In last April’s general conference, Elder S. Mark Palmer shared some of the challenges missionaries struggle with as they endeavor to do hard things. One missionary had explained it this way: “President, I just don’t like people.”
I noticed a burst of good-humored rejoicing on Twitter in response to this, and I’ve certainly heard people (myself included) utter some variation of this. Sometimes one just doesn’t like people. These quotes are for all of us who have ever felt that way.
Don’t be that guy. Or that gal.
Sometimes when one says, “I just don’t like people,” what they really mean is “I just don’t like you ordinary mortals, but fancy people are OK.” Don’t be that person. Here’s an incredibly honest story recounted by Elder M. Russell Ballard to illustrate this point—
“Elder Devere Harris of the First Quorum of the Seventy told me of a recent visit he made to a long-established ward in Utah. He said, ‘I entered there as a stranger and tried every way that I knew to strike up a conversation, or to say hello, or to be kind, or to be greeted, or to be known. Everyone ignored me; nobody would speak to me—no one!
“‘Finally, a man recognized me. He said, “Oh, Elder Harris.” The bishop turned around and said, “What did you say?” The brother said, “This is Elder Harris of the First Quorum of the Seventy.”
“‘Well, things changed. It wasn’t long before I was asked to sit on the stand; they wondered if I wouldn’t like to bear my testimony. After the meeting, many people shook my hand. As I left, I thought, “What a tragedy! A gray-haired man who was unknown walks into a meeting. Nobody recognizes him, nobody says hello, nobody is kind. Then, because of his Church position, everybody changes and wants to be friendly”.’” —Elder M. Russell Ballard, The Hand of Fellowship
Life Is Ironic Sometimes
The missionary in Elder Palmer’s story likely didn’t begin his mission plans with full knowledge of his future attitude. The young man probably felt tender feelings of testimony and great determination to serve the Lord with all his might.
Occasionally one joins the Church or accepts a calling or goes on mission only to struggle with the strange irony that despite a deep testimony of the gospel, they just don’t like people. For times when the passionate desire to live the gospel meets the realization that one just doesn’t like people, feast on the masterful words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell and be edified—
“Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste. …
“Our planning itself often assumes that our destiny is largely in our own hands. Then come intruding events, first elbowing aside, then evicting what was anticipated and even earned. Hence, we can be offended by events as well as by people. …
“In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.
“For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father ‘in all things from the beginning.’ This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool, but at Bethlehem there was ‘no room … in the inn’ and ‘no crib for his bed.’
“At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him ‘as they listed.’ Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.” —Elder Neal A. Maxwell,
Medical care might be needed
If a person’s dislike of others seems to come out of nowhere, or seems suddenly much worse, they should see a doctor. This is especially true if friends and family are suggesting it. There are thousands of medical issues that have irritability or social withdrawal as a symptom. For the sake of brevity, I’m considering everything an MD can help with as a medical issue. Some issues only need lifestyle changes, but some are serious or even life-threatening, so it’s best to just get a check-up. Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke of the combined use of Priesthood blessings and medical care to help restore health—
“Latter-day Saints believe in applying the best available scientific knowledge and techniques. We use nutrition, exercise, and other practices to preserve health, and we enlist the help of healing practitioners, such as physicians and surgeons, to restore health.
“The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings. When a person requested a priesthood blessing, Brigham Young would ask, ‘Have you used any remedies?’ To those who said no because ‘we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed,’ President Young replied: ‘That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.’
“Of course we don’t wait until all other methods are exhausted before we pray in faith or give priesthood blessings for healing. In emergencies, prayers and blessings come first. Most often we pursue all efforts simultaneously.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Healing the Sick
Sometimes it’s just a joke
I saw a meme the other day with a very grumpy looking person on it. The meme read: “I don’t like morning people. Or mornings. Or people.” It was just for fun; it wasn’t a serious declaration of feeling toward mankind. A lot of folks are simply being funny when they say they don’t like people.
Having a sense of humor is wonderful, although it’s wise to be careful. Elder Richard G. Scott was speaking on “principles that enhance revelation” when he counseled—
“Be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit. A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin similarly encouraged appropriate laughter—
“The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”
Give it another chance
If one hasn’t “liked people” in a long time, maybe they should try it again. Sometimes a person gets a reputation of being disagreeable, and they start to accept the label given to them by others. They get stuck being unsociable because that’s what everyone (including themselves) expects.
