There Are 12 People Who...

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I have a friend named Sarah, who is a very wise person. She once told me something that I’ve never forgotten. She said that in this life there are about twelve people who will hate you, no matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to be nice. These twelve people are going to hate you. Who knows why? Maybe you remind them of someone else. Maybe there’s something about you that rubs them the wrong way. There’s no figuring this out. It’s good to know that these twelve people are out there, because occasionally you’re going to run into one of them and it won’t be pleasant. So it’s good to know that ahead of time. These people will assume the worst about you. They might be passively or actively aggressive. They may spread false rumors about you. They might actively work against your happiness. So when you meet someone like that you can say, “Oh, this must be one of the twelve people who hate me.”

It’s actually a relief to realize you’ve run into one of the twelve, because you can relax and stop worrying. If you've made a good effort to be kind to someone but the relationship doesn't improve, you can let go and get on with your life. It's very Christ-like to return love for hatred and to be kind to people who dislike you. But remember that Jesus also suggested the time may come for you to shake the dust off your feet and move on. Letting go makes it possible for you to forgive this person and stop trying to figure out what you did to deserve this. He or she is one of the twelve who hate you. So be it.

Sarah also said that in this life there are about twelve people who think you’re the greatest person in the world. In their eyes, you can do no wrong. They will think that everything you do is a work of pure genius. So when you meet someone who is a little over-the-top in their praise of you, say to yourself, “Oh, this must be one of the twelve people who love me too much.” The twelve people who love you too much are more fun to be around than the twelve who hate you, but make no mistake about this: they are every bit as dangerous. Don’t take their praise too seriously. Don’t start believing what they say about you. Don’t worry too much about trying to pay them back by saying something as nice about them. Just smile, say thank you, and don’t believe them for a minute.

Sarah’s wisdom helps me remember that while people's opinions of me do matter, I can never let other people have the final say about my worth. Only God has the right to do that. Sarah’s wisdom does not release me from my responsibility to be kind to others and to be Christ-like in the way I treat them. Sarah’s wisdom does not give me permission to stop trying to make relationships work. But Sarah’s wise words remind me that only God has the right to judge us. Others have opinions about us. Some will be healthy opinions and others not so much. We are human beings, which means even our judgments are broken and fallible. We cannot make an idol out of what others think about us. Sarah’s words also remind me that I have no right to pass absolute judgment on others. I do not want to be one of the twenty-four people for anyone else.

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