The Gift of Disagreeable People

I'm realizing some things about myself as I reflect on this past week of election chaos... 

I am realizing that despite my best intentions, I often struggle to surrender the outcomes in my life to God and to be at peace with what happens--no matter what.  

I am also realizing that anger and frustration are a by-product of the kind of helplessness that ensues when I don't surrender the outcomes, and they can be not only self-destructive, but they also bleed out into my relationships, work, and pretty much every other area of my life.  

I am also realizing that the people who I disagree with have some of the same kinds of fears, anxieties, and worries that I do---they just express them differently.  

I was recently reading Awareness, one of my favorite books by Anthony de Mello. He talked about how being confronted by people who not only disagree with you but who might even irritate or agitate you is a gift that you should accept with joy.

Fr. Anthony writes:   

Think of someone you don’t like or avoid… they “will make you a gift that none of your charming, pleasant friends can make you...   

If you are wondering what sort of gift can come from having a disagreement with someone or encountering someone who "pushes your buttons," Fr. Anthony outlines it like this:  

He or she is going to reveal your real human nature to you—a revelation as precious as any found in Scripture, for what will it profit you to know all the Scriptures if you do not know yourself and so live the life of a robot?  

In other words, when we encounter someone who would ordinarily bring out the worst in us, we can redeem that kind of encounter by being instructed, shaped, and matured by it---if we are courageous and vulnerable enough to do so.  

Instead of falling back on knee-jerk reactions to those with whom we have disagreements, we would be well-served to be curious about why we are feeling the things we are feeling.  

That curiosity comes only through intentionality, however.  You have to work at it.  And it can begin with a simple statement:  "What I see in you, I see in me."  

If we begin with that statement when we find ourselves at odds with someone, we are more easily able to move from a defensive stance to openness and learning.  

You see, more often than not, what we find irritating, abrasive, or hurtful in others are the very things we fear are true about ourselves. 

Or we might just have a negative and unresolved history with the person in question or someone like them.  Our reactions are rarely born in a moment and almost certainly never in a vacuum.  

May you go out in the world today with an openness that leads you to curiosity despite the interpersonal conflicts you might face.  May you see those with whom you disagree as gifts that will help you know yourself better. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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