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August 9 Post

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

It’s kind of juicy to be irritated with someone. First, we make up all kinds of stuff in our heads about how wrong they are about whatever. And by comparison, how right thinking we are. Then, we imagine that everything would be alright if they would only see things the way we see them, and behave the way we want them to behave.

Everybody gets irritated with somebody sometime. It may be as anonymous as the driver in front of you driving twenty miles an hour in a 35 zone, or that chatty person in the grocery line making a five-minute check-out seem like forever. More likely, the one we find most irritating is the one we love: a sibling, parent, partner, or friend.

As a therapist, I might ask a client to write down what they demand from that irritating person. We may demand to be heard, to be understood, or that they act like we would act if we were them. We may demand that they show appreciation, or demonstrate love in a certain way. We may simply want them to show up on time for dinner, and demand that they do so. Or else, well, we’ll give them the evil eye or worse when they walk through the door.

On a recent trip to visit family, we were awakened in the night by screaming and swearing. The couple next door moved beyond irritated to a knockdown, drag-out battle. When one accused the other of hitting them, and we heard the sound of someone cracking against the wall, we called security.

We’ve all lost our temper at some point, and sense what it must be like to experience a rage so hot we struggle to put it back in the box.

Most of us, most of the time, succeed. We’ve learned when to walk away and return to the conversation later when tempers cool. We’ve learned to read the signs when someone we care about will no longer be able to participate in a rational conversation, and that point where our own emotional regulation may go off the rails.

When one of my friends starts to lose it, he says to his partner, “Could we talk about this later?” This really means, “I’d rather not talk about this ever, but if it’s still important after we’ve walked away for a bit, we’ll try again.”

Our faith gives us a solid foundation on what to do when the temperature rises. Make allowance for one another’s faults; be patient with one another; practice humility and gentleness in conversation. All these contribute to satisfactory resolution of our differences. Two thousand years before the science of psychology, such spiritual practices avoided the late-night terror of that couple next door.

As people of faith, we trust God to provide the resources we need for a healthy, abundant life. As our culture spins out of control, too often seething on the verge of violence, God reveals to us a more excellent way.

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” May it be so. This is our prayer, for us and for all.

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland

Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida

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