Often, when we are annoyed by someone’s actions, words, or behavior, it is because that person has failed to understand or use a social cue that we think is obvious. The person either cannot or will not interpret the situation correctly and then proceeds to say or do something we see as annoying.
Different people have different “triggers” for what annoys them. Some people are annoyed by bad grammar; others are annoyed by those who correct bad grammar. But there are some behaviors that many, if not most, people find annoying: using one’s cell phone during a face-to-face conversation, talking during a movie, humming to oneself, exhibiting poor table manners, invading others’ personal space, being late, picking one’s teeth in public, and making all conversations about oneself. There’s nothing particularly harmful about such behaviors; they’re just annoyances. But what’s a believer to do when encountering people who do such things?
First, we must deal with our own reaction to people who annoy us. We cannot control another person’s behavior. We most certainly are called to control our own (2 Timothy 1:7).
Many times, pride is at the root of our annoyance (Proverbs 13:10). We believe that we know better and behave better than the person who is annoying us. Again, we see the social cue, and they do not. We take issue with that person and his or her failure to properly behave.
After an inward check on our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), we must ask the Holy Spirit for help in seeing the person and the situation from His point of view. A fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience (Galatians 5:22–23), and patience is definitely needed when dealing with people who annoy us. We are called to love (John 13:35), compassion, kindness, humility, and gentleness (Colossians 3:12–13). These attributes should guide our response to all people, including those who annoy us.
There were several times that the disciples wanted to prevent people from “annoying” Jesus. At various times, children, a blind man, a Samaritan woman, and a prostitute with perfume wanted to interact with Jesus, and the disciples or others desired to prevent them from “bothering” the Lord. But Jesus was not annoyed. He never put social norms above loving the person in front of Him (Matthew 19:13; John 4; Luke 7:36–39; Luke 18:35–42).
When someone annoys us, we must first check our hearts and then ask the Holy Spirit for help in reflecting Jesus Christ to others (2 Corinthians 6:3–10). If “love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12), then love can surely cover annoyances.