The world is just chock-full of annoying people, isn't it? All those people who just can't seem to understand you properly; all those people who just can't seem to pull themselves out of their mad obsession with themselves, and their feelings, and their wants, and their problems, to give all your feelings, wants and problems five minutes' of attention.
All those people who just have so many bad middot (character traits) - that they clearly have no clue about, walking around, telling everyone else how to think and how to behave and how to be.
I've had different strategies for trying to deal with all these annoying people, at various stages in my life. For many years, I was in 'fight' mode; I could explode at the drop of a hat, and figuratively rip someone's eyeballs out. Then, I became what we'll politely call 'an economic failure', and my chosen way of dealing with annoying people was just to become a hermit.
For around three years, I didn't talk to a lot of people, and I tried very hard to avoid social gatherings and opportunities, where they would talk to me.
When that stage was over, I transitioned into 'aggressively spreading the light' mode. Annoying people!!! Listen up!! You are full of bad character traits and bad habits!! You are incredibly annoying!! Start talking to G-d ASAP and get to work on yourself already…
Surprisingly, I didn't become the social outcast I thought I was going to (I'm still not sure why…) - but that's not because all the annoying people changed. Most of them didn't, at all. Some of them, unbelievably, even got more annoying.
I prayed on it, I thought about it, I prayed some more, I mind-mapped myself and my husband to death - and then I got my moment of clarity: the real 'answer' of what to do with all those annoying people, those arrogant, untruthful, aggressive, angry, judgemental, demanding people - cut them out of our lives!
I'd had enough. I'd had enough of people painting themselves whiter than white, then dumping all their rubbish on me. I'd had enough of them praising themselves to the skies, while badmouthing me. Enough already.
It sounded great. I couldn't see any other 'obvious' solution for how to deal with the annoying people problem - after all, we'd already tried fighting them, appeasing them, ignoring them, understanding them, discussing things truthfully with them - and nothing had worked.
But G-d had other ideas.
The morning after I'd come to the solid conclusion that I, for one, couldn't deal with annoying people any more, G-d called me on it.
Did I really have emuna, faith in G-d, or not? Did I really believe that everyone, everything - even the annoying people - were being sent to me by G-d, for my own good, or not? Did I really believe that G-d didn't have another solution to the annoying people problem, that didn't involve never speaking to them again?
Yes, yes, and no.
Which meant, I had to jump to the third stage of the three levels of emuna, that are set out in the Garden of Emuna, and other books: what message is G-d trying to send me, via all these annoying people who I just can't seem to change, or get away from, no matter how hard I try?
A few minutes later, I got my answer: those annoying people are showing me what I still have to work on. Every time I think about the arrogance about one particular annoying person, it gets me so riled up, that I pray to G-d that I shouldn't be arrogant like them (because sometimes, I am…)
Every time another one gets me so furious with the massive lies they tell, to try to get themselves and their chronic bad behaviour off the hook, I ask G-d to help me catch the times when I'm excusing my own terrible actions.
And so on, and so forth.
The 'easy' option would be to throw in the towel, change our phone number and never have to deal with them again. But then, I'd be left with all their bad character traits still floating around in me, undetected and unfixed.
Every time I interact with an annoying person, it's a catalyst for change, for growth, for prayer. That's a great thing. It's a present.
G-d is sending me the annoying people, because He wants me to work on myself, and fix all my 'annoying person' tendencies.
I can't lie and say I danced for joy when I realized all this. But I knew it was right. And I also realized, not for the first time, what a blessing it is to have a rabbi like Rav Arush, explaining what's really going on in the world.
I could so easily have got the completely wrong end of the stick, and cut a whole bunch of people out of my life. Instead, I'm hunkering down for a whole lot of teshuva ; a whole lot of begging G-d to help me deal with the foibles of the annoying people; and a whole lot of prayer that I, myself, should no longer be an annoying person.
But I suspect I'm in for a long trip…