“Every day we have opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you're doing when you indulge those negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.”
Joel Osteen is someone with whom I don't often agree, but on this subject, I do. At least, I agree there's no lack of opportunity to get steaming mad every day if you're so inclined. For instance, there is a local daytime host on NPR whose voice makes me want to scream—which is a very silly thing. Sometimes I have to smack the off-button on the radio to relieve the tension. There is a woman at church who rambles on when she's presenting her prayer concerns. I'm always glad when prayer time is over. As you can see, I have a mean streak in me, as most of us do. There are dozens of little things that get under my skin. I wonder whether you are that way, too.
Here's the deal, we can indulge that mean streak in us, or we can keep it to ourselves. Sometimes it's appropriate to say what you honestly think, and sometimes it's not—the trick is knowing which is which. There is a time and place for righteous indignation. And, if some small behavior is impairing a relationship, it's probably a good idea to share it, especially if you value the rest of the relationship. But telling it in the right way and at the right time is paramount—not in the heat of anger, and not in a blaming manner. I've found that most people can take a little bit of criticism if it's said in a genuinely caring way.
And here's the other side of that—know yourself very well. What are your annoying characteristics? Realize that for every person who irritates you, there is at least one who is irritated by you. A good friend said to me just last week, “You're a person who speaks their mind. Everyone knows that.” Everyone who knows it may not appreciate that trait in me. In fact, I probably offend more people than not. Knowing that about myself, I must be prepared to tolerate everyone else's little quirks that I find irksome. None of us is perfect, least of all me.
Knowing that there are no perfect people, and plopping ourselves right down in the middle of that, cuts down on the egotism that drives negativity and criticism. We have the power to reduce our own stress and anger by seeing ourselves as perfectly imperfect, just like everyone else.
In the Spirit,