Dealing with Particularly Annoying People

c'monContinued from here.

The more selfish someone else is, the more difficult it is to spend time with him or her … not just for you but for everyone else! That means the more selfish someone is, the more miserable and lonely that person is likely to be because other people are going to avoid having to interact with that person. As you grow in humility by deferring your preferences, you will find it easier to be in relationships with people that others find particularly annoying. This means you will be in a unique position to shine God’s love into the lives of people who might not otherwise be recipients of that love.

I have found that some of the most selfish people are those who have been deeply wounded. Boy, can I relate to that! When we are wounded, nothing seems more natural than to lick our wounds, which places our focus on ourselves. We don’t even realize the repellant effect our selfishness has on our relationships because we are too self-absorbed by our pain. The deeper the wounds, the more difficult it is to take our focus off them.

The key to healing our deepest wounds is not focusing on them – it’s shifting our focus to God and inviting Him to heal our wounds and deferring our preferences to others while we wait on that healing. God’s method of healing is not appealing to the selfish because it involves giving grace – extending forgiveness – to those who hurt us, and that’s really tough to do. I know firsthand because I lived in selfish hatred and unforgiveness for decades!

When I encounter a particularly annoying person, I remind myself that this person has likely experienced deep pain. I remember that I was once that person – deeply focused on my own pain and oblivious to the ways my self-absorption repelled other people. I ask God to fill me to overflowing with His love and to enable me to love this selfish person out of the overflow of His love for me. I am not responsible for generating the love – I would be in deep trouble if I was! My job is to love God, receive His love for me, and share the overflow of that love with the people around me. As I do this, God enables me to see past the selfishness and into their souls through His eyes of love.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips and saying, “C’mon.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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What Does Deferring Your Preferences Look Like?

u_rightContinued from here.

For me, the word “humility” was difficult to wrap my mind around. I had trouble understanding how to take this concept and put it into practice. C.S. Lewis got me pointed in the right direction with this quote:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

I used to believe I was a humble person because I had very low self-esteem, but I learned in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender that having a low opinion of yourself is just as prideful as having too high of an opinion of yourself. Pride is simply having yourself on your mind (or being selfish, self-absorbed, or self-focused). I was constantly on my mind as I meditated upon all of the things that were “wrong” with me.

So, I understood that I needed to get myself off my mind, but I did not know how to actually DO that. This is when the Holy Spirit “whispered” that I needed to start deferring my preferences, which is replacing thoughts of myself with thoughts of others. For example, I’ll defer the nicer chair to someone else or defer my preference for where to eat dinner to the other person. While this is something I used to do to manipulate the other person’s approval as a people pleaser, my motivation is now completely different. I love God enough to want to obey Him, and he told me to defer my preferences, so I choose to let the other person have his or her way because I love God. A huge difference is that the other person’s response is irrelevant whereas it was all that mattered in my people-pleasing days. Whether or not the other person notices or cares that I deferred my preferences, God notices.

Interestingly, even though I no longer get my own way most of the time, I am much happier. More specifically, I experience joy and peace that eluded me when I was selfish. I used to believe that getting what I wanted would make me happy, but I have actually found more happiness by choosing not getting what I want as I defer my preferences to the people around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking and saying, “U Right, U Right.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Deferring Your Preferences to Develop Humility

do_you_like_meContinued from here.

Now that we understand the problem, what is the solution? Just as I have found that having difficulty interacting with other people is a red flag for a pride problem, I have conversely found that easily getting along with other people is indicative of growth in humility. When I no longer expect everything to go my way and, instead, make a conscious effort to help things go someone else’s way, people are much easier to get along with.

Keep in mind, though, that I’m not talking about being a people pleaser, which was a problem for me for decades. I was the world’s biggest people pleaser, which from the outside might look like humility, but it was actually another form of pride. People pleasing is seeking to manipulate others to approve of you whereas humility is deferring your preferences out of love for God. The motivation is the key difference. People pleasing ultimately leads to a flare up in pride when the manipulations don’t get the results you want. With humility, you are simply seeking to please God, so the other person’s reaction does not matter.

