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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I Like to be Liked, But It's Not Likely

Just this week, I was discussing an interaction with someone else to a good friend of mine. As we sat there and discussed how I was surprised by the direction the conversation took, my friend responded with the following solution: "I just don't think that person likes you." Here I am trying to break down the minutiae of the conversation, and my friend pulls me back to examine the larger picture. It may not have been so much something I said, as much as that I was the messenger.


Now one of the things I received from my father was a thick skin. I was raised aware of the fickle nature of man, and have never consumed myself too much over man's opinion. I find Paul's statement, "Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10) to be highly encouraging and liberating. At first glance, I don't really care if the other guy likes me or not.

But I also know I am not an island. We are relational creation; both for individual fulfillment, but also for our fulfillment corporately of the mission of the Church. We need each other and should want to relate with one another. I also know that my opportunities to minister to this brother are limited as long as he doesn't care for me. So it's not that I traverse the globe looking for those whom I may hornk off. I want to be liked. (And yes, it does feel good to be liked too.)

Yet, I'm confused as to what my response should be. (For I think this friend was accurate in his observation.) Do I approach this person and have the very awkward "you don't like me, do you?" coversation? Do I ignore things and hope we can just co-exist? Do I try my hardest to convince the person that I really am capable of being liked (whether you agree or not)? Do I pretend to even notice?

Last week, I had the unique experience of growing closer to another person. For years, I have admired this person, and felt that we always had a lot in common. Though I admired the person, I sensed the feeling wasn't mutual. I have always assumed I either did something to offend this person or that my general personality was abrasive to him. I assumed this, but was much too afraid to find out if it was true. Then, last week I find out that the tension had nothing to do with me. It was a circumstance completely out of my control. I regret that this obstacle was in the way for a number of years, yet I can't deny that I see the Lord's hand in the timing of its resolution. If I would have pushed the issue, would I have pushed the person away? Maybe I would have found out things I wasn't prepared to know.

I want to be liked by people, (Well, expect when I wear my Texas Rangers jacket to the Jake. Then I want to offend and anger the fans. It's just a fun thing to do!) but I don't want to live for man's approval. I can live with being disliked, but I don't want to intentionally push someone away.

Is there a balance out there? Probably. Will I find it? Not likely.


  • At 7:50 PM, Blogger Jeremy Bear said…

    "Why must everyone like you, Willy? Who liked J.P. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he looked like a butcher. But with his pockets on, he was very well liked."

    (You'll forgive me, I consider Death of a Salesman to be the summation of human wisdom and then some.)

    It's a good point, though. Being "liked" is, thank God, not the end-all/be-all. It's mildly important, but often a vanity. As Arthur Miller points out, those who do like us often do for reasons that are less than desirable anyhow, better to live rightly and let people decide for themselves.

    Admittedly, that's easier said than done for me. I hate it when people don't like me. I'm usually just so sure that if I can confront the issue head-on and make them understand that I really am terrific, they'll be won over.

    The desire to be liked has played a part in eroding my character, too. I hate it, but I see it.

    We have a guy, Tim, who occassionally freelances for our company when we become overloaded with work. Tim is, no bones about it, a Christian (one of the only ones I've met through my profession here in California). When Tim comes in, it's like a breath of fresh air. I just never experience any Christians in my day-to-day and, as a bonus, he actually lives it instead of simply claiming to be it. I like him a lot and just about everyone in our office does as well.

    But there are a couple of people that don't. I've tried to pin it down, but I can't. "What's not to like about Tim?" I've asked. "He's honest, sincere, he works hard, he's friendly, funny, he shows up on time and he doesn't try to steal anyone's thunder when he's put on a team project."

    "Yeah, but the guy brings his Bible with him wherever he goes. He sits and reads it on his lunch break. I'm just waiting for him to come to my office and try to convert me. No thanks."

    I wish I were exaggerating. It seems--

    (Whoa, that was weird. Midway through that sentence, I answered the phone and it was Tim, who only calls a few times a year. I was tempted to tell him that I was just typing a comment in a friend's blog about why people don't like him, but thought better of it.)

    Anyhow, it seems as if he's unpopular with a couple people here for no good reason. Dude hasn't done anything but behave honorably and he gets the shaft.

    I'll be honest, I don't have the nerve to be a Tim. I know the guy, if he knew that people were whispering about him, it wouldn't change a thing. I'm sure it wouldn't make him happy, but he has too much integrity to stop behaving how he behaves to please my coworkers.

    I don't know, it's a lesson for me: be like Tim McMahan, not Willy Loman. In the end, it works out.

  • At 9:55 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Danny, I like you.

    Jeremy, I like you too.

    Tim McMahon, I don't even know you, but I like you.

    Willy Loman, I don't like you. I like Matt Hoffland playing you.

  • At 9:59 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    Do something great for Tim McMahon. Next time you see him or talk to him on the phone, tell him the encouragement and conviction his Christian walk has been to you.

    He may seem to have it together and not care what others think, but it will go a long way to know that it's noticed and appreciated.

  • At 9:03 AM, Anonymous ~d said…

    Hey, Danny...
    Todd and I were talking about this recently, this finding the balance between Luke 6:26 ("Woe to you, when all people speak well of you.")and Romans 15:1-2 which says we ought not just please ourselves but also our neighbor for his good, to his edification. Oh, and I Tim. 3:7, being well-thought of by outsiders. It never ceases to amaze me how God will direct us to a passage that will speak to us right where we are, and this time it was in a book by John Piper. He encourages us to remember that our aim in life is that "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." That we DO care about what others think - of Christ - because their salvation hangs on what they think of Christ. However, we shouldn't care much what others think of US for our own sake. Our concern is for Christ's reputation, not ours.

    Keeping this in mind, we will still not be liked by everyone since, as we all know, Jesus was not liked by everyone. And sometimes, as you already discovered, someone not liking us has to do with the other person's perception of a situation. I am always amazed (though it doesn't happen often) when a parent tells me that her child believes I don't like him/her. I recall not liking only one student in the last 20 years, and I'm not sure he was even aware of it. He spent so much time thinking of ways to disrupt my class that he had no time to consider how I felt about him. But I digress. Back to the point. Too many times a student believes that if I discipline him/her for something or simply let the natural consequences do their work, it means I don't like him/her. I can and do try to explain my reasons for my actions, but I can't care so much about what that student thinks of me that I change who I am or what I do in order to please him. I must, however, judge my actions in light of Christ's commands and his reputation. Where I can be merciful, I am merciful. Where I must not waver, I cannot waver. On the other hand, when I know a student is upset with me or thinks I am upset with him/her, I simply try to do what I think God does for me...chose to forget the past and start fresh...treat him/her as if the offense never occurred...be respectful and kind regardless of how I am treated in return. Very, very few do not respond positively, though ultimately their response is not my responsibility.


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