Burnt coffee. Long lines. Parking meters. Missing keys.

What’s your pet peeve? How many do you have? How much power do they have to ruin your day?

Are they people? Like, entire persons?

One day, when my brother was very young, he stuck his chest out and proudly declared, “I’m Mommy’s Pet Peeve!” We all roared with laughter. She had certainly never told him that. He had picked up this phrase somewhere, mistakenly thought it was a term of endearment, and appropriated it to himself. So funny.

I wrote here about being savvy about interruptions. Now, I’m advising a careful look at annoyances.

Pet peeves are breeding grounds for arrogance. If we pet them they will grow into Disgust and Contempt. They often contain a delicious deception that makes it hard for us to recognize and be thankful for the dignity of the other person. Annoyances make us feel justified in treating one another poorly–by the words we say, the looks we give, the frosty shoulders we turn. They also make us dangerously blind to the fact that we too are annoying.

Some tips:

  • Scale the annoyance. How important is it? Some things that annoy you are important, and worth confronting with winsome leadership to try to change. How will you know the difference?
    • Would wise people will share your concern? Or would they gently laugh and think you were being petty?
    • If it’s actually worth confronting, you’ll be able to find a bigger and better reason than “it’s annoying” to justify your concern and your action.
  • Laugh. So you’ve scaled the annoyance and decided it’s petty. Time to laugh. But be careful–I’m not talking about expressing contempt at someone with a mocking laugh. I’m talking about an inward chuckle that is laughing at yourself for being tempted to care too much about something that doesn’t really matter.
  • Look in the mirror. Every time you feel irritated is an opportunity to realize that you can be irritating. This move dents our hypocrisy before it hardens into self-righteousness. Perhaps we can better spend our annoyed energy by improving ourselves and by looking for ways to lend a helping hand.
  • Be thankful. Annoyances can calcify. They narrow, restrict, and block perfusion of gratitude and good will. Place a stent by fixating on something you love about the person. It might be hard to find–but you can always zoom out to the fact of their inherent dignity as image bearers. And if you can express this thanksgiving–you’ll thaw your icy glare and warm your cold shoulder.