Our fellow humans aggravate us every day.
A guy cuts you off at the intersection and makes the light while - thanks to him - you don’t.
A woman is ahead of you in the checkout line that clearly says ‘!2 items or Less,’ with at least treble that amount. You made sure you had less than 12 items - it’s grossly unfair!
How can we Christians deal with these situations without going crazy? And without judging these infuriating people. (After all, ‘judge not, lest ye be judged.’)
Here are some ideas.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be nice to people when things aren’t going well in your own world? How difficult it is to care about others’ feelings when you’re in a bad place?
So if people are rude and inconsiderate I ask myself what might be going wrong in their lives to make them behave that way. I try to believe that they normally wouldn’t be so obnoxious and something must be upsetting them.
Remember the man who was mad when a father got on the bus and let his three children run rampant without a single word of admonition? When challenged, that parent replied, “I guess I should do something. But their mother has just died and we’re all wondering how to cope with it.”
The angry passenger felt sudden compassion for the man and realized that what we see is not the full story.
Because of this, I make up something to help me feel empathy for people who bug me.
That guy who just cut in front of me at the traffic might have a wife about to give birth in hospital and he's desperate to get there as fast as possible.
The woman who has too many groceries for my check-out lane might not be able to read the sign saying ’12 Items Or Less.’ I'm lucky to be literate - she might not be so privileged.
It doesn’t matter what crazy back-story you make up, just as long as it helps you feel kinder towards the annoying person.
I end by saying a “Hail Mary” for them as a way of blessing them and turning my frustration into something positive.
As another example, acquaintances often come up to me when I’m working in a café I frequent a lot. They want to chat - I want to write. That’s why I’m there. I even put on headphones as a not-so-subtle ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.
And still they come over!
I’ve carved out this precious time to get a specific amount of writing done. So it takes a lot of patience, but I’ve learned to tell myself that God has put that person in front of me to teach me to be less obsessed about my writing schedule and more interested in my fellow man.
And so I save my work on the laptop and give that person my full attention.
I admit that I’m also praying to God to give me patience during the entire conversation! But at least my thoughts are on doing His work, not mine.
He constantly gives us chances to help others and put our egos behind us. We should take advantage of them.
I have another trick, especially when young people behave as if the world revolves around them and us older folk should simply wait while they chat in groups in the middle of the supermarket aisle, or hog the outside lane in traffic while slowing down to text their friends…..
I remember what I was like at their age. We didn’t have cell phones in those days, but I can recall plenty of times when I failed to stand aside and let others pass, or treated the outside lane as my personal space.
By forgiving them for their inconsideration I hope to be forgiven my own. Again, they're not usually trying to annoy others but have a genuine lack of appreciation of others. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at some point in our lives.
At the other end of the age scale, when an eighty-something bugs me by driving slowly, or doddering through the check-out lane in the store, I tell myself that one day I will - God willing - be that old person myself. It behooves me to ‘pay it forward’ and be patient with their foibles.
The ultimate method for dealing with frustrating people is to remember what Christ went through for us, and His continuing Mercy towards us.
He suffered horribly for mankind with His agonizing death on the Cross. Yet every day He calls us into an intimate relationship with Him, overlooks our weaknesses and forgives us, over and over again, even though He knows we will sin some more.
Letting the poor behavior of others get under our skin ruins our peace without ruining theirs. If we take the high road, we feel good about ourselves.
God sees what is done in secret. Let's offer those infuriating situations up to Him and use them to give Him glory by turning them into moments of forgiveness and prayer for others.