Gwyneth shouted at Wesley, “stop that singing, you’re cracking me out!”
“Don’t you mean, cracking me up?” I asked.
“No, cracking me out, like ignoying me!”
You see, Wesley has a tendency to fixate on a single lyric and proceed to sing it like a broken record, with only slight variations in tone and volume. For the most part he is completely oblivious to the fact that he is even doing it. He just enters into his own little world of play and repeats his chosen phrase to the rhythm of his own imagination. The day of this particular outburst, Gwyneth was trying not to listen as she coloured nearby but the repetition was getting to her and she was beginning to be annoyed. In her frustration, she invented this new phrase, one that I have since adopted into our family’s vernacular.
So, what does it mean to be “cracked out” (avoiding all obvious drug-related references)? In Gwyneth’s world, it means to be pushed beyond her limits and frustrated by the actions of another. Considering this definition, I can identify with her sentiment. In fact, I often experience this phenomenon: I allow someone’s words or actions to get under my skin and become an irritant.
But getting “cracked out”, though annoying on one level, may actually provide a needed opportunity for spiritual growth. My tendency to be frustrated with the deficiencies in others is actually a call to look in the mirror. Instead of blaming the annoyance on the annoyer, perhaps I should examine my own heart to understand why I am responding the way that I am. Is this reaction more about my inability to accept a difference of opinion? Have I really listened in the first place to what was being said? Am I hard-hearted or judgmental? Am I extending grace? Do I accept the reality of a flawed and shared humanness?
I think God uses relational conflict to cut to the heart of the matter. Through relational tension, my shell, or the illusion of where I think I am spiritually, is figuratively broken and my true self is exposed. My responses to annoyances, miscommunications, and offences reveal what is really going on in my internal world. In essence, I am “cracked out” and my spiritual maturity is tested.
When I harbour unforgiveness, gossip or complain about a situation I can be sure that I am not honouring God with my reaction. In fact, it is a wake up call for me to revisit some of the scriptural wisdom about judgment. Jesus asks me, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). When I find myself irritated by a speck, first and foremost, I need to address the plank.
Jesus carefully chooses the substance of comparison in this illustration. Sawdust is merely a tiny wooden byproduct whereas a plank, also wooden, is significantly more obvious. The specifics of the speck that I notice should reveal something to me about the nature of my grievances: the things I criticize in others should be measured in my own self-analysis, especially considering the difference in magnitude. For example, if I am critical of someone’s pride, it may be that I am significantly more prideful.
When I realize that my weaknesses are made from the same fabric as those offending me, I might discover a renewed desire to extend grace. If Gwyneth understood that she is often the one with the louder voice, singing without apology when she plays, she might be able to let Wesley’s serenades be less of an issue.
I believe God gave our family this new adage as a reminder. Next time I feel like someone is “cracking me out,” I’ll remember that the emphasis is on me.
(originally posted in 2009)