Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates
Catholic Spiritual Direction

Grouchy Treasures (Part I of II)

Grouchy TreasuresWhen you stop to count your blessings, do not forget to give God a big thank you for all the difficult people in your life. Those cranks that cross your path and darken your doorway are just bursting with the potential to bless you. Every person who provokes you is an opportunity, but it all depends on you. You can respond with love and mercy or you can get angry and lash out. Will you choose blessing or sin?

 

Yet, it is not natural to feel grateful for people with a knack for inflicting misery. This is perhaps the greatest challenge of being Christian; hatred in, love out.

The Bible Tells Me So

The Golden Rule is: “Do unto others whatever you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). The Our Father states: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” These are good rules of thumb for starters, but I’ve seen serious Christians brush them aside when they find themselves on the receiving end of hostility.

“I don’t have to forgive my mother-in-law because she is not saying she is sorry,” someone once told me. ”God forgives me when I ask for it and I’ll forgive her when she asks for it.”

And a person could thwart the Golden Rule by reasoning, “I would never have done such a hateful thing and if I did, then I would deserve to have someone strike back.”

Luckily, to avoid tripping into loopholes, Christ reinforced His teachings to us. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Does that mean if you lash out at someone, Jesus receives the blow as well? I believe so, but some could construe this verse as just pertaining to charitable things such as feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, volunteering to bake brownies for the church bake sale, etc. and not necessarily to interacting with a troublemaker.

Because the above passage in Matthew is talking about doing things for others, does it necessarily include doing things to others also? Did Jesus really mean to take away your right to strike back at the rude and inconsiderate or even such people as idiot drivers? It would seem so. “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Matthew 5:39). But the idiot driver did not strike me on the cheek, he cut me off and could have killed us both. Doesn’t matter. There are no clauses that allow for road rage. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

We must look to Jesus for a clear example to know He meant exactly what He said. After being arrested, beaten and hung on a cross, Jesus responded with love, not revenge. If we were writing the script, most of us would have had the earth swallow up the soldiers and persecutors. Instead, Jesus responded by praying: ”Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

A New Attitude

Rats, you may be thinking, I can’t be that good. It’s not natural to give love to those who hurt me. You are right, it’s not at all natural; it’s supernatural. But if you are looking at it as a difficult and an unpleasant task, you need a new attitude. Instead of looking at your next-door neighbor, Mr. Grouchy Pants, as an grouchy manunpleasant thorn in your side, look at him as a rose in disguise. People like him hold the keys to your holiness. All you have to do is smile and be pleasant. Oh, and one more thing; you have to try (remember, I said try) to love him.

This is not just about being nice on the surface and bubbling over in hatred underneath. You really do need to try and love your neighbor as yourself. “If I give away everything I own and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). That is why, instead of grumbling, you need to show love, compassion and an abundance of mercy. You cannot always muster up those lovely feelings, so sometimes, just the desire to feel love, will have to do.

 

In our next post, we will look at the Scriptural justification for this new outlook, why God might allow difficult people to cross our paths, and how the saints approached even troublesome and problematic people.

 

Artwork and article used with permission of Patti Maguire Armstrong.

Print Friendly

About Patti Maguire Armstrong

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Facebook. Family website. My blog. Twitter.

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • MikeandKathy McLaughlin

    I needed this reminder today. Trying to love difficult family members can be so overwhelming…trying to overcome misconceived ideas and tear down walls of hurt, almost impossible without this supernatural love. “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18 ) Now the hope of verses that say to bless those who persecute you and be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good are the ones that need to guide our way.

  • RobinJeanne

    I try so hard to truly be thankful when in those situations. My mind knows i need them in my life, my hair shirts, and I may act it on the outside but it still hurts or makes me angry on the inside. The last thing you said, gives me hope…..” just the desire to feel love, will have to do.”… and I do truly desire that and I know the Lord will give me my hearts desire.

  • Nordic Breed

    We may never have feelings of love or affection for those who have done serious harm to us, but if we pray that God bless them every day that is enough. Some people are a threat to our physical well-being and God is not asking us to put ourselves into harm’s way.

    • LizEst

      Love is a decision, an act of the will. That’s why, even if we don’t have feelings of love or affection, we can still love people and ask God to bless them, as you said. It’s true, God is not asking us to put ourselves in harm’s way…though sometimes that is what heroic sanctity is about, like when St. Maximilian Kolbe offered himself in place of the father of a family at the death camp. He did it out of love. However, “if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:3bc).

    • Bernadette

      I think asking God to bless and help those people that hurt us physically or emotionally is a huge step in the right direction. This will help us to attain a ‘Love’ for them that we feel on a different level, than those people in our lives that are loving and supportive. Releasing the anger and hurt will come one step at a time and your love for them will deepen, because your love for God has deepened even more.