When I was seeking to please others to gain their approval, I was the central focus of my thoughts. I knew that someone wanted X to be happy, so I twisted myself into a pretzel to make X happen for that person, hoping that by bringing X about, the person would approve of me and love me. Unfortunately, bringing about X was never enough. Once the person had X, s/he then needed Y to be happy … and then Z … Because I am not God, I could not make everything happen as that person wanted. My motivation was purely selfish, and people pleasing was exhausting. I ultimately could not fully please anyone, and I would feel sorry for myself that I was not receiving the love I sought, even after all the work I put into trying to manipulate the world for the other person.

Ironically, people tend to like me more since I developed humility and am no longer seeking their approval. Only God’s opinion of me matters, and this shift in perspective has radically changed my relationships and my view of myself. My self-esteem is no longer based upon what anyone else thinks of me. God loves me exactly as I am, so my needs are met, regardless of anyone else’s opinion of me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace asking, “Do you like me?” with check boxes for Yes, No, and Maybe. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

People’s Innate Selfishness

pay_attention_to_meContinued from here.

When I was driving through South Carolina, I heard a fabulous sermon on the radio, but I lost the signal before I could find out who was preaching. The pastor was talking about marriage and said, “If the person you married was bad enough that Jesus had to die for him, he’s going to annoy you from time to time.” I literally laughed out loud because this is so true! And this comment does not only apply to marriage – it applies to every interaction we have with any other person, whether it’s a family member, friend, or the sales clerk at a store. Every single person you encounter was “bad enough” that Jesus had to die for him or her, which means we can expect them to do things that annoy us from time to time. The things they do to annoy us, in most cases, stem from their pride, which is the Bible’s word for selfishness, self-centered, or self-absorbed.

I don’t remember where I heard this observation, but someone pointed out that pride is something we are blind to in our own lives but that we instantly recognize (negatively) in other people. All of us are naturally selfish. On her television show, Joyce Meyer advised that if you believe you are not a selfish person, pay attention to your own reaction the next time something doesn’t go your way. Unless you have worked with God to grow in humility in a particular area of your life, I can guarantee you are selfish because that is everyone’s default setting, mine included.

Now, if the other seven billion people on the planet would simply bend to my will, then my selfishness would not be a problem. The issue is that seven billion people are prideful, wanting things to go their own way, and that simply is not possible. So, as we interact with one another, our areas of pride bump into one another, and we react by viewing the other person as the problem, blind to the role our own pride is serving in the conflict. In fact, I have learned that when I find it difficult to be around other people, my own pride is likely the problem. I need to go before God in repentance, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus as I make a conscious choice to defer to other people’s preferences.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding symbols and yelling, “Pay attention to me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Being a Horizontal Christian by Loving Other People

lovedI finished reading Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader last week and feel like I now have a much better understanding of Eastern Orthodox theology. One notable difference from Protestantism that I have pondering is the heavy emphasis of the role of the universal Church as THE Body of Christ. While I know that Christians collectively make up the Body of Christ, I have been guilty of viewing Christianity as my relationship with God (vertical relationship) without much emphasis on my relationship with others (horizontal relationship). Tony Evans wrote an excellent book on the horizontal relationship of Christians with other people entitled Horizontal Jesus: How Our Relationships with Others Affect Our Experience with God, which taught me a lot about the “one anothers.”

Until the last few years, I believed I could live as an effective Christian alone in a cabin off the beaten path – just God and me. However, I have grown to realize that I cannot be an effective Christian if I am not interacting with other people. After all, the cross is both vertical AND horizontal. If all that mattered was God’s relationship with each individual with no connectivity among one another, then Jesus could have stayed in heaven and not have bothered to come to earth. After all, his relationship with God was just fine. He inconvenienced himself (to put it mildly) to connect horizontally with people, and Christians are supposed to follow his example, so Christianity involves interacting with other people … and that’s a big part of what makes the faith so challenging!

