Be patient, bearing with one another in love. — Ephesians 4:2 NIV
He picks his teeth in public. She has this odd manner of clearing her voice every few moments.
He can’t watch the news without spouting his opinions. She must apply her makeup with a putty knife. He cuts off cars in traffic. She cuts off people in conversations.
He’s as edgy as a porcupine. She is too laid back and soft spoken. He rubs you the wrong way. She gets on your nerves. Irritating. Aggravating. Exasperating. Infuriating. Grrr.
If only people would stop behaving like people. If only people would wear deodorant, use mouthwash, close their mouths when they chew, quiet their screaming babies, and clean up their trashy lawns.
There is a way the world should run. And when others behave in ways we don’t like, we call that a pet peeve. Not a colossal divide or hostile rivalry or legal violation. Just a pet peeve. A pet (smallish, personal, individual) peeve (quirk, peculiarity). A pet peeve.
One of my pet peeves was tested the other night when Denalyn and I went to a movie, a very funny movie at a very full theater. There were hardly any seats left. We finally found two empty chairs on the aisle in the next to last row.
Did I mention that the movie was funny? I thought it was. So did the fellow behind me. But he brought a new dimension to movie enjoyment. Whereas everyone else laughed after the comicality, he laughed prior to it. As he saw the humor coming, he began to chuckle, kind of a chesty “heh-heh-heh.” Then he began to prep his wife and, in doing so, prepped us all. “He’s gonna fall. Watch, honey. He’s gonna fall. He doesn’t see the curb. He’s gonna fall.” Then came the big moment and his announcement: “I told you! He fell! He fell!” Then he would break into wall-shaking laughter that buried the next few lines. Peculiar behavior.
What pets your peeve?
I know a woman who has a pet peeve about facial hair. Must be something Freudian, although Freud had a beard. For whatever reason she does not like beards. When I grew a beard, she expressed her displeasure. More than once. My facial follicles left her harried. On several occasions she waited in the reception line after the worship service and expressed her opinion. Each time I wondered, Is my beard worth this frustration?
Joy is such a precious commodity. Why squander it on a quibble?
The phrases we use regarding our pet peeves reveal the person who actually suffers. He “gets under my skin” or “gets on my nerves,” or she is such a “pain in my neck.” Whose skin, nerves, and neck? Ours! Who suffers? We do! Every pet peeve writes a check on our joy account.
Suppose a basket of Ping-Pong balls represents your daily quota of happiness. Each aggravation, if you allow it, can snatch a ball out of your basket.
- He left his dirty clothes on the floor. A joy ball vanishes.
- She waits until the last minute to apply her makeup. Plop! There goes another one.
- I don’t know why people get tattoos.
- I don’t know why my tattoo is his business.
- Big trucks shouldn’t take up two parking places!
- Preachers shouldn’t grow facial hair!
There go the joy balls, one by one, until the joy is gone.
How can you help people smile if you have a hole in your happiness basket? You can’t. For this reason the apostle Paul said,
Be patient, bearing with one another in love. — Ephesians 4:2 NIV
The apostle’s word for patient is a term that combines “long” and “tempered.”1 The short-tempered person has a hair-trigger reaction. The patient person is “long tempered.” The word tempered literally means “taking a long time to boil.”2 In other words not quickly overheated. Irks come with life, but they need not diminish life. The patient person sees all the peculiarities of the world. But rather than react, he bears with them. Thanks for the realism, Paul.
There are many times when we enjoy one another, delight in one another, and even relish one another. Yet there are occasions when it takes a Herculean act of forbearance just to put up with one another. Paul’s verb means exactly that: to tolerate, endure, and forbear. Other translations bring this to light:
Be patient…, making allowance for each other’s faults. — NLT
Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for each other. — Phillips
Tolerate one another. — The Voice
Denalyn’s thirty-seven years of marriage to me, the king of quirks, qualifies her for a PhD in this subject.
