a news segment on TV during which a psychologist discussed the difficulty of rehabilitating people who had been in jail due to the fact that they had not been ‘habilitated’ in the first place. Many of the people who had spent time in jail had never had supportive friends or families, work experience or a proper education. They had spent their childhood and early adulthood in more challenging environments rife with drugs and violence.
Personally, I believe that we have less control over ‘how we come to be’ than most people like to think, as a result I can’t hate people for who they are and the choices they make. Ultimately, we are all a result of our genetics and our environment. We have less control over our genetics and environment than you might think because the extent of your control over those factors is also biased dependent upon your genetics and environment.
Your genetics and environment will determine how you interpret your circumstances and yourself and then whether and how you choose to accept or seek help/ change, then whether the right services are available and accessible to you at the right time, then what follow-up support is available in the longer term to maintain those changes.
I’d imagine already that some of you are thinking along the lines of “Rubbish! How dare you make excuses for people!” They are not excuses, they are reasons. I am certainly not saying that you or I or anyone else cannot influence someone, we are part of their environment after all but the odds are stacked against some people. I’m not saying to give up on people, because you can have a positive influence on them and provide much-needed support but try not to blame or hate them. I can’t hate people because it achieves nothing except the harmful effect of feeling that hate.
Note: This post expresses how I feel about people generally and is not a recommendation for others to be the same. I’d imagine that I could feel hate toward someone if I was chronically abused and I do not think that it is possible or helpful to ignore feelings associated with that. I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by supportive people in my life and have not been significantly exposed to abusive people or high risk environments.
The following links may help if you are a victim of abuse, depressed and/ or need support:
Australia (for kids): www.kidshelp.com.au
United Kingdom: www.get.gg/helplines.htm
United States: www.get.gg/helplinesUS.htm