We all have them. People in our lives who are difficult to handle. We can tolerate them. We can normally put up with them. But dealing with them in a helpful, productive way is often more than we can manage (and I’m not even talking about loving your enemies here!).
The know-it-all. The obnoxious. The self-possessed. The nasty. They come in all shapes and sizes. The one thing that they have in common is that they know how to push our buttons. They are our difficult person.
There are various ways to deal with the difficult person. Some you can simply ignore. Some you can avoid. Some you can check off your social calendar and never deal with them again. But what about the one you have to deal with? You have no choice.
A difficult child. A difficult co-worker. A difficult relative. A difficult church member. How do you handle your difficult person when you can’t get away from them?
Here are some suggestions. Some will work for you, some might not. I’ve taken them from a variety of sources. Hopefully you can take away one or two action steps.
1. Pray for your own heart.
Ask God to soften your heart towards this person, to put off anger and irritability, to put on meekness and kindness, to understand this person’s struggles and meet them with compassion (Colossians 3:12-14).
2. Pray for them.
Ask God to be at work in their hearts (Philippians 1:9-11). Even if there are extenuating circumstances such as emotional or psychological issues God can change your circumstances.
3. Don’t Repay Evil for Evil.
Chances are that difficult person will hurt you at some time. Don’t fall into the trap of retaliating. Act godly (Romans 12:17-19). Always try to do what is right.
4. Allow God to Work in them.
The Apostle Paul wrote, vengeance is Mine, I will repay (Romans 12:19). We can too easily get caught up with the thought that God will punish them. I think the broader issuer here is that we need to let God be God and do what He knows is best. That may involve vengeance, but it may not.
5. Find specific ways to bless and encourage them.
This will look different in every situation and may not make an immediate difference. Don’t give up. You do what is right and leave the results up to God (Romans 12:17-19).
6. Give them grace, just as God extends grace to you.
Remember God’s lavish grace poured out for your own daily sins. Ask God to help you bear with them, forgiving them, as he has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13).
7. Realize that you too could be the difficult person in someone else’s life! Ouch!
You might not even realize that you are a thorn in the flesh for someone close to you. Don’t be oblivious to your own shortcomings and sins. So, when that child has you on the brink of tears, or you’re confronted with that extended family member who drives you up the wall, ask God for grace not to run away, but to keep engaging that difficult person in a godly way.
Dealing with difficult people will never be easy, but it can be a learning experience.
Let me add one more thought that I have found helpful. On my computer screen I have copied a statement from the pen of J. I. Packer. It says: If you ask, “Why is this happening?” no light may come, but if you ask, “How am I to glorify God now?” there will always be an answer.
Stay in the Word,