Why We Don't Like Certain People

In his book Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, author John Koenig creates words and definitions for the feelings, emotions, and experiences that have never been truly defined.  

A particular word and definition in the book caught my attention the other day, and I wanted to share them and explain why they resonated with me so profoundly.  


n. a certain person who embodies all the things you like the least about yourself--a seeming caricature of your worst tendencies--which leaves you feeling repulsed and fascinated in equal measure, having stumbled upon a role model of exactly the kind of person you never want to be.
Koenig explains that he got the inspiration for his new word from the Latin word malus, which refers to a sculpture mold, essentially a negative image of the object you want to sculpt.

There's something about the definition of this word that truly speaks to each of us because we've all had an experience or two in our life when we met someone who we find gives us a powerful negative charge.  

Sometimes, it's hard to put your finger on at the moment, but it doesn't take long for us to realize that the very characteristics we can't stand about that person are ones we fear we possess at some level.  

In a way, it's like meeting the worst version of yourself, if that makes sense.  No wonder we are both "repulsed and fascinated" by them.  

In some cases, we may also be attracted to such a person.  This is especially true if, along with the negative aspects we fear, they also possess a more dangerous or daring side that we are afraid to unleash in ourselves.  

Many years ago, I had a wise man explain this to me with a simple sentence:  
What I see in you, I see in me. 
That simple sentence has brought me back to my senses a few times when I've become frustrated, angry, or bitter toward someone about whom I have negative feelings.  It's so easy to forget that, typically, what I might be railing against in another is something I can't stand about myself. 

So, what do we do once we realize what we're up to regarding the negative charge we feel with people who possess character traits that we hope we don't have but worry that we might?  

If those negative feelings come from a place of fear that we might not be the people we imagine ourselves to be, then we need to imagine something different.  

To use a sculpting analogy, the first step to shaping ourselves is scooping away all of the negative space.  This could look like being more aware of our reactions to things that cause us anxiety or worry. It could be working hard to live more fully and become the person we long to be. 

It may require changes in habits, attitudes, outlook, and a concerted effort to surround ourselves with positive influences.  

Also, remember to consider the role of the right kind of friends in your life.  

Finally, you should also remind yourself that the person you got a negative charge off of and who perhaps started you spinning in the first place is created in God's image, just as you are.  And, like you, they are doing the best they can.  

Strangely, extending grace to them is like extending it to yourself, so don't be afraid to do that, too.  You'll find more peace, for sure.  

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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