We’ve all encountered difficult people; those who have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and seemingly their bed was against the wall. How do we deal with them?
The typical first reaction is to avoid them and quietly, perhaps even subconsciously, wish them away or upon someone else. Unfortunately, avoidance, though the most commonly employed problem-solving method, is the least effective.
Christians are encouraged to get along with people, difficult or otherwise. Jesus taught in His second great commandment that we should love others as ourselves.
Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”
This doesn’t mean full agreement or acceptance of everyone and everything. It does mean that we should not intentionally try to anger or upset people, but put forth every effort to interact harmoniously and keep peace with them.
Jesus, the Prince of peace, provided His followers with substantial motivation by saying that “peacemakers will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Respect is a very good starting point. It is the boomerang virtue … if you don’t give it, you’re not likely to get it back.
Colossians 4:6 states that our speech or conversation should be “gracious, as well as sensible,” and Proverbs 15:1 teaches that, “A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.”
Self-examination is also helpful.
At some point, we need to admit that we’re all capable of being difficult and simultaneously ask ourselves if we are being so in the current situation.
While the avoidance mentioned earlier is not very productive, wisely withdrawing after valid attempts to positively communicate has its place.
1 Timothy 6:5, speaking of those who engage us in angry, endless debates, says to “withdraw yourself” from them.
Try not to take every negative encounter personally. It doesn’t make getting blasted any more pleasant, but it’s good to know that these situations are often simply a matter of our being in the wrong place.
People will often take out their anger or frustration on the nearest person, rather than on the guilty party.
Consequently, those situations place a burden on us that isn’t legitimately ours. However, that in turn affords us the opportunity of being Christ-like, by “bearing one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2)
It’s important to pray about the situation and for the person you find challenging and employ forgiveness where necessary. It’s impossible to hold grudges or to hate even the most cantankerous person if you truly bring them into God’s throne room.
Finally, God uses people (including difficult ones) in our lives.
Viewing them as teachers rather than enemies can grow our faith, broaden our horizon, enrich our character and deepen our commitment to HIM …
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor of Erskine Evangelical Free Church.
— Faith & Reflection