It seems that lately I’ve had several conversations with people who are very upset about something. They feel angry, annoyed, hurt, mistreated, misunderstood, etc.
These people find that something or someone has not been fair. Something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. Something didn’t go the way it was supposed to, or the way they wanted it. Someone let them down. Someone hurt their feelings. Someone got in their way. Somebody was really annoying them.
So they complain. They play the victim. They fuss. They whine. They blame. I find these kind of people very annoying. (Oops. Did I just say that?)
Before I get too self-righteous pointing “them” out, I have to admit that I’m one of “them.” In fact, just the other night I got really upset because I lost a blog post I was writing. I spent hours writing it. It was like slogging through mud. When I finally finished, and hit the “save draft” button, I lost it all. I forgot that I wasn’t connected to the Internet.
I was furious, at myself, at the computer, at the fact I didn’t have wireless Internet in the cabin, and at the WordPress people for not programming some kind of warning message. I was so frustrated, annoyed and angry.
I was even mad at Mike for trying to console me. “Surely you can find a treasure in all of this,” he said. That did it. Nothing is more annoying that having someone use your own advice on you.
I wanted to sulk. I wanted to stomp my feet. I wanted to give up on the whole blogging thing. “It’s too hard anyway,” I whined to myself. I slammed my computer shut and I went back to reading.
I’ve been reading various books on the subject of suffering. While reading, I came across this passage from St. Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894) in a book called The Art of Prayer.
Examine yourself to see whether you have within you a strong sense of your own importance, or negatively, whether you have failed to realize that you are nothing [apart from Christ]. This feeling of self-importance is deeply hidden, but it controls the whole of our life. Its first demand is that everything should be as we wish it, and as soon as this is not so we complain to God and are annoyed with people.
The high value we set on ourselves, in consequence of this feeling of importance, upsets not only our relationship with other men but also our attitude to God. Self-importance is as wily as the devil and cleverly conceals itself behind humble words, settling itself firmly in the heart so that we swing between self-depreciation and self-praise.
I also read an admonition by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867) (from Biography of Abbess Arsenia) where he reminds us of the need to give thanks.
Often in the time of sorrowful depressions, as well as in the time of rejoicing, it is necessary to repeat a word of thanksgiving to God. … “Glory to God for everything,” and then again, “Glory to God for everything!” With this prayer murmuring departs from the heart, confusion disappears, and only peace begins to settle into the heart, and joy. … The Lord has light which chases away any kind of confusion and annoyance. If only the soul would come close to Him in faith.
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess 5:18)
I’ve always read this verse, “Give thanks to God FOR all things.” It reads, “… IN all things.” I’m not expected to say, “Thank you God for this awful thing that just happened.” But I am exhorted to say, “God, I thank you IN SPITE OF this situation. You have something to teach me, something within me that needs to be brought to light. Something in me that needs to be conformed into your image. You have some aspect of your character that you want to demonstrate. Thank you for how you are going to redeem and transform this unwanted situation into something beautiful.” That is very different, indeed.
I paused my reading and reluctantly admitted to God that I definitely had within myself a strong sense of my own importance. I agreed with God how very upsetting it was and how ungrateful I had been. I realized that my sense of self-importance really did put a separation between Mike and me (and would have put distance between me and anyone else who might have been there) as well as between God and me.
Thankfully I snapped out of my self-pity and into a state of gratitude. I gave thanks to God, in spite of the fact that my blog post was lost. I thanked him for the opportunity to learn a bit about humility, a quality I want more of in my life. I thanked him for the discipline of writing and for frustrating and annoying situations. They are the very instruments that show me my true character and what, in my life, needs to be rooted out.
The most important revelation I received through this whole experience, was how quick I am to judge others for what I’m all too often guilty of myself. Isn’t it true that what we find most disagreeable in others is the very thing in our own lives that needs correction?
Thanks be to God for all things.