For “Scripture Sunday”:
Dealing with Difficult People
“They’re everywhere: on the road, at work, in the grocery line, at church and even in our own family. How can we respond to difficult people in a godly way?
When we think of difficult personality types, we can be quick to attach a label: bossy, rude, know-it-all, phony, whiner, judgmental. These and other words are used to describe and categorize others. Perhaps these labels have even been used on us.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists some additional labels that professional health-care providers use: antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic and passive-aggressive, to name a few.
Unfortunately, while they may be helpful in terms of treatment, labels can also prevent us from truly understanding individuals.
See the human being
People are more than the labels attached to them. Labels can keep us from truly getting to know a person and finding out how unique and complex he or she really is. No two people are alike, nor are they motivated or shaped by the same things.
Imagine that each person you come in contact with is a puzzle for you to put together. Usually when assembling a jigsaw puzzle you have all the pieces as well as a picture of what you are constructing. But what if you had the picture, but not all the pieces? What if you didn’t even know what pieces were missing or what to look for?
When therapists see new clients, they ask them lots of questions so they have as many pieces of their puzzle as possible. Therapists don’t want to assume anything, and they need to be able to put the difficult parts into a meaningful context. This helps them understand and empathize with the unique individuals these people have become.
In personal relationships, however, we are hampered by social norms and a person’s desire for privacy. What is acceptable in a professional setting becomes nosiness in any other.
So how do we truly get to know and appreciate someone—especially when that person is difficult to be around?
Live by the Golden Rule
We start by realizing there is One who already knows everything about each and every one of us. God sees the complete picture; He has all the pieces; and He truly understands us. His love and compassion for us are not defined by how easy we are to get along with. He loves us despite our difficult parts, and He sets us a beautiful example of how to do the same with others (Romans 5:6-8).
In Matthew 7:12 Jesus tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated, otherwise known as the Golden Rule. This is not always easy to do, because our natural tendency is to retaliate when we have been hurt by the words or actions of another. “Fair is fair,” we might tell ourselves.
But true Christianity is about rising above what our human nature wants to do. It is about living as Jesus lived, for He came to show us a better way. That’s why He shared these words:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matthew 5:38-42).
This is not to say God expects us to allow someone to abuse or beat on us, or to allow someone to take our possessions. Rather, He is addressing the human desire to retaliate or take revenge. As much as we might think it is right to “make things even” with someone who hurt us, that is not what we are expected to do. Instead, we are instructed to leave the vengeance to God, who always knows exactly what is best (Romans 12:19).
Give to others what they DON’T deserve
If God were to give us what we deserve, what would we receive? Since we are all sinners, we are all deserving of death (Romans 6:23). Yet God, in His infinite love, paid the price of our sins through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He gives each of us an opportunity to have eternal life at the perfect time.
God loves all of us, and He expects us to treat others as He treats us. That’s why He says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28, emphasis added throughout).
With God’s help, these four action steps—love, do good, bless and pray—are possible, no matter how challenging someone may be.
Each of us has “trigger points” that, when set off, can and will bring out the worst in us. When we understand this about someone else, we should avoid pushing his or her “buttons.” Don’t get into pointless debates or arguments or bring up inflammatory subjects (see 2 Timothy 2:23).
We should choose our words carefully.
Everyone knows that you don’t throw gasoline on a fire to put it out—you’ll have an explosion or a raging inferno on your hands! Yet how many times do we inflame a situation with our words? Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” And in Romans 12:18 Paul writes, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
Change the subject as necessary. If that doesn’t work, perhaps you can politely excuse yourself from the conversation. At other times it may be necessary to be frank and say, “Let’s talk about something else.”
Look in the mirror
Astute observers have noted that we are all somebody else’s difficult person at least occasionally.
Sometimes the reason people rub us the wrong way can be found by simply taking a good look at ourselves and our own motivations. Some people may, at least outwardly, remind us of past hurts, which can dredge up painful memories. It’s easy to be defensive, until we stop and ask ourselves why we are reacting in that way. In doing so, we may gain some insight about ourselves that will help us in the future.
Look for the best in everyone
Remember, you don’t have all the pieces to this person’s puzzle. There are things about this person you don’t know and/or don’t understand. But God does. He can help you be kind and patient until you discover things to appreciate about the individual.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4 we read that love is patient and kind. We are not naturally that way, but God is. Go to Him in prayer and ask for Him to reveal to you what you need to know—to help you be around this person, to treat him or her with the patience and kindness with which God treats each of us.
Some people are truly damaged, and that damage often spills over and touches others. It may be that their wounds will not be healed in this lifetime, which means that we have to accept the reality and the limitations of who they are.
