Sandpaper Angels

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

A while back, a friend introduced me to a new phrase: Sandpaper Angels.

There’s an entire book devoted to sandpaper people, and I had heard that phrase before. But Sandpaper Angels? What a sweet, descriptive phrase.

Sandpaper people are those people that you encounter in your life that really rub you the wrong way. You might try to avoid them, or you might get into verbal skirmishes with them, but you can never fully escape them. There will just be another to take their place.

Now consider that these people may be in your life to help guide you in your mindfulness journey. That’s right. Sandpaper Angels. Really, they’re just here to smooth out the rough edges.

In meditation, we welcome the thoughts and other distractions that come up because it means we get to practice returning to the present moment. And everything gets better with practice, right? Sandpaper Angels are sort of like that – helping you practice the art of letting go, of pausing before responding, of having compassion.

So how do we let those Sandpaper Angels in to do their job? Well, I was challenged with that recently as I interacted with a certain Sandpaper Angel of mine I’ll call Z. One thing that tends to annoy me is nosiness and Z has that in abundance, making everyone’s business their own. As an introvert, I’m a very private person – even this blog can be a challenge to me – and I’m not one to share very openly. Perhaps that’s a flaw, I don’t know, but the point is nosy people bug me.

I didn’t do very well in my mindfulness practice with my last interaction with Z. In my passive-aggressive style, I made a hasty exit. While I’ve come a long way in addressing my passive aggressiveness, recognizing and admitting it is a big part, every so often it rears it’s ugly head. True, I had a lot going on at the moment, but I gotta ask my self – what would I have done if this was not one of my Sandpaper Angels? And how can I respond differently the next time it comes up?

For me, it all comes back to compassion. What is happening in that other person’s life that is causing them to act this way. For Z, that might be loneliness, or feeling that they are irrelevant or unimportant. Maybe it’s just boredom. Haven’t we all felt these things at times in our lives? We may not react the same, but we know it doesn’t feel good. How can you respond to your own Sandpaper Angels?

It’s said by some that the traits that bother us the most in others, are a reflection of something similar inside ourselves. I don’t think that’s always the case, and it’s most certainly not in the case of Z, however it is worth exploring. For example, it used to be that people who interrupt were my Sandpaper Angels, and then I noticed I often did the same thing. I rarely catch myself doing that anymore, and am very aware when I do. So keep your mind open that you might also have the same difficult qualities that push your buttons.

Once you identify the qualities that are rubbing you the wrong way, ask yourself what about this person may be causing them to act this way, as I did with Z. Take the same example of an interrupter. Maybe this person does not feel heard, or maybe they have so many good ideas they’re just bursting out of them. Is it related to control? Insecurity? And can you then meet this person with compassion?

Now here’s where it gets tricky. You’ve identified what may be behind their behavior, now what do you do?

One thing to do is to not encourage the behavior that you find difficult. In the case of Z, I don’t need to share information I don’t feel comfortable sharing and I don’t have to engage in gossip. This will give the message that nosiness isn’t something I participate in. It makes it more difficult for Z to be nosy if I’m not contributing to the conversation.

And while it’s not necessary, or maybe even practical, to ghost them, don’t feel the need to spend extended time with them. Without making up stories, you can just say that you’re not available.

Remember that Sandpaper Angels are in your life to teach you lessons, so be open to those lessons:

    • You can’t control their behavior, and you can control your own response to their behavior.
    • Be patient. We all have challenges and you never know what’s going on in the other’s life.
    • Be compassionate, which goes along with patience.
    • Explore your inner world and see if there are any difficult qualities you might want to work on.
    • Practice the pause. Pausing is an important part of mindfulness. It gives you time to choose your response.
    • Practice letting go. Don’t let the interaction ruin your day.
    • Set boundaries for yourself on what you will and won’t tolerate. And remember, you can have compassion with someone while you don’t agree with them or even like them.

Next time I have an interaction with Z, I will look for the lessons, practice the compassion, set the boundaries. Heck, I’m even looking forward to it – it will give me the opportunity to practice letting go of my passive-aggressive behavior!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *