When you hear the words “difficult people,” who comes to mind? Your siblings, a parent, your boss or coworker? Maybe it’s your teacher? Maybe it’s an internet bully? We all have difficult people in our lives. Especially as Christians, we may have to put up with them even more. These people may be hard to please, grouchy, unreasonable, critical (maybe excessively so), impatient, bitter, et cetera. It’s not always easy being around such people. In fact, it can be just plain hard. We may dislike them or even worse, hate them. If God commands us to love–I mean, really love–everyone, how does He expect us to love the unlovable? How does He expect us to deal with them? And how do we go about understanding the difficult people in our lives? I attempt to answer these questions below.
Firstly, know that Jesus always dealt with very difficult people. The disciples were difficult. Jesus’ enemies were especially difficult. Jesus set a perfect example of how to deal with difficult people.
- He became righteously angry with His accusers and opposers (Mark 10:13-14). Jesus wasn’t petty. He never became angry because someone was breathing the wrong way. He became angry every time others displeased God. He became angry when people were greedy, hypocrites, lukewarm…things of sinful nature. As children of God, the only anger we should experience is righteous anger. So we should not get all up in our feelings just because some rude people call us names and talk down to us. Instead, it is wise to get angry when we see people being rude to others and living unrighteously for example. We are more than how difficult people treat us. Way more.
- Jesus asked difficult people thought provoking questions (Luke 12:57). He did this to challenge the sinful behaviors of unbelievers and to make them better people. Sometimes we just have to give hard people in our lives a different perspective; perhaps a better way of looking at life. This may open their eyes and help them see how harshly or unfair they are coming across to other people. I did this with my boss recently (I share this experience near the end of this post!).
- Jesus stayed true to God and His word while He was being tempted (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus wasn’t playing when Satan was tempting Him! This enemy tempted Jesus three times. First he commanded Jesus to turn some stone into bread. Then he tried showing Jesus all the material goods He could attain if He only bowed down and worshipped him! Lastly, Satan told Jesus to jump off the highest point of the Temple (because he claimed that His angels will catch Him)! Jesus resisted the devil three times before he fled and went away.
- Jesus was unbothered by difficult people (Luke 6:1-11). It was the Sabbath and someone needed healing. The Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if Jesus was going to work on resting day. Jesus knew that they were going to accuse Him of working on the Sabbath if He healed the person’s hand. But Jesus was unbothered by the accusers and did not let Him stop from what He was led to do. Jesus was very flexible with the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus prayed for harsh people (Luke 23:34). Jesus had nothing but pure love for everyone…including the difficult people He dealt with. This love led Him to pray for God to forgive them of their sinful acts. Many harsh people are not aware of the weight of their sin; that’s why Jesus said “for they know not what they do.” Those sinners did not know Who they were trying it with! In the same way, we must pray for those who sin against us. It’s a true act of love and spiritual maturity.
There are things we should know about difficult people. I don’t think that people are just born bitter and grouchy. If anything, the environment they grew up in more than likely made them that way. There is something inside of them or something that happened in their lives that they haven’t fully healed from. Many difficult people are angry in life and they may take this anger out on anyone around them, especially if someone does something to irk them. Like I said, it’s not at all easy being around these people and we may even count them our enemies. These people may take our kindness for weakness and be unappreciative no matter how hard you try. But that is not our fault. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with us but everything to do with how they perceive things.
I know my boss at work is very impatient and difficult to work with sometimes. I do feel underappreciated when she seems to overlook my accomplishments and criticizes the one mistake that I made. It gets bothersome. But I’m genuinely thankful for my job and I’ve learned how to graciously deal with her toughness without getting too offended.
How should we genuinely love and deal with them the way God wants us to?
Our enemies are people too. One of the greatest things that we have in common with our enemies is that God created us both. They have needs and insecurities just as we do. Difficult people are the unlovables who desperately need love. We should never respond to their harshness with harsh words, but instead respond with genuine love and kindness (I cannot stress Proverbs 15:1 enough!). Even if they push you away, you never know if you’re planting seeds of righteousness. Also know that God is pleased with you because by showing those difficult people the fruits of the Spirit, you are winning because He is glorified. For this reason, though, you may make them feel uncomfortable with your Godliness. But remember 1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (KJV).
I want to share a brief experience I just had. After a year of working at my job, I finally addressed by boss’ harshness. As easygoing and as quiet as I am, it was one of the hardest things for me to do. My heart was racing as I spoke to my boss this past Saturday. I pulled her aside and gently, yet firmly, told her, “I’m a really nice person, probably the nicest you’ll ever meet. I really enjoy working here, but when I find out I have to work with you I get really nervous because you’re very harsh and impatient.” I also told her, “If you want me to perform better, I need a different approach.”
She smiled and nodded as I spoke. She appreciated what I had to say and understood everything. Whew! I definitely got through to her because, being that I spoke to her before my shift began, I noticed a change not only in how she treated me throughout the day, but in how she treated my coworkers! She told me that she is pretty hard on anyone there. Every time she corrected me, I noticed that she was a lot less fussy and frazzled than usual. And it was one of our busiest days. Praise God! He directed me to address my boss so He could move in the workplace and I praise Him for giving me the courage to do so. And I believe that He dealt with the mean spirit that my boss was dealing with.
We must love difficult people as Jesus loves. After all, sometimes we can be difficult but God still loves us like crazy! He calls us to love others the same way. What good will it do if we only love those who love us? We must love those who don’t seem too fond of us either…even if we’re not too fond of them. We may only want to be around unlovable for so long. It can be good for us to keep a physical distance from those hard people. But if we’re having to share the same atmosphere as them (for instance, at work), we must try our best to live peacefully among them.
God does not want us to clap back and get “even” with the difficult people in our lives. Believe me, the struggle is real. There are so many times I want to get sassy at work…so much that I have to ask God to forgive me for even thinking about talking back! But I must remember to die to myself daily and stay led by the Holy Spirit. Even when the Holy Spirit prompts us to be a blessing to the cranky ones, we should obey. They may need a blessing that God wants to give them through us (Romans 12:20).
Part 2—”When You’re A Difficult Person”— coming SOON 🙂