Most of the time I’m a pretty easy-going person with a positive and friendly attitude. But okay, I admit it; sometimes I get annoyed rather easily. Today happens to be one of those days. I started keeping track of how many times I used the word “annoying” while I was internally evaluating things and people this morning and after three hours of tracking, I ended up with a grand total of nine times.
Not a big deal, you say? Yes, I understand. It’s not like I’m blowing up at anyone or taking out my annoyance on anything. All of today’s irritability was internal and thank God, hadn’t bubbled out on anyone. Not yet. But I was definitely being convicted about my attitude, regardless… and that really made me think.
I honestly believe that one iron-clad test of my maturity is how much it takes to annoy me. Unfortunately, today I flunked that test. I tend to make excuses for how easily I can become annoyed because I’m not overtly hurting anyone by my attitude as long as it’s hidden but should that be the ultimate yardstick I measure by?
For every time I’ve kept my annoyance to myself, as I’ve done today, there’ve been times when I’ve taken out that irritability on the people around me and that’s just not okay. Whenever my attitude spills out in unattractive ways I obviously know immediately that I’m wrong and need to apologize to the ones I’ve hurt. But being honest with myself, I believe that when my irritated attitude is underground and hidden from others, God is just as disappointed in me as He is when it’s out there for others to see.
When I make excuses for my hidden bad attitude and irritability and think it’s fine because “no one has been hurt”, I don’t stop to remind myself that God’s yardstick is much more exacting than mine is… and His judgment is the only one that matters. Observing my own patterns in this area I’m forced to admit that most of the times when I’ve gotten frustrated with others in outwardly hurtful ways, these bad-attitude explosions have been prefaced by “minor” hidden irritability and negativity in how I evaluate the things and people around me.
When I don’t think these hidden attitude issues are really that important, I make yet another excuse and continue along, with my negativity and demanding attitude simmering just below the surface. Unless I catch it and talk it out with God, this hidden negative attitude will build, unchallenged, until it finally results in me saying or doing something I really regret to the people I care about.
Just as a large earthquake is usually prefaced by several mini-quakes, in my experience, my outwardly hurtful attitude is usually prefaced by a string of hidden bad attitude “tremors” that if caught and repented of, would not have escalated into something ugly and hurtful to those around me.
In His word God has a lot to say about the anger we feel. Most of us have heard these verses many times but how easy it is for you and me to assume these verses only deal with outward anger and not to hidden irritability and bad attitudes that can hide below the surface of our hearts.
Here are just a few of them: Proverbs 19:11 “A man’s (or woman’s) discretion makes him slow to anger and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression.”
Proverbs 14:29-30 “He who is slow to anger has great understanding but he who is quick tempered exalts folly. A tranquil heart is life to the body but passion is rottenness to the bones.”
Ephesians 4:26 “…don’t let the sun go down on your anger.“
James 1:19 “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.“
There are so many more verses I could quote but the point’s very clear. God loves us and wants for us to trust Him – submitting ourselves to His sovereign will for our lives as it daily unfolds. And He wants us to genuinely be patient with, and love, the people around us. Negative, critical, attitudes of annoyance don’t allow either of these to happen. And when those bad attitudes are hidden they hurt God and us, and that’s bad enough, but they often escalate to the point where we do verbal harm to another person unless we catch them early on.
I’m not sure if you can relate to my own experiences here or not but boy, does this really hit me right between the eyes. As I stated at the beginning I really am an easy-going and positive person most of the time but I’m definitely seeing the tendency I have to excuse my hidden bad attitudes and how so many times, they end up causing hurt to God and to the ones I love, all because I didn’t think it was a big deal at first and allowed things to escalate unchallenged, from hidden to overt. From small tremor to all-out earthquake.
So today, God again reminded me that when I’m easily annoyed by the circumstances that He’s allowed in my life and by the people He’s placed around me, I’m dead wrong, and I need to get alone with Him and work things through before my bad attitude escalates with even worse consequences. In short, I need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to my attitude. Period. No more excuses.
Bottom line: this kind of irritability is anger, fueled by selfishness and pride… whether it’s underground or sitting on the surface, and it’s never okay for me to be this way. Oh, there might be extenuating circumstances: Maybe my chronic pain is especially bad that day, or maybe I’m also dealing with something else that’s very difficult but these reasons should never give me a free pass to have a bad attitude and an irritable spirit. When I take the time to look at my “annoyed” heart I see that usually I’m frustrated at the way my life has turned out, I’m demanding that life work for me the way I want and that people around me “get with the program” and start making things better for me in some way. What a slap in the face of my God who’s busy engineering these very circumstances and people for His glory and for my ultimate good!
Lord, make me discerning of what’s really going on in my heart daily so I can honor You, not only with my lips, but also with my attitude, hidden and overt. Today, once again, the words from Psalm 19:14 are my prayer:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”