The other day I spent some time with an older parish couple who love to recount all of their travels and adventures. To hear them speak, it seems like everyone they ever met was the most wonderful person ever and everywhere they went the most delightful.
It raises a spiritual question for me. Why is it that some people go through life sustained by the happiness of making friends with all kinds of people who are interesting, thoughtful, and a joy to meet and get to know, while other people go through the world finding other people to be annoying, aggravating, and difficult to live or work with?
Are they meeting totally different sets of people? I doubt it. The difference is not in others, but in ourselves. More and more I realize that our day-to-day spiritual health and peace depends a good deal on how we consider and relate to other people. In order to achieve the happiness of being the kind of person who finds others to be enjoyable and interesting, a twofold ascesis is required. First, I must train my thoughts to look upon the best parts of others, considering their goodness before anything else. Second, by my speech and action, I must be a peaceful presence to them, a good influence, and someone who brings out their better qualities. The name of this ascesis is charity. When we find the person who is able to do the same thing for us, it is called friendship.