Love doesn’t require potato salad

By Reba J. McMellon, M.S., LPC

Matthew 22:39 – You should love your neighbor as yourself…
People can change and grow. It’s important to recognize that opposite is also true.

Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC

Our commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Unless you really don’t like yourself, it is important to recognize healthy versus unhealthy characteristics in others so you can gauge who to love up close and who to love from a distance.
Love doesn’t mean inviting everyone over for potato salad.

It is biblical to recognize when to set healthy boundaries. Think of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Sadducees. He was polite but concise. Notice Jesus did not invite Pontius Pilot or the Pharisees to the last supper. Why? Because they would have ruined the whole thing. Some may argue, but it’s the last supper, shouldn’t Jesus invite everyone. Well, no.

The enemy would have you believe everybody is worthy of potato salad at your dinner table. But that might ruin the whole love thing.

Below are five characteristics of people who won’t change and will test your spirit if you spend too much time with them.

  1. People who blame others for their own mistakes:
    They often say things like, “I apologize if” instead of “I apologize because.” They go to extreme measures to avoid personal responsibility, feigning forgetfulness, ignorance, devil made them do it, etc. These kinds of people don’t realize fault doesn’t mean your bad, it means you made a mistake. People who blame others for their own mistakes don’t change or grow because they don’t take responsibility for their own behavior.
  2. People who always have to be right:
    People who always have to be right can’t learn because they won’t listen. These type people frequently interrupt and talk over people. Instead of changing the way they think, they change reality to fit their way of thinking.
  3. People who react to conflict with anger and aggression:
    People who react to conflict with anger and aggression shut down dialogue. Think of bully behaviors. They blowup, turn their back, shutdown, name call, cry, yell, etc. to avoid communication. Change requires honest communication.
  4. People who ignore the needs and feelings of others:
    Think about pushy salespeople. They ignore the customer’s genuine needs and push their own agenda. People who are good at assessing the needs of others and responding accordingly have the ability to grow and learn. People who ignore the needs and feelings of others don’t care enough to change.
  5. People who feel superior:
    Healthy people are confident and are able to accurately assess their own competence. They enjoy learning from others. Unhealthy people won’t acknowledge their lack of knowledge enough to listen and learn. Nobody knows it all. There’s no harm in that, only harm in an unwillingness to learn. It’s hard to learn if you are the center of your own universe.

    When interacting with people who have some or all of these characteristics, it is wise to make a brief point, set a boundary then walk away. Jesus did it and so should we.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself requires you to love yourself. So, pause to think before you get out the mayonnaise and start on that potato salad.

(Reba J. McMellon, M.S. is a licensed professional counselor with 35 years of experience. She continues to work in the field of mental health as a consultant and is available for public speaking. Reba can be reached at