“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools” (Eccl. 7:9)
Fingernail-picking. Sarcastic comments about having twins. Mispronouncing “mischievous.” I’ll admit, there have been times in my life when all of these silly, tiny things have driven me crazy. (I wish I could say this was now never the case!) I have often written off “pet peeves” as unimportant quirks or annoying things others do and yet, in reality, I am the one being brittle and peevish. Someone at work or church would probably not casually mention they were coveting or lusting, as though these things were morally neutral, but we have no reservations about pointing out, almost bragging, that something is a pet peeve of ours. It’s as though we are proud to be as sensitive as the young lady in “The Princess and the Pea”. Perhaps it feels like a badge of honor that we put up with such maddening nonsense.
In the last few years, though, I’ve been convicted that I need to “put to death” my pet peeves, to borrow Paul’s language. Having a few pet peeves may seem minor and, indeed, the irritants themselves are minor, but that just shows how much more absurd my great annoyance is with them! In our culture, “pet peeve” has somehow became an acceptable euphemism to justify a response of inappropriate irritability, anger, resentment, or even hypocrisy. It also shows a lack of patience, forgiveness, and forbearance, all of which we are called to show one another as followers of Christ.
I will spare you all the details, but I would get very upset with a college roommate who sometimes dropped crumbs in the carpet of our dorm room. Usually he would not even notice so then I would clean them up myself. I’m sure the mess was entirely unintentional on his part, and in retrospect I suppose it probably didn’t even happen that many times. But I started to get increasingly annoyed and even found myself looking for more annoying things he was doing. His actions were not mean, hateful, or deliberately rude… I just thought it was within my rights to be annoyed. I wasn’t patient or forgiving; instead, any crumb he dropped without realizing it proceeded to drive me crazy. How dare he? I was harboring sinful anger in my heart against him and instead of addressing the concern with him, I let it eat away at me for a long time until I finally realized the main problem was me.
Proverbs 19:11 says, “good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” When someone sins against us, it is a wonderful thing to not hold it against them. Yet how much more should we not hold a non-sinful (merely annoying) offense against someone! This seems so obvious yet it is just these kinds of things I have often held against someone. Paul reminds us that true Christian love, as extended by a grace-filled heart, is “not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pet peeves cause irrational anger and resentment for truly no good reason. And there is an added irony—I’m sure there are a great many things I do which are unknowingly annoying to other people. However, it’s hard to see my own annoyingness when I’m hypocritically examining someone else’s crumbs in the carpet with a magnifying glass. The “offenses” that irk me are probably minuscule in comparison to the habitually vexing things I do over and over to my poor wife. Praise God for her forbearance and forgiveness!
So now consider joining me in this exercise: even before the next time you’re in a situation with that person who tends to rub you the wrong way with their annoying habit, let us pray these things…
Pray “Lord, help me to be ‘patient, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'” (Eph 4:2-3). Our loving father is significantly more patient with us than we are with each other. We should strive to patiently bear with each other—not in exasperated toleration but in love.
Just as part of being an embodied soul as a human being involves learning and accommodating your body’s own quirks, as a part of the body of Christ, we learn to appreciate the different members of the body even despite their own peculiarities so that we may strive for unity.
Pray “Lord, help me to be ‘quick to listen, slow to speak’ (even negative things inside my head) and ‘slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires'” (James 1:19-20).
Pray “Lord, help me to truly love others with the love of Christ, not being rude, or irritable, or resentful“ (1 Cor 13:5).
Instead of noticing the speck in our friend’s eye, let’s remove the pesky plank of irritability from our own eyes.
Lord, help me to do this!