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.”