When Your “Neighbor” Is Really Hard to Love
Written By Alexa Storms, USA
On the morning of my piano final exam, my roommate, Heather*, and I were at our double vanity getting ready for the day. She was speaking to someone on the phone when she began venting about me. She referenced me by a racial slur and made it clear she didn’t like me, or other light-skinned black people (although she is also black with a darker complexion). I was shocked and hurt that she would say those things right in front of me, but with this realization, everything started to make sense.
Just before my junior year at university, I moved into an apartment with three other girls, all of whom I did not know prior to move-in day. Heather was one of those girls.The first few weeks of living in my new apartment were great, but it wasn’t long before Heather began to treat me differently.
It started with her ignoring me. I would greet her and she wouldn’t respond. She would look at me, then walk past me as if I didn’t exist. I was confused since she continued to interact with our other roommates like normal. Why was she treating me so differently? Did I do something to make her dislike me?
This continued for the next month and a half. It was around midterms that I decided to reach out to her one last time. “If she really doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I thought, “then I will respect her wishes and not pursue a friendship with her.”
I decided to write encouraging notes to Heather and my other roommates to let them know that I was praying for them and cheering them on through their midterms. I was not necessarily expecting anything in return, but I was encouraged when my other roommates thanked me for the notes. Heather never acknowledged the note, let alone said “thanks.”
As the year went on, it became increasingly difficult to live with Heather. In addition to her iciness, some of her lifestyle choices made the apartment too toxic for me to live in. There were times when I wanted to be petty towards her. For example, on the rare occasion that she would speak to me, it was usually to ask if she could borrow something. I could’ve treated her the way she treated me and just ignored her and her request, but I never did. Whenever I was tempted to be petty, God convicted me of my heart’s attitude. He brought this passage to my mind many times while I was living in that apartment:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).
Why does God say revenge is His? Well, one of the reasons is human anger does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Because of God’s righteousness (Psalm 119:137), His anger is righteous and isn’t perverted by sin like mine is. Acting out of my own anger would result in self-centered, sinful actions. My focus would be on getting even (e.g., treating Heather the way she treated me) instead of bringing glory to God.
Also, God knows everything that is going on inside each person’s heart. He knew every detail about my situation with Heather and her bias against me—even details that I was oblivious to. He’s got the full picture. I shouldn’t worry about taking revenge because God will issue the best justice in His timing (Deuteronomy 32:4).
God used this difficult time to expose my heart and showed me areas I need to improve in as well. He reminded me of His command to love my neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). I cannot truly love those around me without surrendering myself to Him first. Although I no longer live at that apartment, and things between Heather and I were left unresolved, I still pray for her. I pray that God will get ahold of her heart and heal whatever brokenness is inside her. I also hope that she was able to see the love of Christ through my actions.
Dear friend, I want to leave you with a word of encouragement. Whenever you experience mistreatment and are tempted to get even, I urge you to run to God and remember His sovereignty and justice. Ask Him for wisdom to handle the situation in a way that glorifies Him and shows the other party the love of Christ, so that the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).
*Name changed for confidentiality purposes
Thank you for the reminder.
I LOVED this. Maybe she’s hurting so deeply that God knew she needed to feel the deep love of Jesus. And He chose YOU to show her. Hurt people hurt people. I’m so impressed you still pray for her. Praising God for you, what an encouragement you are to others! This convicted and encouraged me!