But though they may never change, we can, by changing our outlook toward them and our way of responding. We should think about the way we usually interact with them. Is there a different, gentler way to respond? Can we replace defensiveness with compassion? Sometimes being polite may be the best we can do, but that’s better than retaliation. Politeness goes a long way in getting along with difficult people.
When all else fails, walk away
There comes a time when it’s necessary to distance ourselves from some people—those who for whatever reason always want to antagonize or even harm you. Minimal and even no contact may be the best option in certain situations. God doesn’t expect us to stay in abusive relationships (Proverbs 22:24; also see our article “Toxic Friendships?”).
He does, however, want us to develop His mind to help us to interact with everyone in a more godly manner in the future.
People can be difficult, no doubt, and how they live may tend to bring out some of the worst in us. We need to remember that our natural reaction is not always the best way to respond. God gave us a better way—a kinder, more patient, loving way—to view and interact with others. It’s His way, and it needs to become ours as well.
For additional information about learning to treat others more as God does, see “How to Be a Good Neighbor” and the articles in our section “The Fruit of the Spirit.” From: https://lifehopeandtruth.com/relationships/friendship/dealing-with-difficult-people/
Mind Your Steps, Part 1
“How much do you think about the steps you take? What we do can have long term implications.
Transcript of YouTube: https://youtu.be/QEX67TX_rUg
[Darris McNeely] “If you see right here, I’ve not just swollen my leg and grown bigger, but I’ve actually injured my leg. I’ve torn a calf muscle. Six weeks of rehabilitation with this boot on, and a very very tender calf as I ripped the muscles in my calf. So I’m into a period of rehabilitation and it’s made me think a lot about every step I take. I have to be very careful to not step improperly, to put too much weight on my right leg. I can’t go up steps easily, I use a cane. And in all of this time, I have been rehabbing, and I have been very mindful about my steps.
Now, it’s got me to thinking about another spiritual application of this very thing. And that is how we are to be mindful about the steps of our life, in everything that we do everything we say, and the consequences of that. Because I have to be very careful now how I step. But you know what? You and I should be very careful with the actions we take, the steps we take with our life.
There’s a scripture in Psalm 17, beginning in verse 4, that talks about this. Psalms17:4-6, we can read, it says this, “Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.” Because of God’s teaching, the Psalmist is saying, “I’ve kept my paths clean, right.” He says, “Uphold my steps in Your paths that my footsteps may not slip.” Great advice, praying to God. I have kept my paths from the destroyer and to God, he says, “Uphold my steps in Your paths that my footsteps may not slip. I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God.”
It’s good advice. It’s a good prayer to me. You know, some decisions you and I make are lifelong. They have long term consequences. The job you take, the career you pursue, the person that you marry has lasting implications for the success and the happiness of your life. Get advice, get counsel, take God as your help in that.
Do what it says here to ask God to uphold your steps in His paths, that your footsteps may not slip. I’m thinking about every step that I take these days as I rehab my calf and just let it have the time to heal. Think about the steps that you take in your life and make sure that every one of them is sure.”” From: https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/beyond-today-daily/mind-your-steps-part-1
I am getting to know my way around this little city, and it is so neat. Lots of antique shops and Victorian homes. Wide tree lined roads which remind me of the historical homes in Galveston. Also, still staying busy, so much, that I have lost some weight. But I do walk more here, like going to the mail box, to the Community Room and laundry. I am not scared to walk around here, it just feels safe. Still sorting my things out, donating more things, and taking more things to my storage in Navasota. And still missing some things, which must have been put in my storage in Willis. I am hoping to get there soon. I just have to make up my mind to make the trip there and back with the sun hurting my eyes, especially on the way back driving into the sun, though wearing the big sunglasses the eye clinic gave me does help.
I don’t know why my eyes are so sensitive to the bright light, even the overhead lights bother me, so I have table lamps in strategic areas. The management said that the light bulbs must not be changed to lower wattage, they are energy efficient ones supplied by the light company. Wendy, my daughter, came to visit and helped me put up room darkening shades in my living room and bedroom windows which are pummeled by the afternoon sun. Thank goodness that I am in an “end” apartment so I have a another window on the side in my kitchen, or it would be like being in a cave. My storm door feels like an oven in the afternoons, and I have to put on sunglasses every time I go outside, to stop the glare of the white concrete pathways. Fortunately, my van is shaded by a big tree.
This was my fourth Sabbath at this church and another great service. I made German Potato Salad, and we had an array of delectable dishes and a good feed. Our pastor, who is also a chaplain at a hospital in Houston, gave his sermon in the last of a series on the subject of grief. The five stages are: First there is Denial, then Anger, then Bargaining, then Depression, then Acceptance. He is always smiling, though he sees a lot of that every day.