Inspiration comes to me in some strange places frequently. For example, I remember reading the label on a shampoo bottle and noticing a couple of things. First of all, I was surprised that there was a need for actual instructions on something as self explanatory as shampoo. Secondly, I noticed a warning printed in bold letters. Since that time I have tried to find that warning on other shampoo bottles and haven't had a lot of success in my search. Occasionally I've found a brand of shampoo that includes these words: "WARNING: Eye irritant. If product comes in contact with eyes wash thoroughly with water immediately." Again, this seems like common sense and not really necessary on the label of a shampoo bottle. Then again, we do live in the age where a can of very clearly labeled honey roasted peanuts also has to include a phrase such as "Warning: Contains Peanuts" on the can.
Either we've really turned into a society where we are no longer capable of taking care of the most basic and common facets of our lives or some bloated, bureaucratic, government regulatory commission somewhere thinks so. Whatever the case, these warnings appear quite often and have given me a chuckle more than once. But if we examine the nature of these warnings, we will usually see that there is some veracity in what is being said. For example, it is true that a can of room deodorizer shouldn't be placed in a fire or near a high heat source because it will explode. It is also true that, if you inhale spray paint, brain damage or death can occur. So while the warnings are overkill perhaps, it doesn't necessarily negate them.
Certainly I'm not the only one who has felt the intense burn of soap in the eyes. There have been occasions when the burning was so severe that I started thinking up a name for the seeing-eye dog I would need after I lost my sight. But the last thing anyone would do to try and relieve the burning is to pour more shampoo into the eye. Common sense says the best way to remove the irritant is by flushing the area with clean, pure water. No logical person uses soap to get soap out of their eyes.
I am convinced that there are some people who wake up every day looking to see how many other people they can irritate. What is worse, I'm convinced that many of these individuals profess to be Christians. They are individuals who are full of venom, acidic personalities, who feel it is a righteous act to spray their irritant into the eyes of all those around them. These are they who refuse to peacefully coexist with those who don't quite hold the same personal convictions as they do. Or they are those who cannot help but criticize and critique everyone and everything. They are the nitpickers, back-bitters and gossipers. They are ones who sow discord and stir up strife. They're like a healthy dose of shampoo right in the eyes.
So what is the solution to dealing with these individuals? Well, we have to stop and think it through because it's not quite as simple as it might seem.
You can't avoid washing your hair. That is to say, you shouldn't. There's no logical reason not to wash your hair but there must be cautions put in place to guard against the irritants. You can't always get away from acidic people. In fact, it's not even God's will to escape from them all the time. There are certain people who are placed in our lives as occasional irritants which help us grow as Christians. Nothing helps a person grow in grace more than a thorn in the flesh or, in this case, a pain in the eye. This is not to say that there is never a point where separation from a particular individual is merited. There does come a point where you simply cannot try to get a long with some people and the best thing you can do is to stop trying. Love them, pray for them, but let them go their way.
But it takes a lot to reach the place where we need to disconnect from a person entirely. Most of the time, we are either unable or not given liberty to completely avoid someone. What we must do in those occasions is to wash the burning from our eyes and move on with life. The temporary sting of acidic personalities becomes a permanent blindness only if we allow the irritant to continue in an area it doesn't belong. Again, some of these irritating individuals are in our lives because they help us grow. The serve a purpose. They teach us lessons we couldn't learn without them. At the same time, we do not have to live with their effects. Wash the burning away with the Spirit and the Word.
In dealing with these personalities, we are wise to remember a few things. First of all, as with shampoo, do everything possible to keep the irritants from getting inside. The problem with the soap begins when it gets in the eye. On the outside there is no pain. On the inside there is a definite sting. Don't allow the attitudes of acidic people to get inside. Don't hold their opinions in your spirit. Let your heart be purged of their ranker as best as you can. Furthermore, don't keep squeezing the bottle. Don't antagonize, argue or push. When an individual is acidic they produce acid because it is the abundance of their heart. Squeezing them will only produce more of the same thing. Let them spew but don't be the one to squeeze the bottle intentionally.
When soap gets in your eyes, wash it out. Don't keep rubbing it with a dry hand. Don't pour in more soap. Don't ignore it. Wash it out. And when it happens metaphorically, turn to prayer. Turn to the Word of God. Allow the Spirit of God to wash over your heart and soul. If you don't wash it out, you'll find yourself becoming more and more irritated until you become the very thing that hurt you in the first place. Wouldn't that be the greatest tragedy of all?