During my first year of college, I had four classes with another guy named Peter. Enough other people had classes in common with us that they had to distinguish between us. I became known as Pete the Loud. My friend (who is now my roommate) became Pete the Other.
I lived up to my nickname, although I tried not to be overwhelming. I'm sure I failed, but the people I hung out with seemed to like me well enough. By the end of the year, I thought of myself as a pretty popular guy.
The following summer, I reported to the Provo Missionary Training Center as I began my two-year mission to Brazil. Within a week of my arrival, I had two companions instead of one - and one of them (as far as I could tell) didn't like me at all. In fact, my district (class) generally seemed to dislike me. By the end of my nine weeks of training, I had started to think that I wasn't likable at all.
I thought a lot about it. I learned a lot. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, I have rounded off some of the rough edges that caused so much irritation to those who rubbed shoulders with me.
But this week, I started to notice some of the same things. People didn't seem to want to have me in their classes. I said something without meaning to offend and noticed that it seemed to bother the person I addressed. And lots of people, whose behavior had seemed entirely normal before, seemed now to be polite without demonstrating interest in my friendship.
I recognize that much of this could be in my head. I'm not concerned enough about people's opinion of me (especially if it's based on too few interactions for them to know me) for it to cause me deep anguish. All the same, it started me thinking about the things that I do and say that bother other people. Once I discover what it is that I do that's bothersome to my friends and acquaintances, I can begin to discover if these frictions are due to innocent personality conflict or my own character flaws.
I hope that my discoveries will help me to round off more rough edges. I hope that the people I know will have the courage to tell me when I bother them and help me to understand why my actions are irritating to them.
I also hope that we will all take time to express our positive feelings for each other, for positive feedback is sometimes as effective as tactful negative feedback.
I would like to conclude with a note of gratitude for those who love me for who I am now, foibles included. I am grateful to know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me despite my faults and who communicates frankly with me to show me what I need to change about myself. I have seen it before, so I know that as I give my best efforts, He will change me into a fundamentally better person.