Treatment of Those Who Have Qualities That Are Irritating

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 7 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)

Genesis 13:5-11, "And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other."

Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

As is often said on these pages, faithful fundamentalist people are interwoven into a family like situation for many hours a week. Now any two people who are closely associated will have qualities that irritate each other. There are some people who leave a ring around the bathtub. Others leave the pickle jar lid unscrewed. Still others squeeze the toothpaste from the top of the tube. In our fundamental churches we are going to find habits and qualities in other people that are irritating to us. In our effort to keep peace, we must find ways to prevent this irritation. Of necessity, this happens in homes, churches, jobs, school and at play. In order for peace to prevail and unity to reign, this problem must be solved, as follows:

1. Do not rely on doing better. Especially is this true in the case of adults. Fire and gasoline will always explode when united. The gasoline can vow to do better, and the fire can promise to improve, but it will not be done; explosion is inevitable. Oil and water will never mix. Oil may promise to mix with water, and water may make a resolution to mix with oil, but they will never mix. Because of this, it is usually best for other measures to be taken.

2. Discover what it is about you that irritates your friend and what it is about your friend that irritates you. Face it with frank reality.

3. Stay away from circumstances that cause this irritation. Abraham was Lot's uncle. When Abraham left the Ur of the Chaldees, he took his nephew with hi m and reared him as if he were his own son. When a famine came in the land, Abraham took his family to Egypt. There he and Lot both became wealthy, and as is often the case, their wealth caused problems between them. Their employees began to war with each other. Something had to be done! Abraham approached Lot and suggested that Lot choose whatever land he wanted for himself Abraham then agreed to take what was left. He was simply saying, "Lot, let's not allow strife between us. Let us alleviate that which causes the strife. It is best that we not own the same land and share the same property. Let us circumvent the circumstances that cause the friction and the things that are irritants to each of us. In other words, let us stay away from what irritates us and causes us trouble."

There are some people that you can work with, but you cannot play with them. In such cases, do work together, but do not play together.

Then there are some people with whom you can play but with whom you cannot work. In such cases, have social life with them, but do not bear the yoke of work together.

There are some people that you can be with for a short time but not for a long time. To be together for awhile is pleasant and delightful, but after awhile irritation comes. In such cases, discover how long you can be together before a problem arises, and limit yourself to that amount of time.

There are some people with whom certain subjects cause strife and stress. In such cases, avoid those subjects. Recently I was fellowshipping with a young man. We probably agree on most everything, but there is one subject about which we cannot agree. We were having a wonderful time. Then he brought up the subject. I suggested that since we were having such a good time together we not allow ourselves to enter into an area where we disagree. He agreed that we should stay within the boundaries of those things and not to enter into that subject which would cause us irritation.

There are certain people who make certain statements that irritate us. Discover those statements and avoid them. Far too many of us want to irritate each other, and at certain times in order to do so, we will use statements that we know will cause friction.

I know one man who, when he is angry at his wife, inevitably uses the statement, "You are just like your mother!" He knows that that statement will hurt his wife, and when he wants to hurt her, he uses it. Why should any of us want to hurt any of the rest of us! In order for churches to stay united, its members need to use extra care not to say things that will cause another to hurt.

There are some people who work better when communication is by memo, and there are others who work better when communication is by conversation. The wise person will learn the preferences of his friend and act wisely.

There are some things that two people cannot share. The wise people will discover them and avoid them. Years ago when our children were small, Mrs. Hyles and I took the children to visit their maternal grandparents. At that time we lived only about 20 miles from them, and one night a week we went over to their house for a meal. One evening while we were there, I became a little nauseated. I went to Mrs. Hyles' mother, whom we call MaMaw Slaughter, and said, "MaMaw, I'm not feeling well. Do you have any Alka-Seltzer?"

She said that she did not.

I said, "I always thought you kept Alka-Seltzer."

She said, "Well, I'm out now." I don't know why, but I had some suspicion that she was not telling me the truth. A while later I was in the kitchen and I saw a bottle of Alka-Seltzer on the windowsill. I went to the other room and told MaMaw. I reminded her that I had asked her if she had any Alka Seltzer and that she had told me that she had not. Then I told her that I had seen those in the kitchen.

She replied, "Oh, those are PaPaw's (her husband's)." I then learned that they had had some disagreement about how tight the lid should be placed on Alka Seltzer bottles, so in order to prevent being irritated with each other, they had decided that each would have his own bottle of Alka-Seltzers.

At first thought, one may think that this is being a little picky, but I like it! They did not want to fuss or irritate each other. They had found one area that caused friction, and they had circumvented that area. They detoured around the Alka-Seltzers in order to avoid tension between themselves.

When our children were small, Mrs. Hyles and I had some difference of opinion in how we should discipline them. (Of course, I was right!) This could have caused real friction, but we detoured around the friction and agreed that when one of us was disciplining the children, the other would leave the room. Many times one of us would be disciplining the children and the other would take a walk around the block or go out in the yard for a few minutes. This kept me from having to witness her excessive leniency, and it kept her from having to witness the execution when I was the disciplinarian.

There are some people who are strongly opinionated. Occasionally two such people marry or two such people share the same bus route or are on the same staff. When strongly opinionated people share in the same work, it is usually best for the opinion not to be expressed. Once again, we are circumventing areas of friction and tension.

It is usually best for people who are together a lot not to speak often of ailments. To most people, constant complaining about a headache, a toothache, weariness, etc. is irritating. If such is the case, people would be wise to suffer alone rather than to fight together. The wise people will find those conditions, circumstances and habits that gender strife between them and avoid them.

The wise teacher will eliminate the exposure of unnecessary things that are irritating to the students. Likewise, the wise husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, coach, athlete, pastor, staff members, employer, employee and friends in all areas of life will be careful to avoid those events, times, subjects, activities and words which can do nothing but harm.

Maybe the couple should have two Alka-Seltzer bottles or two ketchup bottles. Perhaps they should agree not to watch the other discipline the children. Care should be taken to find the things that are irritating. Ask each other. Be frank with each other. Instead of scolding one another because of an idiosyncrasy and instead of giving accusations of stubbornness, why not try to avoid the things that irritate?

To be sure, there should be a constant effort by both parties to correct the things that cause a problem, but until that correction is complete, the irritants should be avoided. This is what Abraham did.


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