I need a Holy Spirit chill pill

by Kristin on January 27, 2010

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by BarelyFitz

I’m a grownup. I’m pretty sure I know by now that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

Not only do I know it intellectually, but life has given me plenty of examples. For starters, I have two kids (and their lives each began with 14 months or so of breastfeeding). I’ve also been through a divorce and survived single parenting. Yes, it’s pretty clear the world isn’t revolving around me.

But still, there’s this thing I do that’s really been getting to me lately (to be clear, I’ve been doing it for a long time—it’s just lately that it’s been getting to me). I allow the unintentional minor infractions of others to annoy me. And when I’m annoyed, all I can think about it how the annoyance affects me. Right—as if it’s all about me.

In church Sunday I was distracted by a highly energetic child and by the high hum of someone’s uncooperative hearing aid. When I drove across town in the snow the other evening, I was annoyed by the people who were driving SO cautiously that they were bound to cause an accident, not avoid one. When I checked on my LinkedIn invitations last night, I was annoyed by the number of people I’ve never heard of who wanted to add me as a connection (the site only works, after all, if you know someone well enough to be able to vouch for them in some way).

Being handed an attitude check

In each instance, though, I was gently asked “Where is your compassion?”

When I complained about the LinkedIn situation on Twitter, someone mentioned that it’s easy to inadvertently send requests to everyone you’ve ever had an email exchange with. My attitude softened. Maybe they didn’t mean to send requests to everyone, and they’re feeling annoyed and stupid about it themselves.

When I complained about the bad winter driving, my 11-year-old said “There are probably some people who moved here from places that don’t get any snow, so they’re really worried about driving in it.” Oh. Maybe I should think of how stressful the situation might be for them. (Don’t you love getting schooled by your kids?)

And as I sat in church, trying to concentrate on worship and the teaching, trying to block the hearing aid whine and the restless child, the Holy Spirit asked “Where is your compassion?” I’ve never had to parent a super high-energy child. I’ve never had problems hearing or seeing or getting around how and when I want to. Why should I be focused on how the struggles of others impact me?

To assume the best of others is to offer grace

Last night before bed I tweeted this:

I need to be less easily annoyed, less critical. I need to assume the best of people—realize their circumstances are unknown & offer grace.

When I started writing this post I wasn’t sure which of my three categories I would file it under. Now that I’m at the end, it’s clear it should be categorized under “Belief, hope & doubt,” because I think this sort of daily compassion is one of the main ways I should be different as a follower of Jesus. I also think that while some people are more naturally compassionate, I’m sort of hopeless at it without some help from the Holy Spirit.

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  • http://RadicalLoveProject.com Angela Harms

    I get like that, and it drives me crazy, too. Sometimes everybody around me pisses me off; they can’t do anything right. (I scare myself when it’s my loved-ones that I’m annoyed with. I don’t want them to experience that!)

    I’ve begun to discover that when I’m not compassionate toward someone else, usually that means that I haven’t been compassionate toward myself. When I really let myself feel what’s happening within me, compassion comes much easier.

    Someone slowing me down in traffic and I’m mad, telling myself how they’re wrong, it’s all their fault… then I take a breath (or five) and notice that I’m really scared. I’m going to be late with an appointment with that person who looks down on me anyway, judging me as disorganized, disheveled, inadequate. Oh! That hurts!

    Lately when I get annoyed, sometimes I can remember to ask myself what compassion for me would look like.

  • suzi w.

    i need some Holy Spirit to get out the grumpies in me too. I need to set boundaries, too, so that people get it when I’m upset. (Storytime this morning was a FAIL. I almost lost it in a room of mothers and babies.)

    “what compassion for me would look like.” Hmmm.

  • http://davesfaithblog.blogspot.com Dave

    I’ve been contemplating the answer to your question in your last post, “Now if we can only figure out a way to rewire how our palettes perceive the world.” In my experience that answer is the Holy Spirit. You found that answer in this post!!

