Individuals in all age groups have irritations in their lives. An infant, although they do not understand it, is irritated when a change or feeding does not happen when they feel the need for it. They know how to get our attention.
Schoolchildren get irritated when they think there is too much homework and not enough playtime. Teenagers find boundaries and curfews annoying because they feel they deserve more freedom. Young adults get irritated when job opportunities do not come at the time they desire or when finances limit their goals and ambitions.
It is not unusual for older individuals to deal with a number of irritations: Limited ability to sleep well, lack of strength or motivation to accomplish simple tasks, and those lingering aches and pains. Someone said that the only parts of their body that did not hurt were the ones that did not work any longer. Annoying, right?
Irritations are often caused by unmet expectations. To the “on time” person, a late arrival is annoying. If we are in a hurry, we can be irritated by someone who takes too long to tell a story or finish a project. Young people are annoyed by older ones who do not appreciate their ideas, while older people may find those youthful ideas ridiculous. Lack of communication can result in irritation.
So how are we supposed to handle life without being upset and annoyed by other people—or even ourselves? Is there anything we can do to enjoy life more and be annoyed less? Is the responsibility totally on ourselves, or should we expect others to help solve the problem?
Undoubtedly, some of the process of handling irritations begins early in life when we decide what will unnerve us and what we can overlook. Children can learn to determine whether an irritation is worth the time it would take to change the situation. This pattern can be helpful as we grow older.
There are enough potential irritations in a typical day to take up considerable time if we try to resolve each one of them. At the end of the day, have we actually accomplished anything that will last? What is the best use of our time?
I have been pursuing an idea called “choosing to be annoyed – or not.” An unkind word, a door left open, or a selfish attitude in someone has the potential of irritating me. So I evaluate the situation and usually decide that I could be annoyed by that, but I choose not to be—it would not be a good use of my time.
I am amazed at how many irritations I can let go when I choose to. The problem does not go away, but I do not allow it to become my issue. I make the decision to keep it from becoming an irritation.
There is another way to handle irritations called “The Oyster-Pearl Remedy.” We know that the most valuable and beautiful pearls are the result of an irritation inside an oyster. Nature has designed the oyster to build a smooth buffer around an irritation, and eventually it becomes a lovely pearl.
It is possible to accept someone who annoys us and mentor them into a valued team player. We can choose to see their annoying comments and attitudes as a reminder to pray for them and lead them into a more positive life outlook. The most annoying person can become a valued friend –a result of the way we decided to respond to them.
Irritations are trials that wear on our patience. The New Testament writer James said we should find joy in trials, because they test our faith and produce endurance.
If an oyster could talk, I think it would say “Amen” to James’ counsel. That little creature has no will to choose to make a pearl out of an irritation—it just does what Creator God designed it to do. I have a choice, so I want to learn to use the time when I could be annoyed for something positive instead.