The danger of “righteous” irritation

Posted on September 10, 2013 · Posted in Communication, Parenting

Righteous irritation is a ploy to manipulate and shift guilt while maintaining the posture that you are the one who has been wronged. Righteous irritation, which is actually self-righteous irritation, is delivered in a voice that thinly masks the irritation on the inside.  For example:

 

“If it is really important, I’ll do that for you. I wouldn’t want to bother you.”

 

“I am really tired, but I will find a way to get this done. You go ahead and relax.”

 

“Do we really have to talk about this now? I have a lot on my mind at the moment, but we can talk now if you really need to.”

 

“Sweetheart, this really better be important. You know how busy I am.”

 

“I noticed that your room is still a mess. Do I have to do it for you? Sorry, I was irritated. I know you will get it straightened up eventually.”

 

Righteous irritation has the additional goal of giving the appearance of nobility.  But, in the end, righteous irritation is really just a sophisticated form of self-pity. This is a self-serving technique that attempts to shield you from the demands of being a servant.

 

Righteous irritation is a corrosive agent in relationships. The one who is targeted by this technique isn’t cared for but manipulated. When parents use righteous irritation, a grudging compliance results in children instead of closeness. Over time bitterness and broken relationships may result. Parents are seldom aware of just how destructive righteous irritation can become. It is a habit pattern that will bring distance and distrust to relationships. Righteous irritation is a formidable barrier to growing close to teenagers.

 

This technique betrays a heart that wants to be served rather than to serve. The best way to prevent righteous irritation from poisoning your relationships is to invest yourself in being a true servant. Take a careful look at Philippians 2:1-5 for a biblical model of being a servant in your relationships.

 

Here are some ways to respond with a servant’s heart:

 

“Hey, I noticed you are really tired. I would really be grateful if you let me finish that for you. It is no bother at all!”

 

“I am really thankful you want to talk. Give me about three minutes to finish this and I will be right there. Maybe you could make some coffee and by the time it is finished we can talk.”

 

“I know I have been kind of busy and I have let that get in the way of our relationship. Please forgive me. I really do want to hear what you are thinking.”

 

“Hey, would it be okay if I gave you a little help with your room? Or, maybe I could help with cutting the grass tomorrow so that you can have some time to work on the room. Just let me know. I love you.”

 

These responses are not magic and may not solve issues right away. But at least they indicate an attitude of service rather irritation.  Being a faithful servant to the ones you love is a critical first step in undoing the damage caused by righteous irritation.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.