“Hell is other people,” wrote the French existential philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre. He was right, but only half right. The other half is, “Heaven is other people, too.” Yes, it is our relationships with other people that give us most of our headaches. However, relationships also give us joy.

Isn’t it funny how everyone thinks that “other people” are the problem? Bankers can be overheard muttering, “This would be a great place to work, if it weren’t for the customers.” University staff grumble, “This would be a great place, if it weren’t for the students.” Record company executives love the music industry … but complain that the musicians are a pain in the ass. Book publishers gripe, “This would be a wonderful business, if only we didn’t have to deal with pesky authors.” In every business, there are troublesome people. Employees bitch about their bosses; bosses complain about their employees. Departments point the finger at each other. And customers blame everyone.

So you go home at the end of the day, hoping to find a little peace, quiet, understanding, love, and support. And what do you get? Whining kids, sulking teens, and/or a spouse who’s had his or her own share of difficult people to deal with today.

Difficult people are everywhere – in neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, government, and yes, even in churches, temples, ashrams, monasteries and mosques. Yes, we all think that “someone else” is the problem!

What are we to do? We can’t live with one another … but we can’t live without one another.

Woody Allen summarized our predicament at the end of his movie, “Annie Hall,” when he turned to the camera and told a short story:

I was complaining to my shrink the other day that my brother is driving me crazy – he thinks he’s a chicken.

My shrink said, “Well, then, just stay away from him. If it bothers you so much, just avoid him.”

“I’d like to,” I replied, “but I need the eggs.”

So that’s our dilemma: How do we live in community with other people? How can we live and work together – getting the “eggs” we need – without hurting each other? How do we accomplish this difficult goal … without having to walk on eggshells?

BJ's new book is "Your Life is Your Prayer" (Mango Publishing)
BJ’s new book is “Your Life is Your Prayer” (Mango Publishing)
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