Dealing with Difficult People
We deal with difficult people on a regular basis…that co-worker who never speaks to you, the church member who never has anything nice to say, or that neighbor who complains about everything and everyone on your block. We can try not to interact with these people (as much as possible) to not be pulled into their drama. But…what if the difficult person is your life is someone very close you, someone you just can’t avoid? Are you living with a difficult spouse or child? What about a close friend? These are people you just don’t want to write off, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult to deal with them. I’m experiencing this right now, so let me share with you how I’m trying to deal…
The first thing to recognize about this difficult person is that he or she is wounded. Negative things happen to all of us (divorce, job loss, rejection, failure, etc.), but sometimes those negative experiences have a negative effect on a person long after the experience has ended. They haven’t dealt with the hurt or disappointment that came as a result of the past situation, and it’s festering in their minds and souls. Maybe they were in a previous abusive relationship, and now they don’t trust you in the current relationship. Or maybe they grew up being blamed for everything and now they become very defensive when someone tries to constructively help them. Knowing what the person has been through helps you to put their behavior in context. It does NOT excuse their behavior (let me be clear on that), but at least you can understand where the behavior may be coming from. And knowing their past experiences may help you be more compassionate toward that person.
Then, you should pray for that person. Prayer will soften your heart toward him or her and help you not become bitter and resentful (the last thing you need is two angry and bitter people trying to be in relationship with one another). Ask God to heal that person’s brokenness, ask God to help them see how their behavior affects others, and ask God to give you a forgiving spirit as you interact with that person. Trust that God can transform anyone. According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Pray that God will transform that person to reflect more of God’s image, and in the process, He will also transform you to reflect more of God’s image.
Scripture commands to do this: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18, KJV) Try your best to do your part to live peaceably with the difficult person in your life. It’s not always easy, but when they lash out at you, try not to lash back (did I say that it’s not easy??) This doesn’t mean be a doormat, but there is a time and place to address the situation with the difficult person (and the best time is probably not in the middle of a confrontation). Ask God to give you wisdom to know when to address the issue and the words to say (with the right emotional temperament).
I pray this encourages you, as it reminds me what I need to do in my own situation. I would love to hear your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts.