Do you know someone who pushes your buttons?
Rubs you the wrong way? Irritates you? Thinks totally different than you? – Some of you might answer, "Yeah, pretty much EVERYBODY!"
Some of my friends affectionately refer to these types of people as "EGR: Extra Grace Required". Ha!
These people are everywhere. If you are a human, living on earth, and you're not a hermit isolated in a cave or the middle of the woods, then you will encounter people who challenge you in the most difficult ways. – They might be a boss, coworker, relative, classmate, person sitting next to you on a plane, or a client.
You could be the nicest, most agreeable person in the world, and yet, chances are that you will encounter someone in life who fundamentally functions on a different page than you.
Their default way of thinking, speaking and acting is so different from you that it frustratingly makes you cringe to interact with them. They confuse you. You talk to your friends or your spouse about them, trying to process, and say things like, "I just don't get them!" or "How could they possibly see things this way?"
On the spectrum of personalities, they are your polar opposite.
I've encountered several people in life that represent this to a tee. And I experienced many stressful days and sleepless nights interacting with them and contemplating how I could influence them to see things from my point of view, to no avail.
Eventually, I had an epiphany:
I can either let these people make my life miserable, or I can let them REFINE me into a better person.
You can actually become GRATEFUL for people who rub you the wrong way!
Imagine that each of us is like an uncut diamond.
We are all valuable and unique, but we start out rough.
We have beauty inside of us that gets gradually revealed as the seasons of life wear upon us and challenge us to grow and change. We encounter circumstances that cause friction and discomfort, these experiences are painful, but when we look back in hindsight at what we've learned and at the way our character has grown, we see that we are now wiser, more experienced, smarter, and mature than we once were.
Essentially, it's the friction in life that polishes the different facets of who we are and reveals our inner beauty and strength.
These challenges in life often come in the form of PEOPLE. Sometimes they are mentors, who provide insight and direction that pushes us past our limits. Other times, they are friends or peers, who run alongside us in life, motivating and encouraging us to strive to become more than we currently are. And then there's the other people: DIFFICULT people.
We don't often view difficult people as "inspiring", or give them credit for our greatest seasons of growth. But if growth comes as a result of encountering a challenge that stretches our capacity to it's limits, paired with our decision to rise to the challenge and grow, then there's almost no better opportunity to refine our character than when we encounter people who rub us the wrong way.
Each time we're faced with a difficult person we have a choice: be refined, or grow calloused.
If we encounter someone or a situation that grates on us, irritates us, or frustrates us, that’s an indicator that there’s a facet of our life that still requires polishing. If we neglect to respond in a positive way, then we've missed the opportunity and we stay dull, and our heart hardens.
We feel like the only defense against these people is to resist them, to put on a shell so they can't hurt us. But I'd like to propose the idea that if we allow ourselves to respond correctly, then each difficult person can be a stepping stone to growth and self-improvement for us.
If we only spent time with and only listened to people who agreed with us on every front, then life would be smooth. There would be no friction, but also no growth.
Friction isn't bad if we recognize the opportunity that comes with it.
Friction is an opportunity for growth. Whether the growth happens or not depends on your RESPONSE to that friction.
- Shut it out
- Run away
- Avoid it
If you do any of these, you’re avoiding growth. You’re opting for comfort over growth.
Or you can do these things:
- Embrace it
- Seek to understand it
- Look for areas of yourself that are being challenged, then decide to change
I think that many of us are addicted to comfort.
We hate pain. We hate being awkward. We avoid embarrassment like the plague. We hate not having the answers. We dislike being around people who have different opinions, values, or beliefs than us.
I want you to know that it’s OK to not align with everything.
If you aligned with everything, then you wouldn’t stand for anything. Meaning: if you believe in anything strongly enough, you WILL encounter friction. And when you do, then you should be glad for it, instead of run from it; because it gives you a chance to test your beliefs and values, giving them an opportunity to be strengthened or reevaluated.
