How to Love People Even When They Annoy You
It’s remarkably easy to be annoyed with people. Different personalities, life circumstances, and ultimately, our
sinful natures make it very easy to give in to the temptation to get frustrated and annoyed and blame it on someone else.
I bet that each person reading this article can probably think of at least one person in his or her life by whom he or she is easily annoyed. Our tendency in circumstances when we are annoyed by someone--whether it's because they are always late, aren’t pulling their own weight, hold beliefs you disagree with, or simply have a personality very different from your own--is to shift blame entirely onto that person.
The problem with that is, as Lauren Lambert explains in her Gospel Taboo article “When People Annoy You,” that we are not addressing the root issue.
The underlying, root issue when we find ourselves frustrated and annoyed with someone is the sinful tendencies of our own hearts.
This is not to say that the person with whom we are annoyed isn’t doing something he or she shouldn’t or doesn’t also have things to work on, but this is a call to, as the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.”
In other words, are we living true to our Christian beliefs; are we living out Jesus’ call to love our neighbor as ourself?
This is certainly harder with some neighbors than others, and that’s okay. Loving someone who may be hard to love is also an opportunity for our faith to grow.
As Lambert writes, “The good news is, Jesus can help us honor him through (not just in spite of!) how we respond to the difficult people in our lives.”
It’s also important to know that loving people well is not possible through our own strength. We often fail and give in to annoyance and frustration.
But if we believe in Him, Jesus is living in us, and through His Spirit will enable us to love anyone, no matter how difficult.
Jesus Himself lived this out perfectly. He chose not only to put up with many people whom others may have thought of as annoying or difficult, but He even befriended them.
He reached out to people who were sick and poor, to tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus not getting annoyed with someone when those around him were getting annoyed.
When a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, those with Jesus were indignant. “‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor’” (Matthew 26:8). But Jesus rebukes them and honors the woman for her attention to Him.
Another example of Jesus embracing people rather than becoming annoyed or frustrated with them is found in Mark 10:13-16 when people bring little children to Jesus and Jesus’ disciples “scolded the parents for bothering him.” Instead of being annoyed at this influx of children, Jesus rebukes his disciples and welcomes the children.
Even with His own disciples, and perhaps most especially with the hot-headed Peter, Jesus was surely tempted to be annoyed and exasperated at their lack of faith, but He instead was patient and continued to teach them about God's wasys.
He does the same with us today.
Jesus was able to truly love others because He did not allow pride and self-importance to get in the way, even though he is the Son of God. “Jesus’ humility is the key to my ability to love others (even the difficult others) well,” writes Lambert.
In our individualistic culture, it’s easy to focus on our needs, wants, and preferences, and to become annoyed when people don’t share them, or even worse, cross them and make things difficult for us.
Lambert ends her article with this helpful reminder: “When I realize my irritation with others dishonors Jesus, it helps me repent of my self-centeredness, pride and unkind responses. Only Jesus’ gracious humility toward me can fuel my humility toward God and others. I need the daily reminder that Jesus loved me when I was unlovable and saved me not because of the what I did, but because of who he is.
The selfless, humble sacrificial love that saved me empowers me to extend kindness and grace to others when it’s hard,” she continues. “Jesus loves me when I don’t deserve it; Jesus loves me when I’m self-centered and unkind; Jesus loves me when I insist on my own way. And because Jesus has loved me in the midst of my shortcomings, I can love others who are just as unlovable as I am.”
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Antonio Guillem
Publication date: August 16, 2017
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com