Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How To Deal With Difficult People

Life is full of difficult people. Some are fleeting, the ones who steal your parking spot, cut you off in traffic, are rude in the grocery store. Those people are difficult for sure, but they are strangers and after one interaction they are typically never seen again.

The difficult people I'm writing about in this post are the ones you know, family member, coworker, neighbor, fellow church member (yep I just said that). Our everyday interactions with people we know, we expect to be pleasant. But the fact of the matter is, there are people in our lives who are difficult to be around.  It may be in their actions, in their words, or in their attitude, whatever it is, it just rubs us the wrong way, causing irritation and annoyance. This arousing of our emotions spurs our response. And our reaction is not always pleasing to God... okay honestly, our initial response is rarely pleasing to God.

So, how do we deal with difficult people?

First, I think we are to remember that we cannot control the other person's actions, we can only control our own actions. And as Christians we should want to honor God with our actions, words, thoughts, and yes even our reactions. Matthew 18:21-22 says, "Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times."  Does this mean when they offend us the seventy-eighth time that then we get to smack them? Umm, no.  The point is that Jesus wants us to forgive, forgive, forgive and keep on forgiving.  Matthew 6:14-15 says, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  And Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." People are not always going to be peaceable with you, but in your dealings with others be peaceable with them.

I know that is easier said than done. Even more so, if these difficult people are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When a fellow Christian is difficult, I think we feel a sense of righteous indignation. [Righteous indignation meaning reactive anger over perceived mistreatment, insult; sense of injustice.]  We believe that because of this injustice or mistreatment by a Christian, that we are justified to react, even if it isn't a godly reaction.  Most often this is seen when the "wronged" Christian sins by calling out the sin of the Christian who "wronged" them.  And in today's world that is usually in the form of a status, tweet, or blog post.

The problem with this reaction is that it in no way honors God.  As mentioned above, if we are to live peaceably with all people, this does not mean that we are to start spreading around to all who will see/hear, how difficult this person is.  It also doesn't mean that we focus so intently on their sins that we forget that we too are sinners.  "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3-4)

In actuality, we are all sinners.  And most of us are difficult people to be around at some point or other.  And if we are Christians, then Christ died for each of us, even the difficult ones!  Yep that's right, the Christian who is difficult and sometimes offensive is still a child of God.  He loves that person just like He loves you. When we remember that important fact, it changes the way we react to that person, they are after all our family, a brother or sister, who is also a joint heir with Christ, the same as us.  

The last (or maybe it should be the first) way we deal with difficult people is to pray.. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:43-44.  Pray for them which you may say you already do, however, instead of praying for God to smite them ;-), we need to start praying for them with love. Pray for their needs, their health, not that they be convicted of their sin, that they change their ways.  The last two are missing the love mark a bit pray for them about things that are completely unrelated to the area of difficulty.  And while we are praying, we need to pray for ourselves.  Pray for our own eyes to be opened to the sin we have in our lives. Pray that we drop the victim attitude and forgive the person, and also that we live peaceably with all people in a way that honors God.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21

Love in Christ, 




  1. Very encouraging thank you

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your comment with me!