How to Help People Love You

Some people are hard to love.

People like that girl Shannon on LOST who spent the first several episodes freaking out while all the other characters tried to save dying people.

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People like Debbie Downer on SNL who turns every moment into the most depressing possible iteration of said moment.

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And people like Casey Jones in the first two thirds of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (a classic) who annoy you and distract you from the otherwise cowabunga-inducing awesomeness all around.

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Some people are hard to love. You probably have a list in your head right now.

Is it possible, though, that perhaps, you are on someone else’s list?

Oh, the horror…

A couple weeks ago I found myself in a funk. I sat on the couch with my husband and whined that I didn’t have many friends and that nobody really wanted to hang out with me and that the only people who did hang out with me felt obligated out of holy submission to God’s command to love other people. 

[It was a funk, people. Forgive me.]

While a conversation like this can often devolve into a pity party, this one (fortunately) didn’t. Because as I listed the people in my head, the people I wanted to be closer to, the people I wished loved me more, I realized these were awesome people, people who love like God. Most likely, the way I was feeling wasn’t their fault.

My conclusion, drawn in an epiphany of blue-moon humility, was that maybe (would you believe it?) I wasn’t being entirely lovable.

A week later, my small group sat in a circle as we pieced together answers to the question, “How can we can help other people love us?” 

Just asking that question has powerfully reframed the way I think when I feel unloved. The answers, three of which I’ll mention here, save me (and will likely save you) from the swamps of self-pity. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Be Available.

People cannot love you well if you are distant, busy or closed off.

So many times I hear church members complain that the church isn’t actively loving them or that they don’t have any friends at church, and I know that these same people don’t attend church functions, aren’t in a Bible class, and don’t attend their small group.  If you don’t show up, people can’t show up for you.

Similarly, you can’t hold it against people if they stop asking you to do things because you’re always saying no. When you are consistently too busy for other people, they will begin to assume you’re too busy and stop asking.

Perhaps the easiest way to protect yourself from being loved is to be sure no one can get close enough to love you. If you’re always deflecting other people’s advances—“No, thank you.” “That’s too kind.” “I wish you wouldn’t have.” “I’m okay, really.”—you’ll find yourself alone behind a wall you built yourself.

2. Be Authentic.

People can’t love you if they don’t know the real you.

Because we want people to love us, we sometimes pretend to be someone we’re not, someone we think is more likable, more perfect. When we do that, people may love the showroom version of us, but they don’t love us

Being authentic looks like letting others see the cracks, allowing your friends to pick up the slack when you can’t cope. 

Shauna Niequist says being authentic is being okay with a friend getting a look at your messy garage. For me it means letting someone wash my dishes or watch my kids. For my husband it looks like letting his friends help him tame our wild backyard.

Authenticity gives permission—for people to help and for people to bring their own authentic selves to the friendship.

3. Be Awesome.

People will have a hard time loving you if you are lame.

Now, while this seems like a complete contradiction of point #2, it’s not. Not at all. Don’t try to be like someone you think is awesome. Be the most awesome version of you. Be great at what you’re good at. Be passionate about what you love. Be alive and present and free. Get rid of behaviors that hurt other people. Embrace the transformation God wants to make in your heart.

It’s hard to be around Shannon on LOST, always thinking about herself. And it’s hard to be around Debbie Downer, always dumping a bucket of cold water on every conversation. And it’s frustrating to know a Casey Jones, a guy who doesn’t know who he is and seems bent on starting fights.

We get that.

But we bristle when people tell us we should change so that other people might love us. 

Here’s the truth: Everyone should love everyone, especially those who’re hard to love. Here’s another truth: We should help others love us by being the awesome people God calls us to be.

Be the guy who asks questions in a conversation, the guy who cares about other people. Be the girl who’s always so full of joy it spills on everybody around her. Be the person who loves and helps and laughs. 

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Be awesome. Be authentic. Be available. And help people love you.

  • What suggestions do you have for helping people love you?
  • What behaviors have you observed in the people you find easiest to love?