The hardest thing to do is to accept another person as they are.
That truth resounded once more this week as I listened to a woman talk about a struggle with her sister. They were often at odds, she said, because their lives were so—blood—similar and yet so completely different. They had different career goals, different marriages, lifestyles, parenting styles. Even little things annoyed them, what they ate or how they dressed.
The breakthrough came, she told me, when she realized how all of that was unconscious judgment. Things changed when she could simply look at her sister as she is, and not insist that she conform to her vision of what is right and true and good.
This is the hardest thing to do, especially with those we love, those bound to us in blood. It is relatively easy to let friends and acquaintances be who they are, and feel no pressing need to make them somehow better—right. But our families, our loved ones. That’s a battle.
This is the most basic spiritual lesson: to let people go, to free them. It is the way of God with each of us, to let us be and still to love us. “As I have loved you,” says the Master, “so you must love one another.” That starts with sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons.
Actually, of course, it starts within. We can’t help wagging a finger at others when we are so cruelly hard on ourselves. There is a good reason why the Great Commandment ends with those words, “and your neighbor as yourself.” God knows you cannot love anyone until you have loved your self.