Specks and Planks

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Specks and Planks

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Lately, I have been getting annoyed with others. Well, I should say, as a human, I often find myself annoyed with others. The recent change, though, is my immediate thought after I feel the sense of irritation or anger: Do I do that, too?

In my teenage and young adult years, when I felt like I could conquer the world, I would find myself upset over a situation or at a person all too quickly. My lips would start bursting forth with complaints and degrading utterances. I was neither slow to anger nor slow to speak; rather, I would be the first in line to lodge a grievance (Prov. 14:29). Some would argue that is the trouble and consistency of my generation, I contend that it is part of my general personality and human nature.

As God continues to mold me, the surprise of His intervention takes my breath away. While I am certainly not “cured” of my quick mouth or fire-branding tongue, I do see how God fills my mind with thoughts to force me to pause. The first occurrence when I began to take note of these mind altering interventions was with driving. It is easy to become angry with other drivers, especially when they appear, in my opinion, to drive irrationally. On a typical commute to work, I was getting quickly annoyed with a driver, but the thought occurred to me that I do not know what is happening in the other vehicle. While this may seem like a simple thought, it was profoundly significant to me. The driver could be lost, could be dealing with a crying babe, could be in mourning, could be scared, could have just spilled hot coffee, or for any other reason. How often am I a bad driver because of extenuating circumstances? I can vividly remember recklessly steering the car to the side of the road, throwing napkins in the backseat because my daughter spilled a drink everywhere, or slamming on the brakes at a stoplight that I missed seeing change because my son got sick a moment before. God’s inspirational thought certainly changed my compassion and patience towards other drivers, but it also set me on a course to change my annoyed thought processes all together.

The beauty of having patience with drivers is that I can easily assume the motorist must be having a challenging day and move on, but relationships present a greater test. When I have to see a person many times over, or see him/her do something I find annoying, my mind is quick to assess the situation and, unfortunately, critique the actions. However, these pet-peeves have turned into blessings. For example, my husband recently got a smartphone—all the new bells and whistles. Like all new gadgets there is a certain amount of ooohh, aaahh, and time spent learning. Consequently, I would find myself getting quite annoyed with his time allotted “playing” with the phone. At first, I was found grumbling about it, then I moved to more outward expressions of “get-off-the-phone!” Finally, I sat playing on my own phone when my son wanted something and I was aggravated that I had to stop—I thought, “Wait, I’m doing this too!” Another time, I watched a friend of mine get very upset with her kids who were acting in a normal kid-like manner. My friend was trying to watch a television episode, but the kids were overly distracting. I was very troubled by her behavior with her kids, but then I found myself doing the exact same thing later in the week. I wanted to watch my show and the kids just needed to be still, then I thought, “Wait, I’m doing this too!” In both cases, I knew immediately what was more important than these gadgets and distractions—my family and a million other things! There are still times when I need a moment to breathe or check my email for work, but I curb my tone and tongue to let my family know that I need a few minutes. I finish up my task and give them the time I promised.

There are many opportunities for learning from annoying situations. It is beneficial to ask why do I find it so annoying. The answer is often “because I do that too and I don’t like that about me.” It is easy to see my faults in others; I just need to stop looking through the window trying to remove specks and look in the mirror, asking “Do I do that, also?”, to remove the plank in my eye (Luke 6:42).