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Replace Irritation with Grace

Showing grace to others

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Bible study on irritation and grace (or forbearance) — How to respond to others when they do or say something that irritates or upsets you.

What upsets or irritates you?

How do you go through a typical day? Do you sometimes find yourself feeling irritated, critical, or upset with others because of their attitudes, actions, or words? Or do you give people “breathing room,” knowing that everyone has different ideas and different ways of doing things—and that everyone sometimes makes mistakes or does things wrong?

The following list illustrates just a few of the countless things people do that can be irritating. How would you respond to each of these situations?

  • Someone doesn’t invite you to a wedding or birthday party.
  • Someone doesn’t seem to appreciate you.
  • Someone has piercings or tattoos you don’t like.
  • Someone forgets your birthday.
  • Someone seems stuck up or ignores you in church.
  • Someone expresses a political opinion you think is terrible.
  • Someone says unkind words about you.
  • Someone is late to a meeting.
  • Someone does not return your phone calls, text messages, or emails.
  • Someone acts like a hypocrite.
  • Someone misquotes the Bible.
  • Someone has bad manners.
  • Someone loads the dishwasher the “wrong” way.
  • Someone cuts you off in traffic.
  • Someone criticizes you.
  • Someone seems lazy or irresponsible.
  • Someone bores you.
  • Someone smokes in the church parking lot.

Make it personal

1. Which of the above situations would irritate you? Describe one or two times you got upset about something on the list.

2. Describe additional things people do that irritate you.

How do you respond when you are upset or irritated?

When people say or do things that irritate or upset you, how do you respond? Here are a few common responses.

  • I find myself thinking about and being bothered by other people’s words or actions.
  • I feel judgmental about others’ opinions or faults.
  • I feel hurt or take things personally.
  • I criticize others or point out their mistakes.
  • I tell others what they should do.
  • I gossip, telling other people about things that hurt or upset me.

Make it personal

3. How do you respond when people say or do things that irritate you?

4. Do you often correct people or tell them what they should (or should not) do? If so, give some examples.

5. How do you think people feel when you correct them or tell them what to do?

6. Do you know someone who often corrects or instructs you? If so, how does that make you feel?

Related: Love your enemies

Show grace — a godly response to irritation

It’s normal to feel irritated or upset with other people, but God wants us to learn a different way to respond. As you read the following two passages, circle the words “bear with.”

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Responding to others with grace means “bearing with” (or graciously putting up with) people. It means acknowledging that everyone has areas of weakness and that we all are works in progress. It means loving people in spite of their personalities, habits, and faults.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Jesus helped us understand this when he told his followers to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:44-47)

What do you think?

7. What does it mean to show grace to others?

8. Why is it important to show grace to others?

Does responding with grace mean we should never talk about others’ words or actions? No.  Showing grace is a key attitude we should cultivate. However, there are times we should talk about others’ words or actions, and there are times when it is appropriate to take a strong stand.

Related: Encouraging Your Spouse

Pray when you are bothered by someone

Responding to irritating words or actions with grace doesn’t come easily to most of us. It is especially difficult for “perfectionists,” people who continually see faults in themselves and in others.

Pray for love and concern for others.

God has called us to be genuinely concerned about others’ needs, to consider others as “better” than ourselves. When we look at people with love and concern, we are less likely to take offense. If they do or say something wrong, we pray for them instead of reacting with anger.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

What do you think?

9. How can praying for love and concern for others help you respond with grace?

Pray for people who bother you.

It is God who changes people. Sometimes we can help by talking with them, but we need to be sensitive. When we get too involved, we can get in God’s way.

What do you think?

10. How could continually correcting or criticizing others get in God’s way?

Pray to live in harmony and to be a peacemaker.

It is inevitable that you will be upset with others from time to time, but you don’t need to give in to your emotions. Pray for wisdom. Pray to be a peacemaker.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

Make it personal

11. What is one situation in your life in which God wants you to respond with grace instead of reacting with bitterness or anger? What steps do you think you should take?

Pray to overcome your anger.

When you find yourself becoming angry, irritated, or grumpy, put yourself on “time out.” Instead of saying or doing things you might regret, ask God to help you respond with love and concern, not anger.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18)

Make it personal

12. When do you become angry, irritated, or grumpy?

13. How will you remind yourself to pray during these times?

Related: Victory Over Grumpiness, Irritation, and Anger

Memory verse

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Related: Bible studies on overcoming your anger

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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