What You Need to Know About the Person Who Irritates You
It’s a common first date question. A “get-to-know-you” go-to, right up there with the likes of “What’s your favorite color?” and “What do you like to do in your free time?”
Easy enough—only, I've never known how to answer it.
What kind of music do you like?
Sure, I have a general penchant toward all tracks worship, country, or pop, but that doesn't cover it. I’ll often find myself digging an R&B song, or groovin’ to an Alternative tune. There’s really no rhyme or reason to the type of music I enjoy—no common thread inherent to the songs themselves.
In fact, some of my most longstanding favorite songs, upon hearing them for the first time, I thought were only okay—nothing special. Some, I couldn’t stand. But slowly, they grew on me. As I learned the lyrics and memorized the melody, soon I couldn't help but sing along every time the song came on. Before I knew it, not only could I tolerate the new tune, I loved it.
That being said, my not-so-typical answer to the question, “What kind of music do you like?” is not an artist, band, or even genre, but something far more simple. What kind of music do I like? I like music I know.
I like music I know, because I like being able to sing along, and I like getting lost in lyrics and intonations that are familiar. I like belting out the high notes in my head voice when no one else is in the car, and allowing myself to embody the emotion expressed. Play me the most masterfully crafted song in the world, and I won’t like it until I know it by heart. Play me the worst song in the world and once I know it, I won’t turn it off (except Screamo, I just can’t).
Quirky as it may be, once I know a song, I can’t help but love it. And you know what I’ve found to be true? It’s not so different with people.
A few years back, I knew someone who frequently irritated me—and I’m not easily irritated. This person came off stone-faced and unimpressed no matter what you said or did—not a good recipe to mix with someone whose top strength is “Woo,” meaning you thrive on winning people over. Even if I got a smile to crack, this person’s eyes remained emotionless, leading me to believe the smile was nothing more than a pity offering and my presence did nothing but perturb them. We were around each other a decent amount, so I was consistent in trying to engage in conversation and build a relationship but still, nothing. Worse yet, this person took every opportunity to slide me subtle jabs, leaving me feeling ever deflated and defeated.
My irritation had less to do with dislike for this individual, and more to do with the nagging feeling they didn’t like me—and I had no idea why. It’s like I was placed in a box and given no opportunity to prove its perimeters wrong, so there I stayed. It hurt. My hurt morphed into irritation and soon, disdain.
I remember one time, thinking through all the reasons this person was unreasonable, justifying my frustrations. You know—one of those conversations you have in your head, where you totally destroy your opponent with impeccably-constructed logic and quick-witted comebacks—the kind you can never think of in real time. Right as I was about to slam the gavel on a “guilty” verdict, a gentle thought came fluttering into my heart and as it settled in, it pierced me to the core.
Kaci, how this person is coming across is not an accurate reflection of what’s going on in their heart.
The thought pierced me, because it immediately took me back to a time in my life when the same was true of me. I had recently gone through a heartbreak, and the aftermath left me full of fear and afraid of being truly seen. Looking back, during those months I can imagine likely came off as disinterested or disconnected in certain situations. I might have made some people think I didn’t want to get to know them but really, the same connection I yearned for also terrified me. What if they saw me, and it wasn’t enough? So I kept my distance. I probably even wore the same stone-faced look that baffled me so in this other person but in reality, it was protection.
All I wanted during that time period was for someone to see the real me—to see that I wasn’t trying to have walls up or come across a certain way. My hurt was so real, I simply didn’t know how not to. I wanted someone to push through my pokey exterior to see that underneath, there was a hurting heart with a lot of love and care to give.
Kaci, how this person is coming across is not an accurate reflection of what’s going on in their heart. Just like how you came across was not an accurate reflection of what was going on in yours.
The thought pierced my heart and immediately, my hurt, irritation, and disdain dissipated. Instead, I was filled with compassion—the kind so strong and deep, it can only come from the Father Himself.
Some time later, this person opened up to me, and I saw there was so much more going on under the exterior than I could have ever imagined. Suddenly, it all made sense. It made me regret every moment I had dwelled on my own frustrations, and it filled me with a fiery, resolute belief, that there isn’t a SINGLE person I wouldn’t love if I could read their story.
Moral of this story? It doesn’t matter how impossible it may seem, the person who irritates you has their own inner world of insecurities, hurts, and experiences you know nothing about—but if you did, you would wish you had spent all your time simply loving them.
Earlier this week, I connected with a blog reader who recently created a beautiful mashup of the song, “I Can Only Imagine.” It talks about one day seeing Jesus face to face, and wondering what our response to seeing His glory will be. I don’t know what my response will be when that day comes, but I can only imagine I won’t regret any of the moments I chose to lay down my pride in favor of loving another—because doing so will echo through eternity.
No matter if we click with a person right away or they rub us the wrong way, let’s take time to learn them. Once we do, we won’t be able to help but love them—just like a new favorite song.
Below is the song I was talking about—give it a play! I literally cannot stop listening, and I currently have ALL the goosebumps. Enjoy! 💜