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10 Ways to Learn to Love Someone You Have Trouble Loving

March 8, 2020

Another Way for week of March 6, 2020

10 Ways to Learn to Love Someone You Have Trouble Loving

Or, What the World Needs Now

(Editor’s note: Ninth in a ten-part series on physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health.)

The people who compiled the list of ten inspiring action verbs found currently on my favorite cereal box, “Kashi,” put a really hard one on their list. At first glance it seems easy: well of course I actively love others. A no-brainer.

But this word is so often sung about, written about, talked about. So what new is there to say? Why would they include it on their list with words such as spark, play, rise, go, wander and more?

I think it is because the underlying purpose of the list is to get people not just enjoying love as a romantic state or divine love from God. Or family love that offers bonds of protection and stability. But rather to stretch ourselves and perhaps actively love where we haven’t tried to extend love before.

There’s the rub: love someone who isn’t very lovely or loving in return? Who is it that takes some effort for you to love? Of the opposite political persuasion? Perhaps it is someone you know at school or church or work who has a personality quirk and grates on your nerves? Maybe someone of a lower income group or hard-to-understand accent? An in-law that rubs you the wrong way? What would it take to actively love them?

  1. Decide you need to try.
  2. The second step is getting to know them better. Stereotypes and preconceived notions about the person often fall apart as you get to know him or her: why they are the way they are.
  3. List their good and positive traits.
  4. When you are having trouble loving them, think about their best feature.
  5. Ask God for help to truly love them.
  6. Recognize (perhaps make another list) your own negative habits or traits that might make it hard for someone to love you.
  7. When you find yourself looking judgmentally at someone, look at their face and recognize that some mother or father loved that person (at least we hope so).
  8. Those who have not been truly loved in their childhood often become very difficult to love as adults, but all the more in need of a loving friend.
  9. Sometimes it is hardest to truly love those closest to us, because of all the daily irritations that come from living together.
  10. If after all this you don’t find yourself liking that other person, perhaps you can still love them in a spiritual sense.

Perhaps you remember the singer and songwriter Burt Bacharach who wrote:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of …
No, not just for some but for everyone.

They were always game for a smooch.

That brings to mind my own father, who preached the doctrine of love: to kiss and make up after a fight, to love the unlovely. And of course, he not only preached it, but lived it: visiting literal orphans and widows as part of his (volunteer) job as a church deacon, or working to improve distribution of food to the “hungry peoples of the world,” inviting many international guests into our home. With an eighth-grade education, he sometimes got his words and especially the pronunciation of difficult Biblical words mixed up, but he longed to teach those around him to use the power of love to make a difference. “Why can’t we all live together in peace and harmony,” he would

Mom and Dad looking all coy and innocent after their deep smooch.

say. Sometimes I thought he was being too simplistic or idealistic, but it’s a question to ask ourselves, at least with maybe that one person you have the most difficulty loving or appreciating.

Are you ready to try to expand your circle of those you love?


What have you learned about love in your years on this earth??



Send your comments or confessions or stories to me at or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. If you’ve missed some columns in this series, I will make them all available by email (and online as a PDF) at the series’ conclusion. Just let me know.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



  1. Once I had a hard-to-love administrator. I put his name on my prayer list as you allude to in # 5. It helped to a degree! 😀

  2. I like your “to a degree.” Wisdom there. Blessings!

  3. From Nick:
    A gentle, elderly, retired schoolteacher substituted on an emergency basis at our school. When he did, he liked to inspire the class with stories, poems, anecdotes, etc. I still remember “Outwitted,” a poem by Edwin Markham, that he read and explained to a fourth grade class.

    “He drew a circle that shut me out –
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle and took him in!”

    • Nick, I love this poem, which many of us also learned in grade school or perhaps junior high. Let’s draw the circle wide and love more of God’s children. Thanks for sending!

  4. Ouch! My “Don’t like” list is very small. But, it DOES exist. There are two or three that come immediately to mind – and probably many more if I spent some time in thought about it. This weeks post brought a zinger with it, and I will have to take this to heart as an area that I need to expand and embrace.

    • Trisha, of course I have someone on my list as well. I’m working on it. Did you ever read “Irregular People” by Joyce Landorf (published long ago)? That was a helpful book for me.

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