Michael Leuchtenberger

Ministry Musings

April 2017

It’s him again! Why does he have to be so annoying? Can’t he just stop being so irritating? Everyone knows he is irritating. Everyone sees he is annoying. He must know this, so why on earth can’t he just change? Then my life would be so much easier, everyone’s life would be easier, even his.

And then there was this annoying moment during my recent meditation retreat when the teacher was talking about exactly this situation and how, most of the time, the person I find annoying isn’t nearly as annoying to other people. In fact, many times, the person is well liked and regarded by others, being the same “annoying person” he is around me. Of course, that’s annoying in itself.

So why am I suffering being around this other person, when others are not? Who is causing the suffering? Could the meditation teacher be right? Could my pain and aversion to that pain be something I have created myself - and hence be something I have agency to stop? Could it be that stopping my suffering is less about “fixing” the other person and more about my abilities to look inside and pay attention to my own reactions?

I am still wrestling with the answers to these questions but I have started to pretend to buy into the idea that I am the one responsible for my suffering (and hence for ending it). It’s not exactly intuitive (I’d rather let my “justified” irritation guide my reaction) yet it also feels empowering to break out of the pattern of reaction and try something new.

This all doesn’t mean that the behavior of the “annoying person” isn’t still getting under my skin. What is different is what happens once I notice what’s going on under my skin. Just like the Buddha noted, there really seems to be the option to simply listen to the door bell instead of rushing to the door as soon as the button is pushed (I am paraphrasing, I don’t think they had door bells back then).

So many ways to push those buttons – through a comment or body language, clothing or hairstyle, social attitudes or political opinions. So I am going to practice taking my time answering the door and practice finding my equanimity before I open that door. Who knows, perhaps there really are a lot fewer annoying people out there than I thought.