I like to sit at Panera when I write. I like the atmosphere, the bagels are great, and I love the unending coffee. (I also like to write sitting at home with a glass of red wine. Perhaps if I decide to keep this writing thing going I should learn to do it without a vice attached!)
It appears the management at my Panera changed recently. The staff is much louder, more chatty and full of gossip. It is very distracting. The longer I sit and listen to their chatter, the more annoyed I become.
One morning as I refilled my cup (for the third time – but who is counting), I was plotting what I could spout off to the manager to express my frustration. (Because that is what I do – I simmer inside and let the anger build up by creating a mental argument with my opposition. See Learning to LET GO of Anger.) I walk back to my computer, turn the screen back on, and am face to face with this scripture from Philippians 2, verse 5:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…..
OK God – I hear you! Though I’ve formulated these wonderfully mean-spirited things to say to the Panera manager, I’ll keep my mouth shut today. Even better – I’ll stop dwelling on this altogether! I’ll stop wasting my thoughts and time on something so silly as a noisy restaurant. That is not living in relationship with another – stranger or otherwise – with the mindset of Jesus! I know that – it is just so easy to forget!!
At the time this occurred, I was in the middle of a book about spiritual direction. The chapter at that moment was about being the “beloved” child of God. The focus was how difficult it can be to view ourselves as worthy of this distinction. The world tells us we are not worthy, or that we have to somehow earn our self-worth. So we pose the question – why do we let other people determine our self worth?
But to step back from this with an even more painful question – why do I feel self-centered enough that I believe I can determine someone else’s worth?
When I dwell in my anger and frustration with another person, I need to step back and think about that person as a beloved child of God. As I sit and angrily contemplate the most appropriate, righteous thing I could say to the person that I deem has wronged me, I should identify them as “Panera Manager, beloved child of God, I am upset with your actions because…”
I think this attitude and approach to others in conflict could actually ease my internal frustration, and help me to view and treat other people as they deserve – as a child of God, deeply loved and chosen.
And perhaps to improve this particular situation, I might just find a new place to write next time. There is a Starbucks right around the corner…