by Michael Goldsmith
Do you ever get irritated or frustrated? I hate to admit it, but I do. As pastor at First Assembly Siloam Springs, I had a habit of getting to the church early on Sundays (sometimes as early as 5:00 am) and on this particular occasion I arrived early, parked my car, walked to the front door only to discover that I had left my keys at home. There I was at an early morning arrival in pitch-black darkness staring into a building I couldn’t get into. Irritated at myself and the inconvenience, and with no other choice, I walked back to the car and drove home to retrieve the forgotten keys. While this wasn’t the “crisis of the year” it certainly was a frustrating experience, something akin to getting a pebble in your shoe, or sand in your teeth from the beach, or standing in a line behind someone paying with pennies, irritating and frustrating. The drive back home and to the church again provided me an opportunity to consider how easily any of us can get bent out of shape over insignificant things.
Most of us hate to be bothered or inconvenienced. Yet when we take the time to put our momentary circumstances into perspective and see the bigger picture around us, we find that what so easily raises our anger is trite in comparison. Let me suggest 5 ways to deal with irritation.
1. Remember the bigger picture of life. There’s an old proverb that says, “I complained about not having shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Chances are someone, somewhere has it a lot worse off than you. Even in your own life, you can recall those genuinely crisis moments. Forgetting your keys hardly compares with unemployment, the death of a spouse, major surgery, or bankruptcy. Before you allow one minor inconvenience to rob you of an otherwise perfectly good day, put things in perspective.
2. Resist the temptation to blow a fuse. I love the proverb that says, “He (or she) who blows a fuse will live in the dark.” “Fuse blowers” amuse me first because I can remember times when I’ve done that over nothing and secondly, I’ve watched so many others do that. By the way, it’s a lot more amusing to watch another fuse blower than to be a fuse blower. You’ve seen them: the parent that goes berserk at a children’s t-ball game, the business executive who rants and raves at the airline ticket window over a delayed/cancelled flight, the boss whose face becomes beat red and whose veins pop out on his head until he looks like a Rand McNally road map over something has meaningless as cold coffee. We adults, in our anger, are an absolute scream of hysteria for the watching public.
3. Respond with appropriate behavior. There is always an appropriate way to respond to any circumstance. Remember your actions can lead to a series of chain reactions or the domino effect. It looks like this: you come home frustrated over the long commute due to the infamous orange cones marking a construction area, you yell at your spouse, who in turns unloads on the kids, who take their revenge on the family pet, who waits the opportunity to get back at you. Before long we’ve got an entire world responding at World War levels to barely argumentative level issues. There is always an entirely appropriate way to respond. Take a breath and think about your next action BEFORE you do it. It may come back to haunt you.
4. Realize that we’re all human. Ain’t it the sad truth? Good attitudes have a bad attitude day. Positive personalities find themselves in a fit of negativity. Overcomers sometimes feel like undertakers. Your upturn can take a downswing in the shortest fraction of time. Six billion inhabitants of this planet all whom are strangely human. God’s greatest sense of humor was to give us all different personalities, interests, gifts, abilities, educational levels, economic earnings, desires, passions, and on it goes into infinities at the number of differences among us. Then in His greatest pleasure, He cast all of us on one planet to figure out how to live together.
5. Finally, refuse to let a day be ruined over something minor. So here’s one on me. Several years ago, I sat at the window at Braum’s ordering a gallon of milk and a half gallon of Rocky Road Ice Cream. I wait for an eternity in the line and upon arriving at the window, it’s a millennial before I’m told they’re out of Rocky Road. So I order chocolate as a substitute. The clerk disappears for another 1,000 year reign and upon re-appearing again tells me they’re out of chocolate. My first response isn’t pleasant and I ask for a refund, I’ve already paid by this time. The window closes, and I’ve got time to think. Suddenly, I’m convicted, repentant, and shamed. Window re-opens and I profusely apologize that “It’s not your fault.” By this time she’s told me about a gazillion times how sorry she is. The truth is, she really is sorry and it isn’t her fault. So, I offer another apology and drive off to stop at the local supermarket and arrive home with Rocky Road Ice-Cream.
While, you’re so amused about me what was your last “colossal” crisis that caused your reign of terror?
Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org