Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sandpaper People

One of the most interesting relationships in life are those with people who have sandpaper-type personalities. Yes, you guess it, people who are gifted in rubbing others the wrong way.

Like sandpaper, they also have degrees of roughness. Some of them are so rough that people would rather jump in front of a rampaging bus rather than talk to them. Others are mildly rough but irritating enough for people to prefer eating raw garlic, if only to ward them off!

I remember countless times when I mentally winched and groaned in agony at the company of sandpaper people. If I grit my teeth some more, I might have to get dentures to replace my ground-out teeth...and charge the cost to these sandpaper people.

Real sandpaper loses its roughness after much sanding—the problem with a number of the sandpaper people I have come in contact with, they themselves don’t seem to lose their roughness! In fact, they seem blissfully unaware of their effect on people!

The sinner in me would absolutely love to smooth their rough edges by coming up with stinging comebacks like, “Here’s a hundred pesos, maybe you can go rent some poor desperate soul to talk to!” Or “You know, you look like you could win a role in one of those Harry Potter movies!” Or maybe, “We’d really like you to come with us, but we don’t have enough room in the car for your head.” I know they sound cruel—but let him who has never had a cruel thought cross his mind cast the first stone…!

Okey, so I shouldn’t be cruel. What would be a good alternative? Is it to mindlessly, silently chant, “They are good for us…they are good for us..” like a Good Friday penitent who whiplashes himself on the back or like a child being force-fed with liquid cod liver oil (ugh)?

But the Christian side of me, reminded by the grace of Jesus Christ, insists that I do not lash back, but to instead, turn the other cheek. Obviously, easier said than done. One way I have tried to turn the other cheek is to bite my tongue and not allow my homicidal thoughts to get the better of me, but as my anger gets bottled up—it doesn’t fizzle out like a punctured balloon—but waits to burst like a can of thoroughly shakened Coke. Imagine the mess when the can is opened.

I think I've been around long enough to realize that worse than getting hurt by sandpaper people is to have to clean up the mess after a burst of angry words. Contrary to what popular culture advises, revenge only leaves festering wounds and emaciated spirits (on both the sander and the sandee).

So I am striving on another way of dealing with sandpaper people—it’s a process a friend once told me about called Cognitive Reinterpretation, which simply means being positively philosophical when you are at the receiving end of sandpaper comments.

Meaning, instead of waiting for the right time to blow them away to Kingdom come with my own sandpaper-like comeback, I could:

1. …think, maybe they had a bad day.
2. …take the high road, and respond with dignity that is reflective of Christ.
3. …perceive it as God’s way of smoothing my own rough edges.
4. …reexamine my own life…maybe there is some truth in what they said about me and discovering that truth might help me become a better person.
5. …just let it go, life’s too short to be spent bickering and wallowing in anger.
6. …look at it with a dose of humor.
7. …try hard to look for something positive about the other person.
8. …remind myself that Christ was at the receiving end of much worse tongue-lashings.
9. …remind myself that they are as much an image of God as I am, and pray for healing for whatever wounds that torment their souls.
10. …if I have the nerve, follow the Matthew principle and speak the truth in love. If they do not respond, I release the matter to God.

Having done much of item number 4, I realize that my own sandpaper quality can be quite high. I realize I have hurt many people myself with my own brand of 'sanding.' I wish I could claim that my brand of ‘sanding’ is God’s way of smoothing their rough edges, but that would be the height of arrogance and the most pathetic excuse for lashing out.

This may be a worn out cliché, but all through my life as both a sander and sandee, I am deeply grateful that I am under a gracious Father who will lovingly work out my life and give me many “second chances” to smoothen out my many rough edges.

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

Wow. That is all I can say about your blog. You are sOOOO gifted woman!!! Don't let the world around you shortchange you or us!! We all have our weakness but the way you creatively expound and reflect hit the soul and not the head.

Don't ever give up using your talents to challenge, rebuke and encourage others!

love ya.