How Can We Not Hate One Another in Isolation?


The most acute deficit of our times is, undoubtedly, that of human communication. Over the past decade, the development of technology has led to the fact that everyone has their own microcosm in their pocket in their smartphone. People are no longer bored with each other or with themselves. You can always take your gadget out and focus on the screen. The second reason for the deficit in communication is the rhythm of modern life that leaves a minimum of free time, of which, taking into account natural needs and, again, the internet, there is none left for communication. Plus, it’s a habit. A person can get used to anything, and even more so if this something doesn’t create any discomfort and satisfies at least some desires and needs. Most of us are quite used to living in the internet-work-home coordinate system. What could change this usual state of things?

The quarantine could—unexpectedly, easily, and effortlessly. It’s already a month or more that we’ve been at home twenty-four hours a day, together with our family members. The lack of communication was suddenly replaced with an abundance. And it turns out it’s not so easy to spend absolutely all your time with your loved ones. Discrepancies in relationships, differences in views, and differences in natures have come to the fore. Many have realized that they don’t really know those with whom they have spent many years under one roof, and others have seriously wondered how to get along with people they used to only spend evenings and weekends with, but now have to live with, in seclusion for an unknown amount of time. And having a smartphone in your pocket doesn’t totally help anymore.

At first glance, the problem appeared where it was completely unexpected. Although, in fact, it always existed—there just wasn’t any time to notice it. Now it has to be resolved and the lack of time is no longer a justification—now we have it aplenty.

Let’s start with the obvious: All people are different, and that’s their right. It’s natural to have differences between people. No matter how different our loved one is, we have no choice but to accept it as a given. Of course, a dissimilarity can sometimes be critical. A leisurely and balanced phlegmatic will naturally be wearied by the company of a lively and energetic choleric, and a self-sufficient introvert will hardly understand how an open and social extrovert could feel a lack of attention or communication. However, for all the incompatibility of individual natures, don’t underestimate the power of patience. In the end, it becomes unbearable not for those whose strength is waning, but for those who lack the desire. In most cases, even the most obvious of opposites get along peacefully if two simple truths are taken into account.

The first truth: “It’s bad” and “I don’t like it” are different concepts. There are many things we don’t like, especially the really bad ones. For example, it’s unlikely that anyone will claim that instability, falseness, unreliability, or brashness are normal qualities. But, along with sin and lack of culture, there may be a lot of habits and actions that we don’t like that are incomprehensible or simply not characteristic of us. They may not suit us as much as we would like; but to blame someone else for not using a knife and fork at dinner, not knowing the varieties of orchids, and not distinguishing Rembrandt from Remarque is at the least unreasonable. If we are used to seeing flaws in everything unusual and incomprehensible, which need to be corrected, we have nothing left to do but correct—only, not someone else, but ourselves. It’s clear that such a correction will not come easy. You’ll need to arm yourself with patience and self-control, looking at your own shortcomings more often; and what wouldn’t you do to ensure that weeks of forced seclusion don’t pass in continuous hassles and arguments? A partial reinterpretation of these individual concepts isn’t the hardest work.

The second truth: You can’t reeducate an adult. Everyone has shortcomings, including those close to us. However, it’s their shortcomings that we know inside and out. The shortcomings of our spouses weren’t a problem when we started our family. The flaws of our children are due to our mistakes in rearing them. And we’re quite familiar with the shortcomings of our parents from childhood. If all these shortcomings haven’t prevented us from peacefully coexisting for years, is it worth focusing on them now? Besides that, we love our loved ones are loved not for their virtue or lack of flaws, but “just because,” and in some cases—no matter what. But whatever happens, the shortcomings of love are not a hindrance. However, alas, not everyone knows how to love. And then there arises the temptation to make someone comfortable to us, to re-educate them. It’s alright if we’re talking about a child and a parent, taking into consideration your oversights in their upbringing, but the trouble is that that people sometimes try to reeducate adults, and then you simply can’t avoid problems.

An adult, even one aware of his shortcomings, will hardly allow someone to educate him. Adults don’t like advisers, don’t improve because of comments, and don’t get better from criticism. Even if someone understands that there’s a lot wrong with him, instead of getting better, he would rather circle the wagons and defend his right to be what he is. He has that right. In the entire history of mankind, not a single sinner has been forcibly transformed into a righteous man. So does man have the right to infringe upon the freedom that even the Creator Himself doesn’t violate? And then, is there even one zealot of morality without sin? Therefore, when attempts at forced education run into that phrase we all know from school: “Who are you to judge me?”—there’s nothing we can say in reply. If you love someone—accept them as they are; if you feel a lack of love—learn to love. Love smooths out sharp corners and teaches generosity, forbearance, and forgiveness. Love softens even stony hearts and amends even inveterate vices.

By the way, simply everyday experiences can come to help us. The longer we live, the deeper we learn our own vices, shortcomings, and weaknesses, and the more readily we condescend to the vices, flaws, and weaknesses of others. We have only to be sensitive to this experience, to not remember evil, not nurture resentments, and not be quick to judge. In other words—to not hinder God from saving us. Frankly speaking, this is the best way to perceive the quarantine. God is saving us, giving the opportunity to consider the vices that we haven’t noticed in the everyday hustle and bustle, helping to reevaluate our usual priorities, opening our eyes to the most important and valuable things in life. Let’s not get in His way.

Archpriest Vladimir Puchkov
Translated by Jesse Dominick


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