I was reading something recently about making sure we allow our kids to learn how to deal with irritating people.
Snotty brats, stuck-up princesses, and egotistical annoyances are reality. It isn’t easy to learn how to deal with the people who get under your skin, like a gritty piece of sand in your shoes after a day at the beach or a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth.
For me, as an adult, I have a tendency to just avoid those irritating people. I have a hard time really loving them. I have a hard time befriending them. I have a hard time not talking about them behind their back. I’m just telling Keith. It doesn’t count as gossip or slander. It’s just Emily (my sister). It doesn’t really count as talking behind their back if I tell Emily. I have to get it off my chest or I’ll explode.
I think it is part of my job as a mom to help my kids learn how to deal with the sandpaper of life. The person who is both easily offended and yet often offensive? The one who can twist every word you say into something completely inaccurate and then uses the twisted words against you? The person who just plain doesn’t listen? The one who insists they are right even when they are completely wrong?
But we can’t always just avoid people that irritate us. I’m thinking back to a situation where I was suddenly placed in the same working department with someone I could not stand- I’ll call her Amy. Every word out of her mouth was like nails on a chalkboard. Amy was blunt. Amy didn’t care if what she said hurt your feelings. She was offended by everything anyone else said. And sometimes, when I looked at her, I saw pieces of me. And I think that was what bothered me the most. Am I like that? Do I make people want to throw themselves out the window just to end the conversation? How can I avoid turning into Amy?
How can I, as a mom, teach my kids to deal with difficult people? I teach them to be nice to others. I teach them to say please and thank you. But this isn’t a manners thing.
This is an ingrained choice we all make- will I love someone who irritates me? Will I choose to be their friend and purposefully befriend them- not out of pity or guilt but because I choose to see what gifts they have and not what baggage they carry? There’s no easy answer to this.
As for Amy, I found that the more I prayed for her, my prayers slowly shifted from “God change her. Please make her less irritating!” to “God, help me find one nice thing I can say to Amy today” to “God, change my heart toward her. Help me like her as a person. Help me understand her and know her hurts and her pain.” It’s harder to hate someone when you know their hurts, their pain, their story.
I’m determined to discuss this more with my girls. I’ve had a tendency to talk to them after situations and point out how SnottyGirl was being rude and how my girls should avoid acting like SnottyGirl. But I don’t always focus on how they can love SnottyGirl right where she is, snotty behavior and all.