Like and Dislike

To like or dislike is not the question, but rather in what way we use it.

It is common for me to declare, “I don’t like her or him”, perhaps based on their political views, their religious believes, their attitude toward minorities, or the way they look at me.

And I have to remind myself how my elderly grandmother responded when she overheard me make that declaration. 

My father’s mother was not an educated woman. She was born just a few years after the Civil War, and I don’t know how much schooling she acquired before her marriage. She could read and write, but did not come from wealth or even a well-to-do family.  

I regret not knowing how she and my grandfather met, why they married, or what their early life was like. Those details are buried in untold stories lost in the secrets of time.

But she was wise, no doubt from the lessons she had learned through the rigors of hard times, and a lifetime of poverty.

She would sit in the swing hanging on chains screwed into the ceiling on the front porch of her 3-room house, Bible in her hand, and share bits of her wisdom.

“It’s not the person you dislike,” she would correct, “it’s their ways.” 

Her words always pulled me back, forcing me to consider what I was saying, and requiring me to think about the difference between the person and their actions or their verbal rhetoric.

Of course, she was correct. I was judging the boy or girl on what they did, not who they were. I knew little about the character of the person I was dismissing. I was reacting to our differences, believing my views were better than their beliefs. My opinions were right, theirs were wrong. And I disliked them for not agreeing with me. Or perhaps for saying something that hurt me.

I once again hear her voice when I ‘go off’ about someone, claiming my dislike for them, thus allowing myself to dismiss them from my life. By disliking I don’t have to engage with them. I don’t have to try to understand their perspectives, I can scorn them as ‘unlikeable’.

I’m not good at following my Grandmother’s words or meaning. I find it harder in today’s world of political discourse to put brakes on my denouncements of those whose ideas I find scary or irrational or untrue. But on my better days, I do remind myself their proclamations are mere viewpoints, not the person. I do wish I could remember this more often.

Now, when it comes to ice cream, I’m free to say I like strawberry better than vanilla. After all, I’m talking about the flavor not the ice cream.

Yep, she reminded me I’m talking about the words, not the person.

5 thoughts on “Like and Dislike

  1. I agree with your grandmother’s perspective. We should condemn only their actions and not their character until we know fully well about those people.
    Your post is very interesting and requires a good amount of digestion.


  2. When my son was a toddler, I bought a book by Haim Ginott about raising children, in which the author said basically what your grandmother said – do not criticize the child, criticize the action. So – when your kid knocked his glass of milk over, you do not tell him that he is bad – but that what he did is bad, and that he needs to be more careful, essentially. That stuck with me, so I was really struck by your quote of your grandmother’s words. She was, indeed, a very wise woman.


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