Overcoming annoyance… Lead me on St. Thérèse!

“Formerly one of our nuns managed to irritate me whatever she did or said. The devil was mixed up in it, for it was certainly he who made me see so many disagreeable traits in her.”                    (The Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse)

To a chosen few, I have confided that this less than perfect, but usually patient child of God does indeed have her moments. There, I said it! All joking aside, however,this week I was reminded of St. Thérèse’s own difficulties with her fellow sister with someone in my own life.  While I didn’t outwardly display my inward feelings of annoyance and profound frustration, it was in truth all consuming. Occupying my mind, and keeping my heart at bay, I found myself unable to truly listen or engage in anything being said.  This inner hollow numbness, at the words being spoken was so striking, I caught myself aghast at my disconnect from the conversation and her expression of pain. Why was she telling me this? Why was I being drawn into her inner circle, is there no one else?, I was thinking. Then it sank in, God wasn’t asking anyone else in that moment…he was asking me.

As I did not want to give way to my natural dislike for her, I told myself that charity should not only be a matter of feeling but should show itself in deeds. So I set myself to do for this sister just what I should have done for someone I loved most dearly.” ( St. Thérèse)

So, therein lies the challenge, and the invitation that is set before me. To not only tolerate, but to extend the same love that I would show for someone “I loved most dearly”.  This requires not only desire but an intentional effort, something not usually needed for those whom we find easily to love. And yet for it to be meaningful, and not hypocritical, it has to begin with love and involve a change in heart. Yet, where do I start? Prayer.  Here is a gift that blesses not only the one being prayed for but the one who prays.

Every time I met her, I prayed for her and offered God all her virtues and her merits. I was sure this would greatly delight Jesus, for every artist likes to have his works praised and the divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not halt outside the exterior of the sanctuary where He has chosen to dwell but go inside and admire its beauty.”  ( St. Thérèse)

Beauty, yes, God has most certainly given each one of us virtues and merits..that is worthy to be praised and recognized. While hidden at times, perhaps, they are there awaiting discovery and appreciation nonetheless. And still, I wonder, God’s brush strokes and artistry remain hidden at times within me? Most certainly, I wasn’t showing my best self to her, the fullness of who God had created me to be.

I did not remain content with praying a lot for this nun who caused me so much disturbance. I tried to do as many things for her as I could, and whenever I was tempted to speak unpleasantly to her, I made myself give her a pleasant smile and tried to change the subject.”  ( St. Thérèse)

Ah, here we have the next step, small outward gestures of love and concern. Not for the world to see, but that speak of our gratitude for God’s beauty within each of us.  St. Thérèse never said this was easy for her, in fact she speaks of her internal reluctance to do so. The resistance I feel, I cannot help but recognize is God himself prompting me to grow.

When I was violently tempted by the devil and if I could slip away without her seeing my inner struggle, I would flee like a soldier deserting the battlefield. And after all this she asked me one day with a beaming face: “Sister Therese, will you please tell me what attracts you so much to me? You give me such a charming smile whenever we meet.” Ah! it was Jesus hidden in the depth of her soul who attracted me, Jesus who makes the bitterest things sweet!”(St. Thérèse)

You too, St. Thérèse? Whilst the saints inspire us so much in the joys, delights and flights of ecstasy experienced in seeking to love and serve God, so too do their challenges. To this I say thank you, St. Thérèse for your openness and admittance of imperfection. Thank you for sharing so generously of the struggle. For in doing so, you have given the rest of us striving to be someday saints hope and companionship in the journey.

Peace,

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8 thoughts on “Overcoming annoyance… Lead me on St. Thérèse!

  1. Thank you for this post. I stumbled upon it from another blog and the title invited me to read more. I will book mark this often as I am very low in behaving this way. I have no problem showing my disdain but the opposite I struggle.
    Lori

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  2. This was a beautiful and gentle reflection. I really needed this reminder. Honestly though I need read her Story of a Soul but I keep putting it off. I think I need to stop putting off.

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  3. Hi theologyisaverb,
    I don’t know why I”m coming to a religious site to ask this question, but, through googling to seek help from my problem I’ve come across your site. I’ve come across many sites in my search to getting freedom from my problem, but this article seems to speak somewhat to my problem.
    “that inner hollow numbness”…. in that phrase you’ve captured one of the main side effects of my problem.

