Have you ever noticed that those things you find annoying in other people are usually the things that you dislike about yourself? I have. I have noticed it in my girls as well. Sometimes as they interact with others I can tell there is someone in the crowd who is just grating on their nerves. It's usually someone who is a lot like them.
I love to use those times as teaching moments. I use this expression...
I think we all have a tendency to expect more out of others than we do of ourselves. I don't want anyone to interrupt me when I am talking, but it's okay if I interrupt someone. After all, it's for a good reason, it's necessary and everyone will love what I have to say. My problem is that when I justify those "faults" in myself, but not in those around me, it looks an awful lot like I think I am most important.
When my girls first come they are nothing short of a big ball of mess. It's awful. They are mean. They steal. They lie. They hurt others.
Funny thing is, they don't see it. Believe you me, I do, others do, but they don't.
As they get older, they learn consideration and kindness. God changes their hearts. But there comes a day, usually at suppertime, when "that girl" is mentioned. They all have one. She is a girl from their foster care days. She made their lives absolutely miserable.
"That girl" is a bully. "That girl" is a liar. "That girl" made the entire foster care system a nightmare. Forget the fact that their worlds had fallen down around them, that they had been abandoned and torn from everything they had ever known. Forget all that because all misery can be traced back to "that girl."
It's really something to watch them talk about their "that girl" at the table. The emotion with which they describe her is intense. They remember every single incident in great detail. We listen as they, with great passion, describe the injustices and oppression she wrought.
Can you tell where I am going with this? "That girl" they are describing is a real life person. She actually exists. For two of them it was a fellow foster girl, for the other it was the foster mom's biological daughter. Who she is doesn't matter. Where she is now, we don't know. But the descriptions fit the three sitting around my table. Not who they are now, but who they were then. They just can't see it at the time.
It takes a while for them to come around. The first time I listen to them describe her and then say, "it looks the same on you," takes them by surprise. No one wants to admit they are anything like "that girl." She's the worst person on the planet to them. They are nothing like her. But they are.
I think there's something to be said about evaluating those things in others that drive us bonkers. One hundred percent of the time I find the same quality somewhere in me.
Rather than tear down the other person, talk about them and rehash their faults, why not use the opportunity as a way to grow? Because it really does look the same on us.
The meanness of "that girl" was the same meanness in Hannah. The dishonesty in "that girl" was the same dishonesty in Ashley. The selfishness in "that girl" was the same selfishness in Amy. The pride in "that girl" is the same pride in me. No one is exempt.
"That girl" doesn't come into our conversation very often. My two older girls can see how tainted their view was of her and can give her the benefit of the doubt. After all, they were basing it all on the opinions of the not-nice nine-year-old foster kid they used to be. We've discussed in length how their own behavior affected what they thought in those days. They've been able to shake the bitterness that was evident in those early days when "that girl" was brought up, even moving on to pray for her and her circumstances.
The next time you or one of your kids starts complaining about "that girl," stop and take a little inventory. Honestly ask yourself if the quality you are struggling with in them is actually one that you struggle with in you. For me, I find that it's always more my problem than it ever was theirs. Their "problem" looks the same on me. If I don't like what it looks like in them, chances are others don't enjoy it in me.