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The Sandpaper People in Your Life
Smoothing out life’s edges and our worldviews
Sometimes people come into your life, and even if it is unintentional on their part, they rub you the wrong way. They might be critical, judgmental, or needy. Some demand more than you can give emotionally, physically, or relationally. Others always take the opposite position of anything you say or do. Their words might be mean, undermining, or cruel.
These people are the sandpaper in your life. Abrasive, irritating, or just rough to be around.
Sometimes we see them as thorns: prickly and inconvenient. So, we may want to change or remove them from our lives.
My sandpaper moment
As a young church pastor, I had an older woman as a church elder. She was an exceptionally good person. But she was irritating. The hymns we sang were too modern, the verses used in sermons needed more backing and oomph, and we needed to do more outreach in the community. Besides co-pastoring the church, I also worked full-time and ran a local coffee shop. Did she not understand that I did not have spare time to do these extra activities?
I honestly asked God to change her or make her more understanding. But my answer came from my co-pastor, who asked me, “What if this is about you and not her?” This statement is a terrific way to make someone defensive, and I was. But this wise man continued in a gentle and calming voice. “I did not say it was your fault. I said maybe this is about you.”
He continued to explain that God allowed the dynamics of my relationship with this woman to refine my life. However, I was weary and frustrated with her, so it took several days for this idea to click in my mind. Finally, when I sat with her to discuss this, she said very briefly, “I am the sandpaper in your life.”
We discussed that different sandpaper grits produce different results. However, all are necessary to create a smooth piece of wood. Change does not come overnight; it comes in time.
She continued, “Like sanding rough wood, a person changes over time when external forces rub them the right way.”
This revelation might not be new to you, but this was revolutionary for me.
Changing my worldview
That encounter changed the way I viewed difficult people and circumstances. My perspective changed to consider what lesson I was being allowed to learn from every challenging relationship and situation. I now embrace the opportunity to mature and grow in wisdom instead of giving in to defeat and frustration. I try not to view the world only through the rose-colored glass of my personal snow globe (worldview).
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (see also Luke 6:27-36, Hebrews 12:14, and Romans 12:18).
This attitude towards others does not make the situations disappear but gives them purpose. It motivates me to change myself and my perspective instead of trying to change the other person. My first response to difficult people is not always (rarely) to keep this advice in mind. Even though this is the proper way to deal with such situations, I still resist seeing things through the other person’s worldview. I often need to step back and remind myself about the purpose of such relationships in my life.
Encouraging you to be refined
Sometimes we react to others with a self-important attitude, snap at people trying to help us, or make assumptions about what someone meant when they sent us a text or email. These are the rough edges we all need to smooth out.
I currently have a sandpaper person in my life (ok, two or three of them). He is a good man, and I appreciate him – most of the time. He sometimes dresses down others in public, assumes what people mean without clarifying, normally takes an opposing view to mine, and often neglects to forgive other people’s mistakes. But he is MY sandpaper, and I think I will keep him around.
Letting sandpaper people refine our life allows us to recalibrate our views and reveals hard truths about ourselves during trying moments in relationships. It enables us to see the perspectives of others and become more in tune with our relationships with others. By refining ourselves and appreciating the sandpaper in our lives, we bring peace to ourselves and allow us to refine others by being an example.
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