Pettiness is a problem you can eliminate, with God's help

Pettiness has no place in a Christian's life.

It's embarrassing to admit that you harbor pettiness in your life, but the truth is that most of us do.

If you're single, you can easily develop the "chip on your shoulder" attitude. While it may be painful to recognize that in yourself, it's like an infection that needs to be stopped before it takes over. Even though married people can engage in pettiness, we singles are more susceptible.

We tend to lose our perspective. We exaggerate slights or snubs. We obsess over minor incidents. We become defensive in an area of weakness because we're feeling discouraged.

Friends and relatives may be afraid to tell us that we've gotten petty. Maybe we've become so touchy that we perceive even well-meaning advice as a personal attack.

Where does pettiness come from?

It can be hard to maintain your self-esteem. Past hurts have an ugly way of coming back every time someone offends us.

In my own struggle with self-esteem, I had to fight not to get angry or resentful when an editor or reader criticized my writing. Writers, artists and actors have difficulty separating their work from themselves, because so much of our personality and emotions go into our creations.

But over the years, as my confidence grew, I learned to accept constructive criticism and shrug off mean-spirited attacks. But it's not easy.

We may think we've overcome a long-ago hurt until someone disapproves, then it springs up in our heart, just like it was yesterday. I've spoken with 60 and 70 year-old people who still remember humiliations from their childhood.

How can you become a bigger person?

None of us wants to be petty. We all want to be able to let slights and attacks roll off our back. When we encounter rejection, we need to develop a thicker skin. That's not easily done, but as your self-confidence grows over time, you learn to distinguish between the minor and major.

Pettiness can put you in a constant state of alert, waiting to "tell off" anyone who offends you--whether it was intentional on their part or not. I knew a woman with low self-esteem who constantly berated waitresses, clerks, and anyone else she considered "beneath" her. Needless to say, she didn't have many friends.

One way we can become a bigger person is to stop believing that everybody is out to get us. They're not.

People may be rushed, anxious, worried, stressed, or concerned about their own troubles. Because of those pressures, they may unintentionally slight others. They may be under attack themselves and respond by lashing out at innocent people (like you). Or they may be very unhappy and shortness is their ineffective way of trying to cope.

And maybe you are under those stresses too, and that's why you sometimes react with pettiness.

No overnight cure

When small-mindedness creeps into our lives, it's usually a gradual process. Overcoming it is a gradual process, too. I've found that building and maintaining my self-esteem is a lifelong job. When I battle pettiness in myself, I try to remember the Golden Rule: I don't like it when people are nasty to me, so I shouldn't be nasty to others.

It's a challenge to be pleasant and cheerful when you don't feel well or when you've just suffered some tragedy or defeat in your life. But it's always wise to think very carefully before you lash out. Here's a truth I had to learn the hard way:

Jack's truths for thriving.

An apology can never erase the effect of hurtful words.

Yes, sometimes you have to "bite your tongue" to keep from saying something mean. Yes, sometimes you're tempted to "put somebody in their place", and yes, sometimes you do want to rip a person the way they ripped you, but is that the way Jesus acted?

Are we Christians only when it's easy? Are we kind and forgiving only when it's convenient? Do we really practice what we preach?

This is tough to take, but we have to remember that other people are watching us, measuring our testimony by how we behave. And God is watching us, too.

If we don't like to be hurt, we shouldn't hurt others. Empathy can help us overcome our pettiness. Patience and forgiveness are qualities we can nurture as well, to become a bigger person.

Overcoming pettinesss is not an easy job, but it's a task that God is always eager to help us with.

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