I’m not talking about difficult situations you get into with regular people. We’ve all had our fair share of disagreements with husbands, boyfriends, co-workers, roommates or parents. I’m talking about how to deal with difficult PEOPLE.
The ones that you can’t reason with. The ones that are consistently selfish or ungrateful, hard-to-please or always right. They can be manipulative or always complaining, always has to get their way, or lazy. For more examples just read through Proverbs. The book is full of examples of them, though there they’re called “fools.” (Although, I might suggest that if everyone you come in contact with is a “fool” that in actuality, you may be the difficult person.)
But God loves that person. Not only does He love them but He loves them as much as He loves you. And He wants us to love them too. Not a sappy everything-is-great kind of love. Nor an “I will tolerate you because I’m supposed to” kind of love. He wants us to love them with the kind of love that points them to Christ and His everlasting love.
This is not an easy task. It requires sacrifice, a lot of patience, and sometimes even blood, sweat and tears. Plenty of articles out there, even Christian ones, state that we should “cut out” difficult people from our lives. They just add stress to our lives and we deserve better.
But that’s a cop-out because God has a better plan for both of you. Maybe He has to make both of you uncomfortable to do what He needs to do. Perhaps He allows this difficult person in your life so He can use you to speak the truth to them. Equally as likely, maybe it’s also to soften your rough edges. God is relational and He wants us to learn to love each other with the same kind of love He gives to us – unconditional, undeserving, and always in abundance.
Unfortunately often – speaking mainly for myself – we respond the opposite way God desires us to. We fight or we flee. When we fight we stand up to them, tell them exactly why they are a jerk or crazy or annoying – and to top it off, pat ourselves on the back for helping “sanctify” them. Worse yet, as Christians sometimes we go around plucking bits of dirt out of each other’s eyes while simultaneously knocking over innocent bystanders with the log in ours.
Or we run.
Unfortunately, this is often how I deal with conflict. I don’t want to be anywhere near conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it, even ignoring the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak the truth into situations. I don’t want to stir up anything, or more likely, deal with the person’s (possibly crazy) reactions.
We all must deal with difficult people and when I say deal I mean to address the problem in one way or another. Otherwise, we’ll just become bitter on our end and the other person probably will have no idea they are a pain in the behind. I’ve learned that constantly fighting a difficult person though, or constantly running away will accomplish little. The trick, I think, is to learn when to speak up, and when to let go, forgive and move on.
How to Deal with Difficult People
1.) First, place the situation and difficult person before God.
Let Him know – and be honest – all the details. Repent of un-Christ-like methods you’ve used in the past (anger, revenge, nagging, yelling, fleeing) and ask for His help.
2.) Pray specifically about how you should deal with this person on a daily basis.
Daily as in each individual problem. Should you approach the person today…or let something unkind they said go? Each day will be different.
3.) Ask God to allow you to see them the way He does.
Chances are if you’ve been dealing with a difficult person for a long time you’ve vilified them in your mind, and perhaps even to other people. (And on that note, stop gossiping about this person to others. As Christians we like to “pray for our brother and sisters in Christ when really we’re using it to share the latest gossip or find validation for thinking they are so horrible).
Maybe you need to see and understand that this person carries around a lot of hurt or rejection. Regardless, you need to recognize that they still need love.
4.) Pray for grace, patience, kindness…
.’cause you’re gonna need a lot of it.
5.) Pray for boldness when He asks you to speak up and address a wrong behavior or sin of theirs.
Pray for strength and forgiveness when He tells you to walk away.
6.) Look for ways to serve this person.
The more you do, the more you will notice your heart changing towards them.
7.) Ask God for your words to be full of both truth AND love.
8.) Pray about what actions you can take that will best point this person back to Christ.
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
We are called to love others, yes, even the difficult ones. But real love is not mushy or showy. Instead, it wants the best for them – no matter how we hope they get what they really deserve – and their relationship with Christ. This includes forgiving when we’d rather hold a grudge (and think we have every right to!) and standing up with the truth because we love that person too much to let them continue as they are.