For the second evening in a row, I was getting an unsolicited call from a telemarketer. The previous night's caller had been persistent, and my first reaction was considerable irritation at this second uninvited intrusion.
Like many other people these days, however, I have been seeking a spiritual path through life. In my quest I've been learning that irritation isn't a healthy response to anything, because it isn't a God-derived attitude.
The Scriptures teach that God is Love and made us in His image, spiritual. We exist to express the love of God, which is unconditional love. I wanted to live up to that standard. So while my business was being courted, I silently prayed to override the strong impulse to be annoyed. "I appreciate your offer," it then came to me to say (gently), "but I'm really happy not to take you up on it just at the moment." The words came out sounding as if the opportunity to be happy in this way was a great joy. The caller took me on my word and signed off immediately with a kind comment.
The particular words I used wouldn't always be the right ones for similar circumstances. But prayer to overcome one's own irritability, in which we let God's love animate our response, will always provide an appropriate answer. By giving us a better view of ourselves and our relationships, prayer reveals a place for each of us to love and be loved unreservedly. His powerful love is the truth of all existence! Irritating circumstances and irritable reactions don't form any part of this spiritual existence. Seeing this, we can recognize that at any moment, proneness to irritation is actually an admission of one's inability to perceive God and His creation. On the other hand, praying for spiritual perception - and living accordingly - break the grip of irritability.
And it's a grip worth breaking. Irritability would wear down marriages, undermine parent-child relationships, soil a workplace or school atmosphere, and spoil the joy of friendship. It may seem like a minor vice compared to some of the evils broadcast on the news. Yet the Bible warns about "little foxes" that "spoil the vines" (Song of Solomon 2:15). And irritability is surely a vice that does not express the spiritual-mindedness that makes lives flourish.
In a 1898 message to the Church she founded, Mary Baker Eddy said, "Seeing that we have to attain to the ministry of righteousness in all things, we must not overlook small things in goodness or in badness, for 'trifles make perfection,' and 'the little foxes ... spoil the vines' " ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," Pg. 123). Whatever you may see as your own "ministry of righteousness" - which I see as the application of right thinking and action to benefit myself and others - this is good counsel. Irritability, like all petty, negative thinking, is detrimental to constructive activity. It is a bleak, mistaken sense of existence that adds nothing to our neighbor's happiness and drains away our own joy. It is evidence of what the Bible calls "the carnal mind" (Rom. 8:7), the mentality that is the source of all sickness, sin, and lack. Christ Jesus showed that the opposite mentality, pure and spiritual, is able to heal the sick and reform the sinner. He showed we must prove progressively that the carnal mind ultimately has no real existence.
More than once Jesus demonstrated that even death, the supposed acme of separation from good, is unreal. In raising the dead, he built on what he had already proved in healing the sick and reforming the sinful - that evil is powerless.
Whatever victories over evil are required of us, it's worth conquering little foxes like irritability, in an effort to keep "the vines" of our spiritual-mindedness unspoiled. In proportion as we refuse to get irritated or impatient or judgmental or whatever, unconditional love will permeate our thoughts and direct our actions. The love that reflects God's goodness heals physically and mentally. And wouldn't it be nice to like others better? Wouldn't we enjoy our own company a lot more?
God is the real source of all good thoughts. We each truly have the ability to love without interruption or condition.