But as people grow and mature in the gospel, tastes can change! Elder Glenn L. Pace shared this cute story in 1992—
“When I was young I was overly dependent on my older sister. For example, I was a fussy eater, and when we went to visit our grandparents I was constantly faced with being offered food I didn’t like. To minimize my embarrassment, when the plate was passed to me, I would turn to my sister and ask, ‘Collene, do I like this?’
“If it was familiar and she knew I didn’t like it, she would say, ‘No, he doesn’t like that.’
“I could then say to Grandma, ‘She’s right, I don’t like it.’
“If it was something we hadn’t eaten before she would say, ‘Just a minute,’ and taste it, and then tell me if I liked it or not. If she said I didn’t like it, no amount of coaxing could get me to eat it.
“I know it is past time for me to rely on my own taste buds and stop denying myself healthy food just because my sister told me I didn’t like it.” —Elder Glenn L. Pace, Spiritual Revival
You’re a people too.
The trouble with “not liking people” is you’re a people too, but there’s no escape from yourself.
“Sometimes and under some conditions it is possible to escape from many things—from prison walls, from false friends, from bad company, from boring people, from old environments—but never from ourselves. When we lie down at night, we are there with our own thoughts—whether we like them or not. When we wake in the morning, we are still there—whether we like us or not. The most persistent thing in life (and, we have no doubt, in death also) is our own consciousness of ourselves. This being so, there is no more pitiable person than he who is uncomfortable in his own company—no matter where he runs or how fast, or how far.” —Elder Richard L. Evans (quoted by President N. Eldon Tanner in April 1976 GC)
If you find yourself in the sad situation of being uncomfortable in your own company, this inspiring and instructive conference talk will lift your spirits and give you direction for change— The Dignity of Self by Elder James E. Faust
“Be curious, ask questions … make connections”
Sometimes when one doesn’t like people, they’re simply in a new environment where they aren’t comfortable. For these times, here’s some outstanding life advice from Sister Chieko N. Okazaki.—
“Neither one of my parents ever set foot on a college campus until my graduation. The only college graduate they knew socially was one teacher in our village.
But they gave me my tools, and they gave me trust. What do I mean by tools? They taught me to be curious, to ask questions, to observe nature closely, to watch people—especially in a new environment—to treat people respectfully and learn how to make connections with them, to work very hard, and to always do my best. They believed that no matter what I chose to do with my life, these skills would help me. And they were right.” —Chieko N. Okazaki, Rowing Your Boat
For people who HATE this blog post
There are those among us who are pragmatic men and women of action. These individuals are rolling their eyes and growing impatient with all this discussion of liking and not liking and all the reasons why. Their reasoning might be: “It’s not for you to like, it’s for you to do.” These quotes are for them:
Don’t like people, so don’t want to serve them or fulfill your callings in life? “Stop it.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Need to like people in order to serve and fulfill your callings in life? “Do it!” —President Spencer W. Kimball
Rise above the human weakness of “not liking people.”
Sometimes one doesn’t like people because he or she has become hardened to the pain of others and impatient with their weaknesses. This insightful President Eyring quote is from a Priesthood Session talk, but it can apply to us all.
“It is a human characteristic to become hardened to the pains of others. That is one of the reasons why the Savior went to such lengths to tell of His Atonement and of His taking upon Himself the pains and sorrows of all of our Heavenly Father’s children that He might know how to succor them.
“Even the best of Heavenly Father’s mortal priesthood holders do not rise to that standard of compassion easily. Our human tendency is to be impatient with the person who cannot see the truth that is so plain to us. We must be careful that our impatience is not interpreted as condemnation or rejection.” —President Henry B. Eyring, Bind Up Their Wounds
If “not liking people” is a weakness, we should be comforted that Heavenly Father understands our weakness. He has given us instruction for overcoming it—“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:41
Learn to “let go of grievances”
Sometimes when one says “I just don’t like people”, what they really mean is “everyone offends/annoys/bores/lets me down me sooner or later and I never forget it.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf leads us all to higher ground with his inspiring words—
“We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.” —President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Merciful Obtain Mercy