When I drive, my mind tends to wander. When it does, the car slows to a crawl. (“Max, pay attention.”)
I repair things at risk of ruining them. (“Max, I told you I could call a handyman.”)
I change bedrooms in the middle of the night. I have no explanation or justification. I just wake up in need of new pastures. (“Max, where did you end up last night?”)
My jaw makes a popping noise when I eat steak. (“Max, you’re distracting the people at the next table.”)
I’m good for thirty minutes at a party. She’s good for two hours. (“Max, we just got here.”)
Sending me to the grocery store is like sending me to the Amazon. I may never emerge. (“You’ve been gone for two hours, and you only bought potato chips?”)
Yet Denalyn is the happiest person within a dozen zip codes. Ask her friends or ask my daughters. They will tell you she’s married to an odd duck, but she has the joy level of a kid at a carnival. Here is her secret: She’s learned to enjoy my idiosyncrasies. She thinks I’m entertaining. Who would’ve thought? In her eyes I’m a candidate for an oddball Oscar.
To be clear, she lets her opinions be heard. I know when I’ve tested her patience. Yet I never fear failing the test and am happier for it.
Happiness is less an emotion and more a decision, a decision to bear with one another.
By the way, don’t people bear with you? The next time you find it difficult to live with others, imagine what it is like to live with you.
Or, to use the lingo of Jesus, don’t obsess about the speck of dust in another person’s eye while ignoring the beam in your own eye. Anyone who thinks Jesus never cracked a joke hasn’t read these words from the Sermon on the Mount:
Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? How can you say to your friend, “Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye”? Look at yourself! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye. — Matthew 7:3-5 NCV
Jesus envisioned a fellow who has a two-by-four sticking out of his eye. It protrudes like Pinocchio’s nose. Every time he turns around, people duck for cover. His wife refuses to sleep with him for fear that he’ll roll over and knock her out. He can’t play a round of golf. Every time he looks down at the ball, his stick sticks into the ground.
But even though the beam is in his eye, it’s never on his mind. He’s naive regarding the stares of others. When they stare, he assumes they like his shirt. He doesn’t see the log in his own eye but can’t help but notice a man who stands across the street dabbing his eye with a tissue. With great aplomb the fellow with the extended redwood looks to the right and the left, causing people in both directions to scatter, and then marches across the avenue and declares, “You ought to be more careful. Don’t you know that if you get something in your eye, it can be harmful?” Then he smugly turns and struts down the street.
You think the world needs more tolerance? Then be tolerant. You wish people would quit complaining? When you quit, the world is minus one whiner. Nobody gives a hoot about the poor? The hoot level will increase with your compassion. If you want to change the world, begin with yourself. Before you point out the specks in the eyes of others, make sure you aren’t sporting a sequoia limb.
Jesus’ teaching did not preclude the place of constructive criticism. He simply urged us to follow the proper sequence. “First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye” (Matt. 7:5 NCV, emphasis mine).
There is a time to speak up. Before you do, check your motives. The goal is to help, never to hurt. Look at yourself before you look down on others. Rather than put them in their place, put yourself in their place.
Patience has a boomerang effect. As we bear with one another, we preserve our joy and discover new reasons to smile.
Easy to do? No.
But essential? Absolutely. Life is too precious and brief to be spent in a huff.
Cut people some slack.
Ease up. Reduce your number of peeves, and be patient with the people who pet them.
The world, for all its quirky people, is a wonderful place to live. The sooner we can find the beauty, the happier we will be.
1.W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Original Greek Words with Their Precise Meanings for English Readers (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing, n.d.), “Longsuffering,” 694.
2.David Hocking, “The Patience of God,” Blue Letter Bible, https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/hocking_david/attributes/attributes14.cfm
Excerpted with permission from How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.
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Are people annoying you? Do your pet peeves steal your happiness? Today, let’s listen to Jesus and laugh a little at ourselves for walking around with a telephone pole in our eye and cut people some slack for the things they do that bother us. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
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