Are You Ready for the Sandpaper People?

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

I sometimes think the holiday season should come with a warning label that reads, “The Sandpaper People are coming!” Holidays usher in many things – one of which is the opportunity to deal with the difficult people in our lives. The relative that irritated you last Thanksgiving may very well do the same exasperating things this year. The people waiting in line with you will most likely be impatient and grumpy, and the person checking you out will probably be exhausted and running on fumes. Now is the time to get ready to deal with your sandpaper people – the people who rub you the wrong way.

God created us with the capacity for strong emotions. Sandpaper people not only have an uncanny knack for knowing where emotional buttons are located, they honestly think it is their purpose in life to push every single one of them. Our first reaction to the incessant and calculated button pushing of a sandpaper person is usually angry retaliation, a response that neither honors nor pleases God.

God calls us to peaceful resolutions. When it comes to difficult relationships, God does not want or expect us to declare war. We are to control our emotions instead of allowing our emotions to control us. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:18, “As much as is possible, live peaceably with all men.” In other words, we need to set our mind on peace – not winning.

God’s wants us to wage peace in every relationship – including the roughest, most abrasive, anger producing sandpaper people who come our way. A formidable task, since every sandpaper person I have ever known comes complete with a set agenda that targets emotional eruptions and creates constant relationships upheavals.

Have you noticed how sandpaper people seem to love drama and create it everywhere they go? They also love a good fight, live to evoke angry reactions, and are fierce warriors who are determined to win every battle initiated by their downright irritating personalities.

I have learned an important maneuver for dealing with difficult people. Combat is impossible when one of the parties involved has laid down his or her weapons and chosen peace.

As I headed to the grocery store for my dreaded weekly shopping trip, I wrestled with my attitude. You have to understand that I absolutely hate grocery shopping. But on this particular morning, I vowed to choose joy, and turned my focus to the balmy Florida day before me. I had it all under control – until I pulled into the grocery store parking lot.

It seemed like every South Florida resident was in that parking lot frantically searching for a parking space – and they were not happy. After circling several times, I spotted an empty spot right by the entrance. God does answer prayer.

I made a beeline for “my” parking space. Just as I turned to pull in, an older lady boldly stepped into that prized space and, with great ceremony, held up her left hand, signaling me to stop right where I was. With her right hand, this self-imposed traffic director began motioning to a man I assumed was her husband as he circled the parking lot in his very large car.

I suddenly realized that she was saving “my” spot for him. Of all the nerve! What incredible gall!

Parking spaces are a serious matter to me. Evidently, I was not the only one who felt that way. In the midst of my simmering, soon-to-explode anger, this still small voice reminded me that I had a choice to make. I really hated surrendering my anger to God, but the thought of apologizing to that woman for running over her with my car was more than my mind could conceive or my stomach could handle. I quickly decided that if she was willing to risk her life for a grocery store parking space, she deserved to have it.

Unfortunately, the driver behind me did not agree, and whipped her car into the prized space just in front of the man in his large car, barely missing the woman who was saving the space. I watched the scene unfold – or explode. Crude gestures and loud, repulsive words filled the air. Some I understood. Some I had never heard and did not care to define. Threats were exchanged along with promises of retribution.

The whole experience was an ugly reminder that we live in a world filled with angry people who are constantly rubbing each other the wrong way. Sandpaper people. And while it is true that everyone gets angry from time to time, it is just as true that everyone can learn to effectively control and manage his or her anger.

When dealing with a sandpaper person, we must not allow ourselves to become the enemy. As you get ready for Thanksgiving Day, remember to prepare your heart to love the hard-to-love people that come your way.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

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