I have heard Joyce Meyer share the same story multiple times, and it never fails to elicit a chuckle out of me because I so deeply relate. She shared that she would be doing such a great job at being a Christian when she woke up – loving, thankful, etc. – until she had her first interaction with another person. Then, it all went downhill. The people are the hard part!

In this blog series, I will be focusing on some of the lessons I have learned – and continue to learn – about applying the Christian faith as we interact with the flawed people around us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart on her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Becoming a Humble Person

true_storyContinued from here.

I ended my blog entry yesterday by saying…

Here’s the best part – even though you will do these things to develop humility, the point is not about what you do so much as who you become.”

Let me give you an example to serve as a parallel that is easier to explain than humility. I used to be a very passive person. I was a people-pleaser and would twist myself into a pretzel to avoid offending anyone. I had very few boundaries and no concept of what boundaries even were in many areas of my life. I would let people take advantage of me, and I had a very difficult time saying no.

My “homework” during my therapy years was learning how to set and enforce boundaries. This required me to do what assertive people do, even though I was not assertive. Let’s say that someone asked me to volunteer to do a task that I didn’t want to do. Before therapy, because I didn’t want to upset anyone and wanted everyone to like me, I would agree to do the task but stew and complain about it. Through therapy, I practiced doing what assertive people do – I would force myself to say no, but I would experience an enormous amount of anxiety leading up to the no, and then I would replay the conversation in my head and worry about whether the person still liked me.

This is the state that the Pharisees stayed in, which was why Jesus was so hard on them. They did righteous acts on the outside, but they were not righteous on the inside. They made a point of doing righteous acts, but they never transformed into being righteous people.

In 2014, I had the epiphany that I had become an assertive person. I was no longer a passive person doing assertive things. God had transformed me through my obedience to Him and practicing doing what He called me to do, and I had actually become an assertive person. The assertiveness that people see on the outside flows naturally out of the assertiveness that has developed on the inside as God has transformed me from a people pleaser into a God pleaser.

Humility develops in the same way. As you choose to do what humble people do (defer your preferences to God and others), God will transform you into a humble person on the inside. You won’t be doing humble acts to impress other people – humble acts will naturally flow out of the humble person you are becoming because you love God and have made Him the center of your life instead of yourself.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a chair in front of a fireplace holding a book and saying, “True story.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How to Develop Humility

yes_or_noContinued from here.

Humility is a choice that (sadly) few people choose to make. We live in a “me” culture that focuses on our comfort, feeds our pride, and lures us with its temptations. Choosing humility is counter-cultural, but it’s the key to the Promised Land living that God wants for us – a life filled with joy, peace, contentment, and purpose. Those are promises for Jesus’ disciples, and you cannot be his disciple without humility.

The obvious question (assuming your goal is humility) is how to grow it. The critical first step is choosing discipleship. You need to decide once and for all who you are going to live your life for – yourself or God?

The Bible exhorts us not to be deceived because Christians can be deceived by the father of lies. Either you are living for God or you are living for yourself. There is no third option. Either every word out of your mouth and every action that you take is being filtered through what God has to say about that word or deed, or it is not. Don’t let yourself off the hook for this, which is my tendency when confronted with something I don’t want to face. No more excuses.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” ~ Deut. 30:19-20

Your options are life (living your life for God) or death (living life for yourself). Unless and until you choose life, you aren’t going to experience Promised Land living.

Once you make this decision, you need to do what God tells you to do in the Bible. The seven fundamental practices are a good start.

Here’s the best part – even though you will do these things to develop humility, the point is not about what you do so much as who you become. More on this tomorrow.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up two signs: “Yes or No.” Courtesy Bitmoji. ]