  • http://themoderngal.blogspot.com The Modern Gal

    I read this blogpost a while ago … http://sizzlesays.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/book-of-you/ … and bookmarked it on my computer for when I’m feeling this way. It’s easy to get caught up in our own mind, but I try to remind myself of what it would be like if I were in the other person’s shoes or times when I’ve done or said the same things that are irritating me. It’s hard, for sure, but it helps my sanity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/BeckyandHollee/119553269807?ref=ts Hollee Temple

    First of all, I am not a Christian and I still read and loved this entire post — and I think it’s because of the universality of what you write. It doesn’t really matter what you call the power greater than yourself –it’s realizing that you’re not the center of it all, and that you really can’t change other people. I also should note that I am often grumpy when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired (to borrow from a pretty famous book). So when I hear myself being snippy, I check in and see if I’m one of those. It helps me re-center. And also remembering that this too shall pass … Thanks for helping me re-set for the day — I needed it! -H

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Angela, that’s so perceptive. I have a hard time being compassionate toward myself. Rather than recognizing that I’m worried about being late for something, I inwardly berate myself for not getting out of the house on time. Thanks for pointing out that aspect of compassion.

    suzi, I’d like to hear more about what you mean by “setting boundaries.” Do you mean you just need to be more clear with people, in a “sorry, I’m just grumpy today” way that shatters the possibility of passive aggressive communication? (I know that’s a healthy approach for me.)

    Dave, you’re right! I didn’t even make that connection. Now I’m noticing that both posts have a reference to taking a pill of some sorts, too. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my mind wanders in somewhat connected, logical ways. :)

    The Modern Gal, thanks for sharing that post. I need to start a collection of posts and writings I’ve read that give me the particular pep talks I tend to need.

    Hollee, I’m glad you felt the universality of the post. I really do try to find that balance—to be true to how I experience things and the particulars that color my experience, but also to write about topics that can connect with many people on many levels. We’re all human, after all. :) And apparently we all get grumpy from time to time. You’re absolutely right, too, about the “hungry, angry, lonely or tired” factor. Recognizing those things helps me re-center, and ties in with what Angela was saying about self-compassion. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.mothering.com/candacewalsh Candace Walsh

    I’m there with you.

  • http://mohtershaffer.wordpress.com Mother Shaffer

    Ok, compassion for helpless animals, old people and innocent kids is one thing, but bad drivers? Now you’re talkin’ crazy.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Candace, as always, it’s good to know I’m not alone—especially in my most aggravating personality traits. :)

    Mother Shaffer, too funny. Yeah, bad drivers represent the hardest group for me to offer grace to. Maybe partly because they’re putting all of us in danger? I’m working on finding my zen place more often when I’m driving, though.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Yeah, yeah, I get your post, but what really annoys me is the bad grammar in that sign. What a moron!!! :) Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

    This post is a great reminder that when people meet each other there is a meshing of past experiences, assumptions, and differing social skills. We misinterpret, misunderstand, and lack the whole story. What a great reminder to show grace.

  • Chris

    Sometimes I can almost feel nourished by my own peevishness…as though it created a zone of specialness around me that I can then later share with others for comisseration or as fuel for shared experiences and intersubjectivity. …and the smaller the ‘infraction’, the more sensitive we prove ourselves to be by noticing it. One example…provided only to show how stupid it is… is standing line at the grocery store with a full cart and someone with a small basket pulls up behind me and does what I would call the “pee pee dance” in order to catch my attention so that I will let them get in line ahead of me…as though the logic of the universe is that anyone with fewer items must, by all that is holy and decent, go first. I’m immediately reminded of the line: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I’ve found myself saying that continually under my breath in the grocery store.
    The problem of coveting things doesn’t just extend to luxury goods, it also extends to our coveting our own specialness and priviledged isolation. I lthink the line you used in a different post really applies here: “Blocking your view of God.”
    We can block our own view of God too.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Chris, you’ve made some really perceptive observations about this whole issue. I’ve definitely felt this, without recognizing it was happening: “Sometimes I can almost feel nourished by my own peevishness…as though it created a zone of specialness around me that I can then later share with others for comisseration.” I’m sure that I’m all-too skilled at “blocking my view of God,” and I’m glad there are opportunities like this to gently remind and encourage one another. Thank you.