Rick Warren suggests that one of the identifying “marks” of mercy is that “mercy is patient with difficult people.”
Do you deal with any difficult people in your life? People who get on your nerves? People who drive you crazy? People who are hard for you to figure out? People you wish you could avoid but cannot?
What do you do with these difficult people?
Reinhold Niebuhr offers a helpful prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Someone came up with a version that is probably a bit closer to how we often feel: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to destroy because they ticked me off after being extremely tolerant and patient with them!”
Someone else proposed: “God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”
But, in many ways, if I am to be brutally honest, this is what I would have to pray: “God, grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change; the Courage to change the people that I can; and the Wisdom to know it’s me.”
What it really comes down to is this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone, since I’m clearly not You, God. At least not the last time I checked. And while You’re at it, God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not You, which means I’m not perfect. It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people,
who, as You’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway. Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers. Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not You. Amen”
Perhaps if we pray more often Niebuhr’s prayer and the last two prayers we will be able to embrace the mercy to deal patiently with the “difficult” people in our lives (even when they happen to be ourselves).
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.