When people irritate us it often reveals more about us than them. Listen in to learn how to figure this out, and then and what to do about it.

Hello everyone and welcome to episode 95.

Before we get into today’s topic I have two listener responses I thought you’d be interested in. The first is from a retired missionary in response to episode 87. This was about a New Year’s resolution to receive thank you notes in the mail from people who appreciate something about you. A written expression of gratitude is the obvious result of doing something meaningful for someone, which is the point of making this resolution – not the note itself [ read the thank you card from V.]

And here’s an email I received from Patty, another listener to our podcast. She wrote: “I received a beautiful thank you note from my snowbird neighbors thanking me for picking up their mail all winter long.  I also sent a thank you card to a friend who hosted & invited me to a delicious luncheon. It's the little Thank You's that mean so much.  Thx for reviving this ‘thank you' trend”

I’d like to know how this thank you note idea is going for the rest of you. Please let me know.

Well, on to today’s show.

I’m going to assume that you, like me, every now and then run into frustrating and irritating situations. Today’s episode is about an effective way I’m learning to deal with these unwelcome moments. It’s taken me years to discover this principle that helps when people irritate us. I’m going to share it with you so that you can learn from my mistakes and live a less frustrating life.

What prompted me to bring this up is last week’s episode, no 94, Self-Awareness Deepens Our Relationships

Last week's episode
  • The tires on my car needed air
  • Pulled into the lot of a convenience store that offered free air from their tire pump. A big van, with a disabled sticker on the license plate, pulled in just ahead of me at the air pump. I’m going to have to wait my turn
  • An older lady gets out with a 3-pronged cane, walking very slowly. Has difficulty getting the air pump nozzle onto the tire valve.
  • Irritation rose within me because it was now going to take a lot longer to accomplish my goal of getting air in my own tires
  • I get out to speed the process up, not out of any great sense of compassion for this lady. It was 6 degrees and my hands were freezing.

The point of that episode, and I’ll have a link to it in the show notes, is this: We will have deeper relationships with others to the extent we are self-aware and then act on that self-awareness in a Godly manner.

It raises the question, though of “how do I become more self-aware in irritating and frustrating situations like this, when people irritate me?”

The answer is found in adapting the principle found in Psalm 4:4

Now, I wasn’t angry with the lady, rather more frustrated or irritated that her behavior was getting in the way of what I wanted. But the principle found in Psalm 4:4 works just as well in situations as I described.

This verse is in the context of vs. 2, where David talks about the people who are spreading lies about him and ruining his reputation. Here’s what he says to do in response to this injustice:

Psalm 4:4, in various versions

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude NLT

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. NIV

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah ESV

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah NKJV

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. NASB

What are we to think about, to meditate on, to tremble over?

Answer:  What is going on within us that is causing the anger, frustration, or irritation.? It’s not just the obvious stuff. It’s what’s going on in our heart below the surface where the problem, and the solution, lie.

Once we have a name for what’s going on inside, it becomes easier to deal with.

This verse is about anger, but irritation and frustration, are the misbehaving step-children of Anger. It teaches us what we can do when people irritate us. And anger as we know is a surface emotion. It covers what’s going on below the surface: either fear – hurt – sadness – or demanding-ness.

I’ll talk more about this in a later episode when we examine in more detail anger and its effect on our relationships.

With the old lady, I wasn’t hurt, or sad. But I was a bit anxious over the other guy who had pulled up, and mildly concerned about frostbite to my hands. I was more anxious that I wasn’t going to be able to get done all that I wanted to that morning.

On the surface, it may have appeared my frustration was directed at her personally, but the more I thought about it, my frustration was directed at my circumstances and demanding-ness that I accomplish what I want to accomplish WHEN I want to accomplish the items on my to-do list.

It took me a while to realize this. Maybe hours. The Holy Spirit seemed to be speaking to me. Lighten up, guy. After all, she has a double-amputee husband sitting in the car is of no help to her at all.

He reminded me that since the dawn of creation, 99% of the time things ALWAYS take longer than you think, so don’t be surprised that your day is going slower than you had hoped. Lower your expectations. It's so helpful to remember this when people irritate us.

Applying Psalm 4:4 to other people

So I’m learning to apply Psalm 4:4 to my anger, and frustrations. But it also helps in relating with others

When I see another person who is frustrated or angry, I’ll wonder what they are worried about. What they might be fearing. Or what they’re sad about that comes out in frustration or anger.

Psalm 4:4 and children

Psalm 4:4 is also helpful in raising and understanding children.

Displays of anger in kids are often because they’re afraid of something. They fear their need for something will go unmet for the rest of their lives. “My sister is playing with the stuffed animal we share, and my turn will never never ever ever come. “ Demandingness, certainly is part of childhood anger. Because of their development, they don’t have words to express their fear, their hurt, or their sadness. So these emotions come out as anger.

So what does all this mean for YOU? How can you apply what we’ve considered in this episode to YOUR life? Here are a few ideas

When people irritate you, take a self-imposed time-out and ask God to help you question yourself. Do what King David said:

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah ESV

One other question you can ask yourself is “Does this person or situation remind me of someone or something else?

A few months ago a friend was talking in a group about an irritating person, and as the group explored more with her as to WHY this person was irritating, she came to the realization that the irritating person reminded her of her mother.

This self-examination that we find in Psalm 4: 4 will deepen our relationship with God, ourselves, and other people.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.

When people irritate us, stop and ask ourselves why is this person bothering me so much? What is my irritation revealing about ME?

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john@caringforothers.org. I may share them in a future episode unless you say otherwise. You can also share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.

Related episodes that might interest you

094 Self-Awareness Deepens Our Relationships

020 Relating with People Who Talk Too Much


In closing, if you found the podcast helpful, please subscribe and I’d appreciate it if you would leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. It will help us to serve more people just like you.

I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. See you next week. Goodbye for now.

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