  • Mary Jo

    Many years ago, I was pondering myself in heaven, and then realized the people I did not like would also be there. So, what do you say to someone in heaven you REALLY do not like? Jump in an alley or doorway and dodge them for all eternity, or forgive them? Once I tried the second option, over and over and over, my hurt towards them is almost gone. I’ve also added them to my prayer list- they are on the bottom, but I am trying to do as I was told, and perhaps they will move to the top of my prayer list.

  • MaryofSharon

    So very central to this is understanding what love is (and is not). Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, Nashville Dominican sister, in part one of her wonderful new online course “Rich Gift of Love” (at http://www.newmanconnection.com/institute/courses/rich-gift-of-love/the-rich-gift-of-love-part-i) starts with Thomas Aquinas’s definition ( Love = willing to good of the other) and merges it with John Paul II’s definition from the Theology of of the Body”, and here’s what she gets:

    Love = Self-Giving, that is giving your thoughts, time, energy and sometimes (but not always) your feelings for what is best for another.

    So feelings are not essential.

    However, Pope Benedict Emeritus in Deus Caritas Est speaks of what becomes of those who have attained a transforming union with God: “Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern…. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”

    Might we all become more and more one with Him such that our love becomes His!

  • Anne

    Jesus said to St. Faustina ‘My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you’.

    St. Faustina answered the Lord, ‘O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me”.

    Jesus replied, “It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love, if after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well”. Diary of St. Faustina 1628

    I found this so helpful and encouraging that even St. Faustina struggled so much with this. It shows the humanity and struggles of the Saints. Thank you Patti for your insightful post. God bless you.

    • beatriz martin

      Thank you so much for this post which The Holy Spirit guided me today to read. Today is a very hard day when I am struggling terribly with having no tender or even filial love for my abusive parents, who strangely enough, after more than fifty years, have suddenly reappeared in my life. I can see it is a grace, so I can pray for them. They are 85 years old, were divorced, each remarried, and abandonned me when I was 9 years old. I was raised by a saintly black woman who saw Jesus in us. The incredible sufferings this caused, only the Lord knows. Now suddenly they both lost their spouses, and come to visit every weekend, and act as nothing at all happened, which in itself is hurtful. So, goodbye pride. Hello prayer. And see it as a great grace. By just praying for them (I cannot even hug them!) I am obeying Christ. Thank you Anne, and God bless you for finding this from St Faustina.

  • Nancy Ward

    Turning the other cheek is a difficult assignment from Jesus. Truly cuts to the core of our Christianity. I need to read the second part to get more in tune with what he has in mind and how to do this. Thanks, Patti.

    • LizEst

      The second part is planned for next week. Look for it then.

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    I repeat this quote so that Liz can guide me on this one:

    “It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love, if after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well”. Diary of St. Faustina 1628″

    What can one do when they have been deeply hurt?. You see, one is not angry but the hurt is very, very deep. In one’s heart, one has forgiven. And each time the memory of what happened comes up, one prays: “I forgive you and I bless you”. But the heartache does not go away. Now is it wise to avoid that person until God gives one the Grace and heals the bleeding heart or does one continue interacting with this person – who, in any case does not believe they hurt one – and keep the wound festering?

    • LizEst

      Mary – These deep wounds are very, very painful and hurtful…and they continue to cause heartache. That is why sin is so evil. In order for it to continue, it has to has to consume. It cannot give life. It is only Christ’s narrow way of the cross that ultimately gives life through His passion, death and resurrection. My experience is that, from a human standpoint, some separation is helpful…especially when the one who has been deeply hurtful in the past continues to wound. It is not always possible to have this separation. In any case, the healing comes when God permits it to come. The important thing is to continue to forgive as we have been taught by our Lord. How it is that the Lord works the healing is a mystery beyond what we are often able to grasp. This is because this kind of healing is supernatural. We can’t make it happen, but we can continue to put our “coins of forgiveness” into the bank of Christ, where one day our efforts will mature and pay interest beyond what we could ever imagine. True and total forgiveness is not possible without Him.

      In the case of St. Bahkita, she said that, if she were to meet her captors, she would run to thank them and (if memory serves) to kiss them for what they did to her. If not for them, she would never have come to know Christ. So, we too, without these severe trials, would never be graced to be able to extend His mercy to them as cooperators and collaborators in His saving plan.

      God bless you Mary…and, may God grant you peace.

      • MarytheDefender

        Thank you for these beautiful words! I needed to hear them too. God Bless!

      • Terese10

        Liz, Is there,a way to email you? I have been reading your comments and would love to email if you are open to it.

        • LizEst

          My email is totus2us@verizon.net

          If you ever want to send a writer a question, look in the box that has there name and their bio. Underneath that, there is a little icon that says “Mail”. You can click on that and it will give there email address.

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        Thank you, Liz and God bless you for your consoling words of advice.

  • Pingback: Grouchy Treasures (Part II of II) : Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction

  • Pingback: Spiritualdirection.com | Catholic Spiritual Direction | Grouchy Treasures (Part II of II) - Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction