Our natural tendency in every facet of life is to seek the comfort and security of loving people around us. An extension of being a loving person is that this example will "rub off". "You’ll know they are Christians by their love". But at the heart of it here, what we’re talking about is love being given, not received. The curious paradox in regards to all this is that in the spiritual life it seems eminently true that we learn love best and practice it most genuinely from those who irritate us the most - not from the loving people around us. I guess I would have to stop short of saying therefore let us be irritable with each other in order to help the other perfect his/her love. There is nonetheless, more than a kernel of truth here. For that matter, even among those closest to us it is not impossible to find things about them that irritate us. Sometimes I wonder if You don’t purposely give us people in our lives who are real thorns in our sides just to reveal how lacking in love and full of self-interest we are.
It’s amazing how many other virtues are predicated upon humility; how difficult it is for us to swallow the words, actions and life styles of others and to efface our own words, actions and life styles. Yet, it increasingly seems to me that not just learning to tolerate these "thorns", (whom You love as much as You love me), but to be genuinely kind and pleasant to them without patronizing them is what helps us to grow. And, in that sense, these people have so much more to offer us than those we love and with whom we feel secure and comfortable. I cannot become "less" insofar as I consider myself better or above those who rankle me. In learning love from them I diminish the self-righteous self in me and participate in Your love for all.