This is the opposite of being "close-minded". – Being "open-minded" doesn't mean agreeing or condoning everything, I believe it means allowing everything, and every person, to teach us something new and to expand our understanding.
As we embrace friction, more and more clarity comes to us.
The polished gem that is our understanding becomes clearer and clearer as more and more facets of our life are polished and honed. More light comes in, more understanding, more empathy, more insight.
And the reciprocal effect of this is transparency. As we allow ourselves the opportunity to be refined and polished, not only can we and perceive OTHERS more clearly, other people are able to see into who WE are more clearly.
In order to grow, you must be willing to learn and willing to change.
If you’re not willing to change (embrace friction), then you will be hard like a stone, and rough on every side.
No light comes in, therefore no light comes out. You become close-minded. You’re like a blunt instrument whose only method to problem solving is smashing it like a rock. You feel like the only way to deal with difficult people is either to impose your paradigm on them or to avoid them completely. – And you end up missing out on the beautiful refinement of your mind and soul.
But if you allow yourself to be sharpened by people and situations, learning from them, then the facets of your life are polished, letting in light and understanding, and you are no longer blunt, but sharp, and able to use that clarity and understanding to cut through problems.
You are able to look at challenges from multiple perspectives, because you’ve allowed multiple facets of your understanding to be polished.
And here’s the added benefit: You’re STILL STRONG.
A diamond doesn’t lose it’s hardness when it’s polished. It’s still made of the same stuff; it’s just refined, more beautiful, and now the world can see the beauty that’s on the inside, rather than it being hidden under a rough exterior.
When you embrace friction, you allow the world to see who you really are, what you’re really made of.
It’s only when you let yourself be sharpened that you reveal what you’re really made of on the inside. Are you made of diamond, or are you just a rock? SECRET: we’re all diamonds, but only some of us choose to be refined and made more clear with friction and testing.
Embracing friction allows you to be more versatile.
In the journey of self-improvement, you can reach PLATEAUS: seasons where you feel like you don't know what your next step is. You want to grow, but you don't know where to start.
I would encourage you to take inventory of your life and look for people and situations that are particularly uncomfortable, frustrating, or irritating, because it's likely that the greatest opportunity for growth lies on the other side of your biggest obstacle.
Let's say that you've polished and honed all these different facets of yourself: health, career, friendship, creativity, finances, personal development, etc. But you consistently keep having a hard time every time you encounter your coworker who always interrupts you, talks over you, and wastes your time with meaningless conversation that drags on.
Perhaps this reveals to you that you need to refine the PATIENCE facet of your diamond, or maybe you need to grow in being ASSERTIVE. – You wouldn't have become aware of this without encountering the person who TESTS you in that area.
What I'm saying is that friction is good because it reveals the unrefined areas of our heart.
As you practice this, you will begin to understand yourself more. You will have clearer insight into your thoughts, feelings, motives, desires, and how you function. This gives you the opportunity to be more transparent about who you are, which helps people to understand and accept you better.
An unpolished diamond doesn’t shine.
We’ve all been forged under pressure, just like a diamond, because life is hard. But not all of us have been REFINED.
Not all of us have become more as a result of friction and sharpening, but we always have the opportunity.
As you move forward, I want to encourage you to embrace the friction by doing the following:
- Be grateful for those people and situations who challenge you, who disagree with you, who make you uncomfortable.
- Identify and embrace opportunities for growth that come as a result of these people and situations.
- Seek out new facets of your life, character and understanding that need polishing.
- Practice transparency and seek to understand others are to understand them better as well. (You don't have to agree with someone to empathize or respect them)
When you approach life from this perspective, then you begin to enjoy and be grateful for the process of growth, the challenges of life’s circumstances, and especially the people who rub you the wrong way.
Each of these things will polish you into a clear, stronger, and sharper version of who you are truly made to be.