Take a moment and think of someone who was part of your life who was also hard on you, personally. Maybe it was a parent — always riding you about your laziness. Or maybe it was a teacher — always nagging you concerning your academic performance. Or maybe it was a good friend who was always on your case concerning something in your life where you weren’t doing as well as you could have done.
Do you have that person in your mind? Good. Let’s call him Chauncey.
Now consider this question: Why was Chauncey so hard on you? Did Chauncey hate you? Probably not. Was it because Chauncey wanted to ridicule you? I doubt it. Was Chauncey generally obnoxious? Not really.
Here’s what I have noticed about myself: I am generally the most frustrated with the people in whom I see the greatest potential. If I see little potential in someone, I have small expectations of them. If I see great potential in someone, and I see time passing by without them pursuing their potential, I become disturbed — for their sake. And the degree of anger I feel concerning this shortcoming in their life will correspond with the depth of my love for them.
In chapter five of his excellent book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller considers the question, How can a loving God be an angry God? As he addresses this, Keller points out that when you have love, you are bound to have anger against anything that injures what you love. Keller quotes Becky Pippert, who writes, Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. I get that, because it is generally those that I love the most and wish the best for with whom I become the most frustrated.
This helps explain why some say, “I feel more acceptance from my drinking buddies than I feel from the people I go to church with.” Sometimes this is a matter of projection — the speaker is projecting a disposition onto his church family that most of them do not own. Other times it’s a matter of “Christians” being overly-critical. That happens.
But there’s a third explanation: Maybe his drinking buddies don’t really want the best for him or the best of him. Maybe they want nothing more from him than for him to be a good old boy. In contrast, maybe his brothers and sisters in Christ want the best for him and the best of him. And when he fails to pursue that very thing, the friends who love him most let him know.
Could this be the explanation for the behavior of Chauncey — the person that pressures you toward better things?
And whether it is the explanation or not, how would your life be different if you were to see those who press for the best for you and in you as an ally?
ADDENDUM: Perhaps, when Chauncey stops bothering you, he’s given up on you.