What if there’s nothing to forgive?

Some days, more than usual lately, I am just easily annoyed. A stray look, a remark, a personality trait I don’t care for, an alternate opinion voiced by some unsuspecting person near me… these and other hideous infractions can cause me to get bent out of shape and act, hmm, “unbecomingly.” In most cases, these annoyances are over insignificant things, too, so I have no excuse for my reactions, really.

In general, I’m a patient and accommodating person… on the outside, anyway. I may appear unruffled by a slight, or something said or done that makes me uncomfortable, but internally I’m sometimes quite ruffled indeed. I can’t give many examples, because undoubtedly someone I know would read my stories and think they are about them, and they might be! Suffice it to say I want others to be like me (after all, I’m such a fantastic specimen) and when they in some way express a difference of opinion or preference, I don’t care much for it. Everyone should agree with me; is that too much to ask? I agree with me entirely; what’s the problem? I get along with myself famously.

I know what to do if people actually sin against me. (I’m not saying I always do it… but I know what to do.) What I don’t always know is how to respond when people just irk me or rub me wrong and have not actually done a thing against me. I trust you have these people in your life. You may even love them, but they still drive you bonkers and you’d rather not be around them much. Sometimes we’re stuck with people who irritate us, in ministry or the workplace or extended family. We can’t get away. What then? When someone makes me want to (at best) roll my eyes or (at worst) slug ’em, or run away, what do I do?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few years, but I apparently haven’t nailed it yet because it’s still an issue. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that my Savior understands my weakness and pride (which is the root of this problem, of course, catapulting my ways, my preferences, my personality above others’.) Here are some thoughts I remind myself of today, in hopes it will help you too. Maybe it will take us years. Maybe we’ll not nail it till we get Home and forget ourselves. In the meantime, what ways of thinking will be helpful in becoming less of a jerk?

I like to think about Philippians 1:6 (at least if I’m dealing with another believer). “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” When I am tempted to be upset with people who aren’t meeting my standard, I have to know that God is at work in His kids. As He’s working on me (thank goodness), He’s working on them.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we are encouraged to “be patient with [the idle, the fainthearted, the weak].” In general, patience is the ticket, and I certainly can’t work that up myself. It comes from right thinking, humility, and the understanding that people who are difficult, either in general or just for me, warrant my patience because they are loved as much as I. Most of all, it comes from reflecting on how patient and kind my God has been with me.

I tried  to teach my girls to assume the best of each other. (i.e., “Don’t think your sister intended to hurt you in that situation.”) This may help a bit in dealing with irksome folks, too. Rarely are they trying to be annoying, right? They’re not intending to irritate, undermine, or aggravate me, so why do I get so knotted up?

Then of course, there is the brutal look in the mirror. How in the world can I be annoyed with others when I am so annoying myself? What makes my opinion best? If someone criticizes my taste, or berates my team, or subtly implies something not-so-fantastic about me or mine, why do I get worked up? Don’t I do exactly the same things? Lots of questions here, folks, not so many answers from Miss Offended.

That reminds me: to top it all off, I get offended when people are too easily offended. I need serious help.

Thankfully I have it. I have a perfect One who reacted perfectly to everyone He ever met, who patiently and lovingly endured not only slights but outright hatred, and forgot Himself in all the right ways. His record is mine, and I can shed the ugly skin of all the times I’ve done it wrong and press on, knowing He is at work to make me less of a jerk, a little bit at a time.


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