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.]

 

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.]

 

Wrap Up of Series on the “Easy” and “Hard” Christian Life

lets_goContinued from here.

As you can tell, I could continue with this topic indefinitely. I hope the sampling I provided drives home the point that deepening your relationship with God is both easier and harder: easier in the spirit but harder in the flesh. Each of us must choose which to feed. Whichever we feed grows stronger while whichever we starve will weaken.

I don’t claim to have it all together – I don’t. The closer I grow to God, the more aware I become of my innate selfishness and how far I am in my flesh from who God wants me to be. My response is to quote Joyce Meyer, who frequently says, “No, I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be!” Amen to that!

While I have grown exceedingly more aware of my innate selfishness, I have also grown more aware of the immensity of God’s grace. He loved me completely even when I made no effort whatsoever to follow Him. No matter how selfish and wretched I was, he loved me and saw something of value in me worth redeeming. So, rather than feeling defeated in my growing awareness of my innate selfishness, I fall more deeply in love with God as I recognize that I cannot “out sin” His grace. No matter how self-centered I am in an area of my life, His grace is more. This motivates me to keep chasing God, even as I repeatedly fall, because nothing compares to knowing Him more deeply.

Don’t be afraid of the difficult road of following God because it gets easier after the difficulty. Each new leg of the journey is painful and challenging because you must kill the flesh in that area of your life. On the other side of that pain and challenge is abundant joy that will make you wonder why you ever resisted in the first place. The more your relationship with God deepens, the more you will grow to trust Him, making it easier to obey, not because the road is easy but because you know the journey is worth the struggle. On the other side is a deeper relationship with God, and that’s worth any loss. Nothing this world has to offer comes anywhere close to what you experience as you fall more and more deeply in love with God.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running and saying, “Let’s go!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Replacing My Plans with God’s Plans

whereContinued from here.

I am a planner by nature. I like to plan out where I am going before taking the first step so I know exactly what to expect. Living as God’s servant throws all that out the window, which has been extremely difficult in my flesh. My flesh does not want a lamp showing me only the next step: I want the complete directions from beginning to end so I know exactly where I am going and when I can expect to arrive.

In my flesh, I also want a say in what my assignment is. I know what my strengths are, and I want to work in a job and participate in activities in which my strengths are assets. I don’t want to be vulnerable or dependent upon anyone. I want to know that I can do something on my own without any help from anyone.

To follow God, I have had to leave all agendas at the foot of the cross and follow His path, which He illuminates only one step at a time. I have no idea where I am going, so I cannot plan ahead to make the journey easier. When people ask where I see myself in five years, I have no answer because God doesn’t tell me that far in advance. He only lets me know where He wants me today, and the lack of knowing drives my flesh absolutely batty.

However, this aspect of my life has become very simple because I put no energy into planning where I’m going. I have learned to trust that God has a purpose and plan that is good, that He will provide what I need, and that He will fulfill the desires of my heart because I delight in God. Interestingly, the things God brings into my heart are far from what I would have planned for myself.

For example, I recently started a job with a prison ministry that I am passionate and excited about. Anyone who has known me since 2016 or earlier can tell you that neither the word prison nor ministry has been on my radar. If you had asked me a year ago where I thought God was leading me, I can assure you that neither word would have made my list, much less in combination with each other. And yet, God has given me a passion for where He has led me that could only have come from Him. While my flesh balks about not knowing what’s coming, God’s plans are exceedingly good.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a map and asking, “Where?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Choosing to Extend Grace

no_worriesContinued from here.

In my flesh, I expected the world to extend me lots of grace, and I would become offended when that did not happen. From my perspective, I had suffered greatly from years of child abuse, so was it really asking too much for people to extend me grace when I messed up?

However, in my flesh, I did not extend the same courtesy. After all, that person hasn’t been where I have, so he/she should have things together. Also, while I gave myself all sorts of excuses for bad behavior (it was “justified” because I was simply a victim of my emotions), I judged other people’s behavior from the outside, never considering that they, too, were being driven by their own emotions resulting from their own life experiences that I knew nothing about. It was easy in my flesh to be the victim, where whatever I did had an excuse (after all, I was abused as a child) while any poor behavior from anyone else was inexcusable. In my flesh, it was easy to judge others.

Learning to choose to extend grace was extremely difficult for me. First, God called me to do it in my actions, such as refraining from saying something negative while still thinking it. Later, He led me to extend grace even in my thoughts by praying for the other person rather than thinking negative thoughts about him or her. I had to stop thinking about other people in terms of how their actions affect me but, instead, see them through God’s eyes – as beloved children of God in need of grace and His tender loving care.

Learning to view people through God’s eyes has made my life so much easier! People are drawn to me because I do not judge them. They see compassion in my eyes rather than judgment, which is exactly what people need when they are hurting. That compassion points them to God, especially in situations in which they repeatedly receive grace. Although my flesh balks at extending grace, my spirit soars.

The more annoying someone’s behavior, the more they need God. I pray that God will reveal the height, depth, width, and breadth of His love for them. After all, if they truly understood how deeply God loves them, they would not behave selfishly. That’s how God changed me – not that I do it perfectly, but I have laid down my gavel and stopped judging others, choosing to see them as beloved children of God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of smiling, holding out her hand, and saying, “No worries.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]