Loving People Who Annoy Us

by Andy Otto

drivingI commute about two hours most weekdays, so I’ve had a lot of experiences on the road. I’m generally a calm driver, but I’m not immune to frustration. The other day I was in the left lane, moving at about 75 mph with the rest of the traffic, when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a car racing up to me. The car was nearly riding my bumper. Frustration started to well up, partly because if I had to stop quickly the car would crash right into me. Why was this man so impatient? Was 75 mph not fast enough for him? I was tempted to brake suddenly so he would back off, but at that moment I felt God calling me to love this impatient driver.

God’s call for us to love others has a lot to do with the gifts of chastity and sexuality. These terms need to be re-framed a bit: sexuality has to do with the way we relate to and connect with others; the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as the “integration of sexuality within the person.” (#2337) Living chastity means being able to freely offer our love to others according to what is proper. In the case of my brother on the road, the proper way to love him was to calm my frustration, acknowledge that God loves him deeply, and then move over to let him pass.

Loving people who annoy us is not easy. The gift of sexuality means we are not robots. We have emotional connections and reactions to others that we can’t always shake. Chastity is the way we channel those connections. “The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him,” the Catechism says (#2238). When I have an emotional response to someone (positive or negative), I need to ask myself, How does my response uphold the integrity of God’s gift of love? How is God calling me to love the other?

The next day on the highway another speeder came racing by and, with a sense of humor, I said to myself, “Oh look, another person you want me to love, God.”

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Andy Otto credits his relationships for a strong and ever-growing faith in God. After spending nearly three years as a Jesuit he came to a deep appreciation for the practical application of Ignatian spirituality. He currently lives in the Boston area and is pursuing a graduate degree in theology and ministry at Boston College. Andy has worked as a hospital chaplain, has created and led an Ignatian prayer program at two Jesuit universities, and has even worked at Walt Disney World.

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April 30, 2014

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