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Be Like Me!

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A group of friends got together and the question arose as to what were our pet peeves– those little idiosyncrasies that a particular person finds especially annoying.

Someone said that finding hair in the shower drain was disgusting to them. Another arose early and balked at those who would linger in bed when it was time to get the day started. Still another disliked those who were selfish and would not put others’ needs before their own. My own personal pet peeve is laziness in any of its incarnations. But as we discussed our dislikes more and more, one thing became apparent; none of the qualities we disliked in others did we ourselves possess.

My father instilled in me a very strong work ethic. He didn’t sit me down and tell me the value of a dollar or the joys of a job well done. He taught by example. Till this very day he gets up at 5:30 AM., and he is officially retired. The person who mentioned that they disliked those who lounged about in bed in the morning, probably springs out of bed as soon as the alarm clock goes off—their snooze button has probably never been pressed. It would be odd if the person who hates finding a hairball in the shower drain, leaves behind a ball that could choke a cat. And the person who hates selfishness would probably be the first one to serve at table, the first to wash dishes and the last one to complain. It would be strange if these people exhibited the very characteristics they abhor in others.

But herein lies the problem. We are using ourselves as the barometer with which we measure others. In short, what we are saying is: “Why can’t you be more like me?” This is pride.

Be Like Me!

The great author C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” once used this illustration. Suppose it’s a hot day and the sun is beating down on your head. The drops of sweat are rolling down your face and all you want is a break from the intense heat. You look around and you see a tree in the distance. As you approach it, you can already imagine the refreshing coolness underneath it’s shady canopy. But once you arrive, you notice that the tree in fact, has meager palm fronds. The sun’s rays pour through it’s top like water through a strainer. This is not what you wanted or what you were expecting. So in your mind you say: “This is a bad tree.” But is the tree in fact “bad”? Given the poor soil and inadequate rains, could the tree be any different? The tree is being exactly what it has to be. I think a better attitude toward the tree may be “This tree is not good for my purposes.” The tree, in and of itself, is behaving as expected. Unfortunately, what the tree could provide and what I desired, did not match.

What if the person who likes to lounge in the mornings never had a reason to dart out of bed? Or what if the person who leaves a hairball in the shower had a maid that would clean up the mess without the offender being aware? Or if the selfish person never had siblings and was never given the opportunity to share? Being angry at them would make as much sense as being angry at the tree for not being an oasis. None of these had the opportunity to be any different.

The characteristics we so dislike in others are latent in every one of us. The difference lies in the way they manifest according to our individual circumstances—many of which are beyond our control. It is not for us to question why, it is for us to accept, without judgment, realizing that we were all created “in the image and likeness of God.”

How about you? What are your pet peeves? What gets under your skin? Do you do the very thing you dislike in others? Share and let’s learn together!
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Dan Gonzalez is both author and designer of the MassExplained blog and MassExplained iPad app. Through fun games and colorful flash cards, Dan's new app, Catholic Word & Games, teaches Catholic vocabulary to children. His design work can be seen at AmpersandMiami.com. Visit AgnusGiftShop.com to browse his Catholic t-shirt line. Dan's reversion story can be read here.

2 Comments

  1. Crislee

    January 13, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Wonderful story, as always. And so very true. I’m a late sleeper, my husband an early riser without need of an alarm…ever! And after getting sick with a chronic illness I’m even worse than I was before getting sick. I’m sure I drive him absolutely crazy. But yet I get up every day and clean up after him and my oldest daughter, both up before the sun but too inconsiderate to wipe down the sugar they spill all over the countertops when making coffee or to even rinse a dish. I nearly had a fit this very morning. BUT, will that make a difference in life if they were perfect? Does it make me love them less? NOPE. Funny how living with a chronic illness has changed the way my family sees many things. My house is a constant mess and now I try to not care. It won’t get me to heaven or send me to hell. It’s a house! And a dirty home is my pet peeve. But life moves on without a clean floor empty sink and empty laundry baskets. Thanks for the reminder. I think I needed it this morning.

    • Dan Gonzalez

      January 15, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Hi Crislee! Thank you for taking the time to read this post! I always like to have a clean house, but when our two children were born, I had to learn to give that up. There will be toys visible when company arrives. Stepping on a dinosaur or princess toy is par for the course. Now when those things happen, I use it to count my blessings. I am sorry to hear about your chronic illness. My prayers for you and your family.

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