Bothered by Frustration

Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated with people?  Let me re-phrase because the question is ridiculous.  I know you do get frustrated from time-to-time.  The question is how often and why? I’ve certainly been there (way too many times)!  In some ways, I can be extremely patient–but then in other ways, well…

I realized a couple of weeks ago that my frustration level has been a little bit on the rise.  It bothered me that I was getting bothered so much by how much people were bothering me.  So, I’ve been thinking about it, trying to put my finger on the real issue.

I wonder if the heart of the problem is as basic as forgetting that people we grow impatient or frustrated with are sinners?  Do we forget they are naturally imperfect?  Of course, on the other hand, much of the reason we get frustrated with others is that we forget we are imperfect!  I get angry because someone is not taking care of my needs as I feel they should.  They are wasting my valuable time.  Yeah, pride definitely plays a big role and, yes, pride is sin.

This train of thought was triggered as I was reading through a great little book by Eugene Peterson called, The Contemplative Pastor.

In it, Peterson reminds us that, “the word sinner is a theological designation…not a moralistic judgment.” So, we’re not declaring someone a horrible person when we refer to them as a sinner (they might be very nice), but that they have the same internal problem we all have: we are imperfect before a holy God and need grace through Christ to save us.

Even though Peterson is writing to pastors, the principle he is talking about is relevant to everyone.  See if this resonates:

If a pastor finds himself resenting his people, getting petulant and haranguing them, that is a sign that he or she has quit thinking of them as sinners who bring “nothing in themselves of worth” and has secretly invested them with divine attributes of love, strength, compassion, and joy. They, of course, do not have these attributes in any mature measure and so will disappoint point him or her every time. On the other hand, if the pastor rigorously defines people as fellow sinners, he or she will be prepared to share grief, shortcomings, pain, failure, and have plenty of time left over to watch for the signs of God’s grace operating in this wilderness, and then fill the air with praises for what he discovers.

Amazingly, that little shift in our thinking can change our entire demeanor.  If I can stop looking at you as someone who has it all together all the time, but understand that you are frail and imperfect, as I am, I will be prepared to give you a lot more grace than I otherwise would.  Margin for both of us would leave room for God to work in the midst of our frailty.  When I give you space to be imperfect, I experience a reduction of frustration, anger and stress along with an increase in peace, joy and rest.  Sounds like a great trade-off to me.

That said, there is a potential danger I see: Taken too far, we end up giving everyone a pass on responsibility.  Peterson wouldn’t be advocating allowing people to shuck their responsibility or perform at a point lower than their potential.  It does mean that we must encourage each other towards growth and pursuing excellence in their life just as I desire excellence in my own, though imperfectly.

So, next time you feel yourself growing frustrated towards someone, stop! Take a deep breath and remember that they, like you, are becoming.  They are on a journey towards being the person God has designed them to be and it’s a tough road to travel, and if they’re not, your patient love towards them might help them find their way.  Instead of demanding perfection (and feeding your own pride!), humbly determine to be used by God as an agent of grace.

What do you think?  Is this the main reasons you deal with frustrations or are there better explanations?  This topic can definitely be taken deeper into some real practical ways we can process frustrations, but what are your thoughts?  Do you have tips or suggestions for how you have successfully dealt with frustrations and anger?  Are there ways in which you need help working through it?  I’d love to hear about it.