Even though I knew it was a victorious day for this person, I couldn’t help but feel myself get more and more irritated every time I heard the story. This person had done something courageous (in their eyes) and was now going to tell the whole story of what they did and how they did it to every person they encountered. 9am, 11am, 2pm, and so on…the story would start again. On the phone, in person, yelling down the hallway, the same lines about the same situation so that all would be informed. I was way too informed and was just getting aggravated by having to hear it over and over again.
I know. It’s nice to think that as Christians we aren’t going to get irritated with others. We’d like to think that if we were really like Jesus, then we would never have those moments where we wish we could just say the right words to shame those people that make our skin crawl. But the more I look around, the more I notice that frustration with others runs rampant in our culture. Even my most Christ-like friends have those people (or those types of people) in their lives that just drive them nuts!! So the question is: Is this ok, and how do we deal with it?
First and foremost, we’re human.
The first to thing to recognize is that we are human. If you’ve been a Christian for any number of years, you’ve probably become quite familiar with how undeserving we are to stand before a holy God and confide in him as a friend. The longer I’ve been a believer, the more I can see how it is nothing short of a miracle (of tremendous mercy) that God could love me, with ALL my ridiculous imperfections and continuous failures. I know myself and I am VERY human. Though we have inherited God’s righteousness by trusting in Christ, we still live in these physical bodies (most of them out of shape) and we are daily faced with the struggle of whether to obey the spirit or the flesh. Getting annoyed at people happens because we still carry this flesh. It is human. However…
Being human is not an excuse! It is good to know that it’s only human to get aggravated at others, but it is equally important to realize that being human is not reason enough to disregard all that Christ did for us on the cross. Christ died so that we could have a better life than we could have had without his sacrifice. He took our sin so that we wouldn’t have to be petty or get annoyed with each other. He came to give us abundant life and although we can sometimes think of that as huge, vague joy and peace, it also includes life without the daily irritations that cloud our perspective. His death gives us the opportunity to rise above and not be like the world that so easily nitpicks and chews each other up. He understands our humanity, but he also gave us tremendous resources to obey his commands.
Secondly, aggravation is criticism in disguise.
Sure, we’d like to think that we only get angry with “righteous anger.” We’d like to believe that when we get annoyed, it’s because that person is really just being unreasonable, and therefore it’s ok to just go ahead and be angry! It’s ok to point out obvious defects in others, right? Especially if they are believers and are acting like the world, RIGHT?
Wrong. You and I both know that God never gives us a green light to just go ahead and criticize each other. He shows us in his word how to constructively and effectively deal with people who are knowingly and consistently sinning, but that is different from picking someone apart just because they disagree with you or act in a way that rubs you the wrong way.
Finally, recognize the source of your frustration.
There are two general reasons why we get annoyed with or criticize each other. The first one is that we tend to criticize negative attributes in others that we too possess.
In Matthew 7, Jesus teaches us about judging each other:
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
A pastor once pointed out that the speck and the log are made from the same material. It’s hypocritical to say, “Stop talking about yourself so much!” or “Just admit that you’re wrong!” when we too like to talk about ourselves, and can’t admit our mistakes. So not only are we criticizing someone, but we are often pointing out the very same defects that we have.
I’ll never forget the awe that I felt when a friend was telling me of a friend of hers who always had a story lined up whenever my friend finished telling hers. Every time she told this friend a story, the friend would come back with a story of her own to match or beat it. I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me? You do the SAME thing!!” It was pretty clear though that she didn’t see that in her own life, or she wouldn’t have openly criticized her friend for doing it. At that moment I stopped to think, “Do I do that?” If you find that you get easily frustrated with certain traits of people around you, stop for a moment, and be brave enough to ask if those are very traits that you struggle with.
The second reason why we pick on each other is that sometimes the things we criticize in others are things we wish we possessed. Have you ever been upset at someone for being too loud, when deep down inside you wished you could grab that kind of attention? Or have you ever teased someone for being a bookworm, when the truth is that you wished you could be disciplined and a quick learner?
Insecurity over the things we lack often comes out in the form of annoyance. Why? Because it’s easier to get annoyed than to take a serious look at our own insecurities and deal with them appropriately. We must remember that God made each of us unique and that he doesn’t make mistakes. Insecurity needs to be dealt with before God, the one who can fill us up with his love and reassure us that we have no need to feel insecure.
Ultimately, the best way to deal with people who bug you is to stop for a moment and remember that although you are human, you do not have to feed the flesh that wants you to fall short of God’s standard. Recognize the source of your frustration and ask for the Lord to help you live a life like Christ, who poured out his love and mercy over and over again. He could have easily turned his back on Peter, who denied him so willingly. He didn’t though. He forgave him and gave him mercy. In times of annoyance, give mercy instead of rolled eyes. As you continue to practice mercy, over time you will find that you get less and less annoyed.