Here is an excerpt I just read from the book Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“It’s just the same story a doctor once told me,” observed the elder. “He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as freely as you, though in sarcasm, in bitter sarcasm. ‘I love humanity,’ he said, ‘but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,’ he said, ‘I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

Dostoevsky points out a powerful truth here. It is much easier to love humanity in general, than individual people. It is easy enough to express love for our neighbor, much harder to love the person that lives next door. The difficultly comes when loving our neighbor means the clerk at the grocery store who could care less about the people at her register. It is the co-worker you see every day who drives you crazy with his lack of initiative and communication skills. The hardest people to love are the ones with names and faces and personalities.

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