I’d just found a comfy chair to work on a writing deadline I had for an article. I listened to the faint chatter around me and opened my laptop anxious to flesh out some words on the blank screen. Then out of the corner of my eye a man in his 40’s plops down in the leather chair caddy corner from mine.
He opened his laptop and rustled through the notes in his briefcase. He looked at them intensely and took a deep breath. Whatever he was reading must have been really good from all the “oh’s,” “wow’s,” and “hmm’s” flowing unashamedly out of his mouth.
My eyes were glued to this man. I was waiting to see if he would quiet down at all or maybe get a hint. But he didn’t.
How annoying, I thought. Does he know other people are trying to concentrate on their work?
He eventually caught me looking at him but I just smiled and acted like I was working. Later I heard him talking to another person and discovered that this man, in fact, was an influential leader in a church right down the road. I couldn’t believe it.
I had criticized his every move. He acted differently than I would have and I judged him within the first few minutes of observing him. In my heart I concluded that he was, well, weird.
But I was far from being right.
Learning to live among people and accept them when they commit your biggest pet peeve is challenging.
One of my pet peeves happens to be people who talk loudly in coffee shop environments. It distracts me to no end! People who interrupt you while talking, text when you’re having a conversation, leave hair strands in the sink, neglect to use their turn signal, chomp their food, speak vulgar language, habitually need favors, give their kids strange names, smack chewing gum, ride your bumper, use “like” too much, don’t include you in a conversation, and ask you the same question several times are just a few pet peeves people have out of the numerous out there.
It seems like the closer I get to truly knowing someone, the greater the chances of finding some kind of silly annoyance. My first reaction is usually separation. I don’t want to be around that annoyance and I distance that person in my heart.
Then the Holy Spirit nudges me and says, “You are no different, Samantha. Take a long, hard look at yourself.”
I have a long list of quirks and tendencies that annoy my husband and those close to me yet they graciously love and accept me anyway. I live out their biggest pet peeves on a regular basis. Why am I reluctant to show grace to others in return?
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
These verses in Scripture have convicted and challenged me to do everything I can to genuinely love people for who they are and to not allow something that gets on my nerves to destroy oneness and peace in our relationship.
Sometimes that has meant confronting that person in gentleness with how much I have struggled with a certain annoyance, listening to their thoughts, and asking him or her if there is anything I can work on as well. More times than not, being honest and open has been edifying and eye opening and settles down any conflict.
Sometimes loving people regardless has meant praying really hard for patience and acceptance in the very moment I’m frustrated by their behavior and giving it to God, instead of dwelling on the “offense.” But I admit that I’ve got a long ways to go in living this out. It’s much easier said than done.
To be able to truly love and respect someone in all his or her quirks, annoyances, or awkward behavior is hard work. But the world is looking for people who are faithful to love without conditions. That is how nonbelievers see Christ in us and are attracted to the gospel.
To my surprise, I grew to really respect the church leader who talked loudly to himself. He asked me questions and got to know me and vice versa. I learned that he was a humble servant and huge encourager who loved God’s Word and expressed that love outwardly. I discovered that he leads one of the most fruitful ministries in our city.
Through deeper conversation, I gained knowledge and understanding about him and my initial annoyance was exchanged with patience, love, and acceptance. I confessed my pride to God that I had been so judgmental.
And just in case you were wondering, I got absolutely nowhere on the article I was supposed to write!