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Get What You Get, and Don't Throw a Fit

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. My 5-year-old granddaughter recently taught me this axiom, which her teachers use when passing something out to the class.

Lately, I’ve been throwing an internal hissy fit around a relationship that I have with another person. I pride myself (perhaps my problem starts right there) in getting along with people, and when someone isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I can generally avoid them or, as Elsa sings in “Frozen,” I can let it go…let it go…

I’m not talking about terrorists, or certain politicians or church leaders that always seem to chap my hide. I’m talking about one of the day-to-day people in my life. I’m usually pretty even tempered when it comes to my personal relationships, but I’ve been struggling mightily with this one of late. It’s with someone I cannot avoid, and not something I seem able to let go.

The thimbleful of psychology that I have read suggests to me that this person likely brings something up for me that I don’t like within myself, something from my shadow side,

and therefore I repress it…but darned if I can figure out what that trait is.

When scripture tells us that Jesus saved us from our sins, it is talking about more than a great theological concept of salvation history. It is referring to how he lived - how he forgave and loved his enemies – for they did not know what they were doing. The person I’m annoyed with does not know that what they are doing is annoying the heck out of me. “Reach out and talk to them,” you might say. I say to you in return, “It’s complicated.”

Most of us don’t have people who downright hate us. We don’t live in a war zone where our enemies are starkly defined. For most of us our real “enemies” are ideological and some distance away.

It’s easier to make the grand gesture of loving your enemies, even praying for them, when you only encounter them in the news media or at the ballot box. As Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, once said “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.”

Loving an irritating relative, neighbor, or colleague is more of a moral challenge. What would loving an annoying person even look like? If we let frustrations fester – let them haunt us through our day, then I’m fairly sure some form of love hasn’t yet kicked in. If we begrudge their good ideas, or find ourselves venting about them to others, then we haven't made much personal progress.

One trap I can fall into is believing that I am big-hearted enough to love them in their ignorance. Poor thing, if only they knew better! This is not love but condescension masquerading as empathy and concern.

I wonder how Jesus did it? Being fully human he must have had his share of annoying people in his life. In the end he had real enemies. But he also put up with slow-witted disciples, scheming clerics, apprehensive family members, and throngs of people constantly seeking him out and wanting something from him.

Not only did he choose to put up with annoying and difficult people, he also befriended them. His compassion was not simply an individual virtue, but a sociopolitical paradigm - his alternative vision for human life in community, a vision embodied in the movement that came into existence around him.

How did Jesus retain his peace of mind, warmth of heart, and sense of humor? He spent a great deal of time in prayer. He likely recognized that compassion was a critical component of his life and mission and, under the weight of that imperative, he fell to his knees and asked for help from the One who can do in us what we can’t do for ourselves.

I can’t speak for Jesus, but I can say that prayer is not providing me with a quick fix, despite my desire to change. Awareness of the problem does not the problem solve. One thing I have stumbled upon is that, for now, I am no longer praying to “feel” love for this person. I am praying to be faithful to this person.

AA has a saying: “fake it ‘til you make it.” I’m faking it until the One who can do in us what we can’t do for ourselves is finished working in me…until I can get what I get, and not throw a fit.

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