The three weeks. No music. No new things. The nine days. No swimming. No meat. No piano practice. Yeah, I feel pretty gloomy.

During the three weeks, we are supposed to increase in of ואהבת לרעך כמוך. This means to treat every Jew on the planet with the respect you feel you deserve.

That’s easy when that person is a supermarket clerk, or the dentist, or a really nice teacher. Someone you don’t talk too much, or someone who is a joy to be around. Not so easy when it’s someone, frum or not, who gets on your nerves, even if you are justified for feeling that way. (Think someone who yells at everyone, or pushes in line, or brags, or ignores your friends.)

One of the most important things to do during the three weeks and the nine days is to think of someone who you really can’t stand, and try to appreciate them as a person.

If you do have someone in mind while reading this, you’re probably thinking- who am I, Ms. Perfect? Do I see everything through a massive pair of rose coloured glasses?

You couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s this person at the place I volunteer. I can’t stand her.

First of all, she talks to me like I’m three. I don’t like people who do that, it’s my weak spot. And in my opinion, she’s too quick to yell and criticize. Maybe I’m justified in thinking that.

But if the roles were reversed, would I still feel that way? We all have our bad days, our bad weeks. Sometimes, we don’t even notice that we’re sniping at everyone who tries to come near us. Or we might think we’re justified, and that they’re over-reacting.

But what about the people you’ve ‘known’ your whole life? Someone who you know, without a doubt, is just nasty?

Do we ever really know someone? Can we ever say we truly know 100% percent about a person? Chances are, if they’re not exactly the nicest friend, there’s a lot of data you’re missing.

And remember- everyone has a purpose in life. Everyone has a reson for being on this earth. Everyone was created B’tzelem Elokim – in the image of G-d. These nasty traits may be part of their purpose. And maybe, just maybe, they were put on Earth to test you.

So remember- you think you’re looking at a window. Instead, see the experience as a mirror- how can you grow from this? What traits do you need to work on? If you respect yourself, faults and all, you can respect others as well.