    This is going to sound incredibly pathetic, but: the sound of dog’s barking is ruining my life…. and it didn’t always used to be this way. But it’s not just dog barking. It’s any nuisance that gets to me (people talking on cell phones in public area, people at work talking loud or typing loud).
    I never used to be this way, but over a 5 year period of time (more or less) I’ve grown beyond intolerant with these very petty issues. Petty issues which dictate my life now.
    When they happen I can’t focus on anything else. My attention becomes myopically focused on these annoyances and they also lead to incredibly angry and meanspirited thoughts.

    It’s tearing my life apart.
    Psychology, psychiatry have been utterly useless…. pills that numb me entirely. Advice that is as shallow as a puddle. Phony understanding.
    I’m slowly to begin to realize that it’s a problem with me…. but I don’t even know how to address it. My reaction to these annoyances is so immediate and visceral.

    I used to doubt that there could be a hell…. but, in the level of despair, anger, frustration, need to immediately change things, fear I’ve felt a painful hopelessness over such a triviality. That hollow numbness drains everything inside of me. Impacting my job, my family, my life.

    Do you think this St. Therese could some how provide help to me?
    What am I even asking? Help from a lady who passed away decades upon decades ago? Well, I’m more receptive to the possibility now than I ever have been.

    If you have any advice you could offer too I would be greatly appreciative.

    I’m some random guy who drifted onto your page and flooded it with a lot of woes…. don’t feel bad at all if you chose not to respond or to delete it entirely.

    Take care.

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    1. James,
      Thank you for writing me and I will do my best to respond to your heartfelt petition. I do not have all the answers, yet I humbly seek and follow the One who does. Likewise the saints, St. Terese included, didn’t have perfect lives but what they had was perfected through constant prayer, reconciliation, and even the struggle itself. St. Terese, as many other saints, saw the challenge- the battle and rather than fighting or fleeing they embraced “their cross” as a means of allowing God to help her grow spiritually. St. Paul too dealt with anger, frustration, and self righteous indignation before his conversion experience where Christ appeared to him. He was a leading persecutor of Christians, and was literally ready to wipe the face of the earth of the plague of Christianity. St. Ignatius knew of the pettiness of vanity and pride before a cannonball shattered his leg and he was left with a limp- a disillusioned soldier who was no longer a hero of chivalry. The lives of the saints changed his life, he too experienced a conversion of heart , finding peace and laying his sword at the foot of a statue Mary. So, to address your question, yes perhaps they can help you too.
      I am not sure if you were brought up in a faith tradition, but prayer is where I always begin. Not a false conversation, but an honest dialogue with my Creator who knows my faults, weaknesses, and all that I even have trouble admitting to myself. Then, I would suggest bringing this prayerful conversation to a priest or pastor. As a Catholic, we have the sacrament of reconciliation, a graced moment whereby we come with our sins and challenges and ask for forgiveness, guidance and absolution. There is a commitment to then go forward and strive daily to do better..not just for God but for us. This is just a beginning, of a continual journey and walk of faith. It has brought me much joy and peace in the most difficult of times. I will be praying for you James that you too find peace.
      Elizabeth

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  4. Thank you for the response. There is something incredibly warm in the substance of your reply that’s hard to put a finger on. I feel a swell of something nostalgic in me as I read it… and it kind of gives me a glimmer of hope.

    I’ve spoke to counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists…. and there has always been this sterile feeling to everything. The office may feel warm and inviting…. but their words always felt cold and callous. Their treatment of my issue always felt so glib. Advice to shed the thoughts and feelings or to distract myself from them.

    But here you advising me to embrace this ‘cross’. Any other time in my life I may have laughed at the idea of embracing a pain or struggle or annoyance. I mean, how counterintuitive… at least on initial appearances. But the oddest thing, reading those words encouraging me to ‘carry my cross’ opposed to fighting and struggling against them feels like the right thing to do. At some fundamental level in me it just seems like your advice (and the advice of your faith) is right and my only means of ‘escape’ from the person I’ve become.

    I’m going to at least give embracing a chance. I know how futile it is to fight against it all. I mean, the fighting never works even when I succeed. Once at work I was sitting next to another department. They were loud. No one else in my group seemed to care or were able to quickly adjust…. but not me. I paid more and more attention to the noise of that other group and it grew in me and spread like a cancer. Thankfully I have some pull and was able to get my department moved to another area. But like one of those old black and white episodes of Twilight Zone…. I wasn’t actually escaping anything but only making myself more alert and offended and even slighter provocations. Because a lady moved near where we were and she was nowhere near as loud as this other group…. but now her noise was effecting me even more than the group.

    Anyway, while fighting may seem like the best response, in situations like this, it only serves to backfire when you get your way.

    Thanks for reading and replying, Elizabeth. I’m going to try embracing as well as some meaningful attempt to commune with God.

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