It isn’t very often in life that we get to choose the people who will be participating in our lives. Usually, like family, we get the lot that life tosses to us and we just try to make the most of it. In marriage, we DO get to choose someone, but then they come with a bunch of other people attached to them, the in-laws. In work we might get to choose who we work FOR, but rarely do we choose who we work WITH in the office, the others hired by the boss. And so it is in life.
Sometimes we find ourselves stuck with certain people that we either choose to tolerate or to ignore, but we can’t escape the connection. I like to think of these people as “sandpaper people”. These are the people who always rub you the wrong way. But if you let God shape your life, He will often use these sandpaper people to smooth out the rough edges in YOUR life. Much as we would like them to just GO AWAY, we find that if we put on a brave face and endure the rubbing, after time we are better people for the effort.
It’s not always easy, but sometimes when I’m particularly frustrated with a sand paper person in my life I say to myself, “I CHOOSE to like you.” Meaning, this person isn’t someone who I would necessarily WANT in my life, their participation in my life is not something that I have invited, but rather something I endure. It is more merciful than Woody Allen’s approach to annoying people, which involved a large sock filled with horse manure (use your imagination).
If we go through life burning bridges with everyone who annoys us, soon we will find ourselves quite isolated and lonely. It is worth the effort to try to follow Paul’s advice to “live at peace with everyone, as much as it is in your power to do so.” After time, you will find yourself more patient, more tolerant, more at peace, and more generally loved by your acquaintances for being a person who BRINGS peace to stressful settings. It is effort well spent.