We all have to deal with those people who irritate, annoy, anger and perturb us. It could be someone we work with, the rude cashier at the grocery store, but more often it is our son, our daughter, our sister, our mother, our wife or our husband. In other words, the people we are with the most and with whom we are called to be the most self-giving.
As I study the teachings of my Catholic faith, I grow in understanding of the importance of witnessing to Jesus by becoming a self-giver. Many of my prayers center on asking for the grace to handle the tough relationships in my life. Often though, these difficult encounters occur with grace un-received.* I end up asking our Lord for forgiveness but also thinking to myself, “I could be holy if it wasn’t for all these jerks in my life!”
*I know that’s arrogant and note that I write “grace un-received,” because I am very aware it’s me at fault. God always gives us what we need; whether or not we accept it determines our holiness. In prayer and Scripture study I believe and accept Jesus’ love for me. Why does that peace not translate into my actions?
I have dealt with this for many years, so when Fr. Scott Traynor gave us women attending the ENDOW retreat in Denver a 3-Step Plan to overcome these difficult encounters AND remain happy and at peace, I quickly wrote down this pearl of practical faith. Here it is:
Fr. Scott Traynor’s 3-Step Plan for Peace and Happiness in Difficult Encounters:
- Ask God to come into the pain you are currently feeling and ask Him to set you free of it so that you can engage in the encounter.
- Forgive the person offending you. Make a conscious choice not to demand payment for this debt.
- Ask God to bless this person who is hurting you and pray for the spiritual blessings he or she needs. If you know the spiritual blessings, ask for them specifically. If not, ask God to provide the blessings He knows is needed.
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST
Floating on my retreat cloud, I bask in the love of my husband and younger son hugging and kissing me at the airport. I walk into the house expecting a smile and welcome home but instead of my 16-year old son I find, Mr. Surly, his alter-ego. Not deterred thanks to two days of soul-stretching faith lessons, I attempt to engage him in conversation and love him out of his rotten mood only to be rebuffed with blank stares and grunts.
Okay, this is the moment when I would usually give a long lecture about how he is rude, he needs to shape up, we don’t need to be subjected to his moods, yada, yada, yada. My husband would come to my defense and the entire house would swirl into a hurricane of animosity as my retreat peace and joy is flooded in a toxic stew of anger.
Instead, I quietly go through each of the 3 steps.
I would love to tell you that my son immediately put his arms around me, apologized and told me how much he loves me . . . but that would be a lie. Instead, it is what happened to me that’s worth noting. You see, bringing God into that moment freed me from having to deal with the angry situation all by myself. I have no idea what God did with the anger I gave to Him, but the grace He gave to me in return enabled me to remain at peace and yes, happy. I learned that day the value in allowing God to work in us to affect change for the good of all; in this instance, my family.
I am happy to tell you that a short while later my son washed ashore from whatever hormone-induced wave he was riding and we finally got to have that reunion I was hoping for. I am sure that never would have happened if I tried to handle things on my own.
I cannot recommend enough the faith-enriching experience I had at the ENDOW retreat in Denver. Fortunately, the good women of ENDOW offer their studies around the globe. To learn more about ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) go to endowgroups.org. To hear more inspiring advice from Fr. Scott Traynor, listen to his 7-questions videos on YouTube. Here is one of them: