Watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament a few years back with my son, I was pulling for the young guy, not the crowd favorite old guy. My son asked me why. “I don’t like that (old) guy.” I said. “Why,” my son asked. Well, let me see…Years ago (when he was the young guy) he was a real jerk to people. He spit at linesmen. He cursed at umpires. He threw things. He was a punk. I assigned him to that place in my mind where I put people I’m “allowed” to think poorly of. He fit in there nicely, and it didn’t require any more effort to keep him there.
It is easier to make people stay in one category in our minds, good or bad. We don’t have to waste time and energy sorting them out again. It is also terribly destructive and deceptive. Healthy things grow, dying things decay, either way living things are not static. Try leaving children in a box and see how successful you are in relating to them. Authentic relating is not an effortless endeavor, it takes real thought about real people who are all in motion at the same time you are. All our boxes are too narrow for creatures made in the image of God. Don’t let people change, just acknowledge they do. You might find out the old guy isn’t a jerk any more…you might find out someone you thought was an enemy is really a friend (or could be if you weren’t such a jerk).