The other day, on the phone with someone, the nothing Catholic hermit heard a lot of coughing. So it inquired. Was told was just hearing things, no one coughing. Coughing continued and broke up conversation so asked again. Was concerned. Finally, was told, yes, so-and-so was coughing and had a bad cold. But he did not want his mom to say, for was told he did not want to be "fussed over."
Previously have been told not to compliment a person, as to that person it seemed "over the top". Then was told certain facial gestures were "unnecessary" when responding to a hurt the person had suffered. Also was given the example of offending by exclaiming over a fireplace mantle that looked lovely, but a person had worked on some molding down lower. They thought ridiculous that this hermit would compliment when noticing what was not the most recent amendment.
A wonderful thought came to mind! For, someone had also phoned nothing Catholic hermit, and upset with that person's elderly mother surfaced. The person is irritated by certain words, gestures, and comments the mother makes, and irritated to a point of suffering it with anger and rue.
The thought came--a little exercise--that if those of us who understand how others become upset and irritated by our peccadilloes, annoyed by our human flaws, would ask the other to make a list of five things that we do that are annoying, then we can work on modulating our behaviors with that person or persons. What difference to us? It is a small gesture (and so John Climacus!) to humble ourselves and bend, not take offense, but enter the adventure knowing that we will benefit in unknown ways.
We do not change our moral values, or spiritual truths, who we "are" through, with, and in His Real Presence. We simply adapt to what helps the other person or persons not be annoyed and irritated by what they find annoying. On a higher level of charity, we help prevent them from criticizing or from what can become long-term ire. If we remove what we do that "triggers" another person, what a gift for all!
When considering the aforementioned example of the daughter and quite elderly mother, if the daughter would communicate a small list of irritants to her mother, or even one, and if the mother would graciously realize to not do those actions or words, there could be peace! If the issues are deeper than the irksome ways of which the daughter (and her spouse) chronically complain, then the crux of the issue would at least be left naked to the daughter to see or refuse to see, so that she could choose to rid out some deeper angst, or choose to find something else to dislike about her mother.
Either way, there could be progress. At least find out if the mother would be open to hearing what poisons the daughter's mind and heart, as the irritants have festered for years. If she knew specifics, the elderly mother could have the benefit of not repeating what is for her wasted energy, effort, and words for someone who does not want input, does not enjoy the same topics. The elderly mother might gain a perspective that they do not share her interests nor appreciate her presentation when with them--all things that she could choose to amend in their presence.
Frankly, where much of this little exercise will lead, for those who choose to amend and adapt and modulate to what of themselves irritates others, is:
- less talking and more listening
- being present in silent and less demonstrative ways
- observing so as to better grasp their ways of relating
- practicing going unnoticed when possible
- not stirring what may be someone else's smoldering embers into projectory fires.
As for the hopes of working on this nothing hermit's own irritating flaws, the person to whom it good-naturedly (maybe too enthusiastically?) proposed the little exercise, tersely rejected the idea. Does not have time to do that. In actuality, it takes more time and energy to react negatively, or to regurgitate the incidents and flaws in the mind, or speak about them to another.
However, this nothing hermit said that while providing five irks would be quick and efficient, nothing hermit can privately take note as the incidents occur. For they do occur, and the other person/s let it be known either verbally or in nonverbal cues, or both. And that is good, too. We don't want others to hold in their grievances, either way. Not healthy.
In this particular venue, nothing Catholic hermit already has three aspects to modulate. Yes, they can come under the heading of "Exuberance." With the specific person and its family, do not show much expression or enthusiasm in their activities, appearance, home projects, or if ill. The person said for them it suffices to simply say something without much expression, such as "Hope you get better." Also, do not make the (irritating-to-them) facial expressions. While natural to nothing hermit, and just part of its expression, it can be good to learn a different way, to still the face more. Nothing did ask about praying silently in various interactions. Yes, was told that will be fine.
Now, some of you readers may think this all silly. Rather, think it a marvelous opportunity! Consider how we may bring peace and calm to another, then another, in little ways that somehow loom large in other people's views-- from trying harmless bits of self-less. How simply exciting to adapt in differing situations with differing persons! Learn to mirror others' affects. It can be quite effective, and we do not lose our core or soul.
Family members in particular can become easily griped by other family members. If one member can humble down and see the joy of a good little exercise, with the holy desire and intent to bring more peace and remove what of us that others have not been yet able to ignore--let alone come to appreciate as a virtue-builder for themselves--why not?
And, through this little exercise, if the others will not cooperate in communicating a short-list (don't go for a long one as that can be overwhelming in our attempt to alter and adapt), we can learn inner, vigilant observation and make a list for ourselves.
For those who think we ought to just be able to be ourselves, that is a popular talking-point. For our inner selves, and in certain, soul foundations like our faith and love, we never cease following Christ the King. But to die to our irritating aspects that others perceive and yielding to what they prefer, seems simple enough and may surprise us with what we learn, ourselves.
Yes, there are some who are fine with our ways of being and expressing. For this nothing hemrit, there are those who would love its exuberance, who would love the voiced and tender concern over their illnesses or hurts, who would delight in being complimented (am speaking of warranted and not phony compliments). Yet, it is a marvelous little exercise to learn to read people, to know who can handle our natural personalities and our peccadilloes, and who cannot.
While St. Paul says he has learned to be all things to all people, obviously not in some big ways. After all, he was stoned, beaten, berated, threatened, imprisoned and eventually decapitated. He wasn't all things to his persecutors and killers. But maybe he means in modulating ourselves in externals, smoothing our edges that grate on those who might not be in the same thought-wave of their modulating how they become irritated over sometimes very surface irritants.
Someone needs to give and bend, to adapt, and what fun in trying to learn how to be at least some things to some people in some ways. We stand much to gain and very little to lose.
Nothing Catholic hermit did wonder if, for example, someone would be irritated with its way of expression and thought in writing, such as blog writing. Would it change its style or format? Probably not. Blogs are an extension of one's inner, which for those who remain anonymous, are also optional "reads".
Some things we "do" are not the same as direct contact with personal friends and family, with time spent or words shared, in which the peccadilloes and irritating flaws can and do take root and grow in those who may not yet have the capacity to roll with it, let them go, decide to bend and adapt, themselves. Until that time, some of us may and can choose to do our little exercise, over and over, and thus in small ways, bring peace and release from critical bondage, to others.
The great saints practiced such little exercises with profound effect. The exercise is not meant to change the other person/s, but to change ourselves in order to soothe what irritates others in simple ways--ways that do not alter our souls, of course, ways that really don't matter, one way or another, in the full spectrum of life.
This nothing Catholic hermit is going to dedicate a small notebook. When around various persons, it will privately jot little reminders as to how the others prefer to be spoken to and treated. In short time, with practice, the written reminders will not be necessary. Why not lose some of ourselves for others? Perhaps others may do the same some day, for someone else. Or not, but how fun and beneficial for those of us who attempt this little exercise.
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love one another--and do so in tiny ways that can ease tensions for others without losing at all, but rather strengthening our being in Christ.