Sandpaper People: Be peaceful
by Mary Southerland
Key verse: "Those who do not control themselves are like a city whose walls are broken down."
Proverbs 25:28 (NCV)
Sandpaper People is a fresh approach to dealing with difficult people. Working from a toolbox full of anecdotes and humor, Mary Southerland presents action principles for relating to the abrasive people in your life. Chapter-by-chapter Bible studies, practical applications, and journaling suggestions will help you recognize your own sandpaper tendencies while seeing sandpaper people for what they really are: opportunities from God to grow -- while being transformed in the process.
We are emotional critters, created by God with the capacity for strong emotions. Like any gift from God's hand, our emotions can be used for good or misused for bad. Sandpaper people not only have an uncanny knack for knowing where emotional buttons are located, they honestly think it is their purpose in life to push every single one of them. Our first reaction to the incessant and calculated button pushing of a sandpaper person is usually angry retaliation while God calls us to a peaceful resolution.
God neither wants nor expects us to declare war against sandpaper people. We are to control our emotions instead of allowing them to control us. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (NIV) When it comes to relationships, especially the challenging relationships, we need to set our mind on peace – not winning.
This is true even with the roughest, most abrasive, anger producing sandpaper people come our way. A formidable task, since every sandpaper person I have ever known comes complete with a set agenda that targets emotional eruptions and creates constant relationships upheavals. They love a good fight, live to evoke angry reactions and are fierce warriors determined to win every battle initiated by their downright irritating personalities. However, combat is impossible when the enemy has laid down his weapons and chosen peace.
As I headed to the grocery store for my dreaded weekly shopping trip, I wrestled with a bad attitude. You have to understand that I always have and probably always will despise grocery shopping. Nevertheless, on this particular morning, I vowed to choose joy, turning my focus to the balmy Florida day before me. I had it all under control – until I pulled into the grocery store parking lot.
Every South Florida resident was in that parking lot frantically searching for a place to park – and they were not happy! After circling the crowded parking lot several times, I spotted an empty space right by the entrance. God does answer prayer. I made a beeline for "my" parking space. Just as I turned to pull in, an older lady boldly stepped into that prized space and with the authority of a veteran parking space connoisseur, dramatically held up her left hand, signaling me to stop right where I was. With her right hand, this self-imposed traffic director began frantically motioning to a man I assumed was her husband as he circled the parking lot in his impressively large, black car. I suddenly realized that she was saving "my" spot for him with her very life as collateral. Of all the nerve! Parking spaces are a serious matter to me and in my mind can sometimes be considered a sign of God's favor to me, his preferred child! Evidently, I was not the only one who felt that way.
In the midst of my simmering, soon-to-explode anger, this still small voice reminded me that I had a choice to make. I really hated surrendering my anger to him, but the thought of having to apologize to that ridiculous woman for running over her with my car was more than my mind could conceive and my stomach could handle. I quickly decided that if she was willing to risk her life for a grocery store parking space, she deserved to have it.
Unfortunately, the driver behind me did not agree and whipped her pint-sized car into the sought after space just in front of the man in his impressively large black car, barely missing the horrified traffic-controlling woman as she hastily jumped up on the sidewalk, out of the mini-car's deadly path. I decided to watch the scene unfold – or explode. Crude gestures and loud, repulsive words filled the air. Some I understood. Some I had never heard and did not care to consider or define. Threats were exchanged along with promises of overstated retribution. Finally, the parking lot security officer stepped in and with great finesse, invited the blustering drivers to do their shopping at the grocery store down the street. I loved that man! And I got "my" parking space after all.
The entire scenario reminded me that we live in a world filled with angry people who are constantly rubbing each other the wrong way. Sandpaper people. While it is true that everyone is angry from time to time, it is just as true that everyone can learn to effectively control and manage their anger. When dealing with a sandpaper person, we must not allow ourselves to become the opponent or the enemy. I know what you are thinking.
That is easy to say, but in the heat of the moment, very hard to do. You are exactly right! Therefore, we need to prepare now for the angry circumstances and people headed our way. We have a choice about the place we assign our emotions. Learning to wage peace by dealing with our anger is a major life lesson, impacts us personally and equips us to better deal with sandpaper people.
The world is watching, as is every sandpaper person in your life. They are pushing every limit and testing every emotion to see how you will respond. What's really inside will come out. In dealing with the difficult relationships in life, we must choose and learn how to wage peace.