Published on July 5th, 2006 | by Alex and Brett Harris
Responding Correctly To Irritations
The second installment in the Brothers and Sisters series is written by the youngest Mally sibling, Grace. Now 16 years old, Grace was 12 when she wrote Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends with her brother and sister. Since then, it has sold 30,000 copies. Today she shares stories and examples from her own life as we learn about responding correctly to life’s (and sibling’s) many irritations.
Being the youngest in the family has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages. Older brothers and sisters seem to have a knack for taking advantage of their younger siblings and getting them (or should I say me) to do just about anything.
For example, I tend to sympathize with things that are hurting or suffering, whether people or otherwise. Unfortunately for me, my older siblings Stephen and Sarah used to think this was pretty funny and had fun making me feel sorry for things. You know how on milk jugs they have that plastic band under the cap that keeps it sealed before you open it? You probably just pull it off and throw it away, right? Well, when I was younger, Sarah and Stephen would make me feel sorry for these plastic bands. They named them “pricklies” and every time we threw a “prickly” away, they would tell me how sad the poor little prickly was about being tossed away in the garbage, all alone, with no friends. They even made up a song called “Poor Little Prickly.” Not bearing to see the poor little “prickly” abandoned, I would go and rescue it. Eventually I decided to start a collection. At one time, I had over 80 of them!
Of course, this embarrassing story has a point. Just as I have “mercy tendencies,” Sarah and Stephen also have their various gifts, personalities, interesting habits, and “quirks.” God is the one who puts families together. He knows exactly what He is doing. The assortment of gifts and personalities He provides makes the family a very powerful team. However, these differences, which make life colorful and exciting, can also cause a lot of irritations.
As rebelutionaries, we need to learn how to handle irritations in a godly way instead of allowing them to cause damage. You see, our goal is not to seek an irritation-free environment. We will always have irritations in our lives. Instead, God wants us to learn how to handle these irritating situations correctly. In fact, this is one of the reasons God has put us in families. Our brothers and sisters and parents each have different strengths and weaknesses. Their personalities and characteristics may annoy us at times, but if we can’t learn to get along with them, we won’t succeed in our relationships with other people later on in life.
Recently we received a letter from a girl (we’ll call her Lauren) who was having trouble with her sister. Lauren explained that she and her sister share a room, but she likes the room clean and her sister likes it messy. Sound familiar to anyone? Lauren said that she had tried everything: telling her sister to clean up, cleaning up for her, talking to her parents, and even asking to switch rooms. Nothing helped. She was frustrated and didn’t know what to do.
I’m sure we can all relate to situations like this. I know I can. But if we’re hoping to change the other person, or if we’re expecting the Lord to step in and perform a miracle to change our circumstances, then we’re probably headed for disappointment and more frustration. You see, the Lord usually isn’t interested in rescuing us from irritating situations. Rather He is interested in changing us! Just like beautiful pearls are formed when an irritant makes its way into an oyster’s shell, so when we respond properly to “irritants” in our own lives, we will be displaying the beauty of Christ in our lives. You see, irritations are actually good things. They just happen to be irritating!
Like Lauren, the young lady who is struggling with her sister’s “messy tendencies,” we need to realize several things when we’re faced with an irritation. First of all, we need to realize that we don’t deserve anything—not even a clean room. Everything we have is a gift. The Lord gives and takes away, and He commands us to be content in all circumstances.
Secondly, we need to look past the irritation and ask God to reveal the bigger picture. What is His goal in this situation? What is He doing? What do we need to change in our own life? What are the needs of the other people involved? I’ve found that once I am able to look past the irritation, it often feels like a light “turns on” and I am able to see how God is using a difficult situation in an important way for a significant purpose.
So next time you are irritated, remember that this is a test from the Lord. Remember that God could take away the irritation in an instant if He knew it would be best for you. And remember that you are a rebelutionary—being trained by God for the important, world-changing assignments He has prepared for you. The training may be tough; it requires endurance, humility, and lots of patience—but the fruit is eternal.