Sometimes ward members tell me how the behavior of others drives them a little crazy. Funny thing. Have you ever noticed that everyone drives everybody a little bit crazy?
Like you, I’ve heard the complaints over and over: Children drive their mothers crazy, and dads drive their kids nuts. Husbands drive their wives bananas, and wives make their husbands loco. Teachers are driven to distraction by their students, and students think their teachers are kooks. Even the bishop drives his members a little crazy, and the ward members drive their bishop…well, fill in the blank.
What’s going on here?
Before exploring this question, imagine the following: You are sitting in a comfortable chair at the end of the day, reading an article from the Ensign. The house is tidy and quiet. The kids are snug in their beds. Your husband is at the kitchen table, studying his lesson for next Sunday. Earlier that morning, you went to the temple and read your scriptures while you were waiting for the session to begin, all this while your neighbor took your children to the city park. You got your visiting teaching done early in the month, and all your bills got paid on time—in fact, you just paid off your last credit card and you are finally free of consumer debt. In a few days, you are leaving on a week-long cruise with your husband while your sister takes your kids to Disneyland.
Then the phone rings. It’s Gladys Kravitz, a sister who lives down the street. She’s called to interrupt your evening with the woes of her life and a dash of cold-blooded gossip sprinkled here and there. Normally, Sister Kravitz drives you to the edge of sanity, and it takes all the nerve you can muster to hold the phone to your ear. This evening, however, you feel different. You offer Sister Kravitz your patience; you are self-assured and calm as a summer’s morning. Nothing Gladys says disturbs you in the least, and by the time you hang up, Sister K. is laughing and consoled. What’s the difference?
The difference is you. When you are at peace with yourself, there’s not much that someone else can say or do that ruffles you. Irritation is replaced by composure and compassion, and you feel little need to judge, condemn, or murmur.
So the next time you feel annoyed by someone close to you, ask yourself: “Am I okay with where I am at in my life? Do I have any unfinished business? Am I at the place where God wants me to be? Do I have attitudes to lose, apologies to make, duties to fulfill, and sins to forsake?” If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’ll find that you are likely “easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
The best advice I can offer to both me and you comes from the scriptures: “Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.” (Alma 60:23.) When we address our own problems with honesty and courage, regularly and vigorously, our perspective changes and everyone else’s problems seem much smaller and much easier to deal with.