2 Timothy 2:24
Ever had the thought, Ugh! That person! If you’ve ever found yourself running from them, dodging through the other Walmart isle, then today’s Word is for you.
How should we deal with difficult people?
- Some people in our lives may be difficult simply because they challenge us.
- Or they may be difficult because they are different.
- Or they may be difficult because we live with them (and close proximity amplifies foibles).
- Or they may be difficult because we are difficult and something about us just rubs them the wrong way.
- Or they may just be difficult.
Regardless, by growing in Christ we can learn to accept the inconvenient, the and the bothersome people in our life, not just as necessary nuisances, but as gifts. Seeing difficult people in this way may seem like a tall order, but we can start by learning to deal with other people the way Jesus did.
Ok, So what were some ways that Jesus dealt with difficult people?
- Jesus Asks Questions: In Chapter 12:13-14 of Luke, Jesus is asked to settle a family dispute and basically responds, “Who do you think I am, Judge Judy?” It is interesting to note that Jesus asks a lot of questions in Scripture. Jesus’ questions were sometimes rhetorical, or challenging, and at other times he was also seeking feedback. By using questions, Jesus emphasizes his openness to the other person.
- We tend not to ask a lot of questions. We assume, we lecture, we observe, we interrupt and we judge.
- In using questions frequently, I think Jesus is modeling the behavior of a good communicator, one who cares about the other person enough to engage with them and challenge them. Even, and perhaps especially, when they are being difficult.
- Jesus Is Never Cornered: In Chapter 6:1-11 of Luke, Jesus is taking a Sabbath stroll with his disciples and the Pharisees pop up out of nowhere and accuse them of breaking the Sabbath by picking grain. Jesus is unflustered. He is never scared of the people who try to slip him up or think the worst of him, because what other people think is not his focus.
- Sometimes people corner us with their assumptions and judgments and we can begin to wonder if the way they see us is more objective than how we see ourselves.
- It is hard when we feel like others misunderstand us or do not take the time to get to know us before judging. But, like Jesus, we do not have to feel defined by the projections of other people. Our identity resides and is found in God, not in what other people try to push on us.
- Jesus Knows When to Ignore: Remember that time when Jesus ticks off all of his former neighbors and friends in his hometown of Nazareth? They are so worked up that they decide to throw him off a cliff. Jesus, seeing that there is no reasoning with these people, walks through the crowd, ignores their rage, and “went on his way” (Luke 4:14-28).
- Sometimes difficult people throw tantrums, speak harshly or treat us in an abusive way.
- This is the cue to disengage and walk away. Jesus knew how to keep his blood pressure in check and his eyes on the prize. Of course, if we have to deal assertively with someone who does this in person, a face-to-face discussion might help. Later.
- Jesus Is Not Defensive: In Chapter 10:35-45 of Mark, James and John say to Jesus: “We want you to do for us a favor and place us next to you in honor on your throne.” Wow! Talk about overstepping boundaries! But Jesus is not codependent, so neediness and boundary crossing is not threatening to him. He knows when to say no and when to say yes and does not beat himself up when he doesn’t make other people happy.
- Sometimes people can demand more from us than what we can give them. They may try to sway us with guilt trips. Before we know it we find ourselves bending over backward trying to satisfy a needy or aggressive person (who is rarely satisfied!). But Jesus does not try to people please. Jesus does not need to protect himself from other people; God’s will is enough security. This is where his non-defensiveness comes from.
- Jesus Is Flexible: In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman interrupts Jesus to heal his daughter and Jesus 1st says no. But then he is moved by the woman’s response of faith and heals her daughter. Jesus approaches others with an open mind. Even when he had preconceived notions, he allowed the Spirit to move him and go against his instincts.
We all have difficult people in our lives that try to bring us down. It is so easy to get frustrated and angry at people who act like this. It is also easy to take their words to heart, cause them to stop us in our tracks, and never pursue the dream that the Lord has planted in us. Don’t let these people DRAG you down to their level, but if possible, bring them up to your level! How?
Consider Their Background (Not excusing their behavior, but seeing the bigger picture)
- Rough Childhood - As we all know, our childhood shapes a lot of who we are. Sometimes when people have less than loving childhoods (verbal/emotional abuse) it is only natural for them to do to others what has been done to them. This does not make it right. The best thing we can do is try and build up what has been torn down in them.
- Low Self Esteem - Sometimes those with low self esteem will try to bring down others. They feel they have no worth so therefore they have to diminish others. As hard as it may be not to lash back, respond with a kind and loving word. Point out something they are really good at and let them know.
- Poor Choices - When we make poor choices, we suffer the consequences. It can be hard to look around and see how others seem to ‘have it together’. If someone is trying to bring you down in this regard, reach out and ask how you can help them.
- Are They Stuck In Their Own Failures? - Sometimes people get caught up in their own failures, therefore, they do not want to see others succeed. In feeling this way, they feel like they have to discourage everyone around them.
Zig Ziglar is quoted, as saying “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
As Christians, we should show compassion in all these situations rather than getting angry. Chances are God has rescued us from these and other situations.
- A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. -2 Timothy 2:24 (NLT)
- 21 If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. 22 You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you. - Proverbs 25:21-22
When they try to Drag you down, Remember Your Value & Worth
- We must remember that our worth and value is not in those around us. Our value and worth are in the Lord.
- We all have value because we have all been blessed with talents and gifts.
- He has created all of us uniquely and we are all valuable to him beyond measure.
- We Must Turn The Other Cheek And Keep Moving Ahead
- When people try to bring us down we must let if fall on deaf ears.
- We need to continue to pursue the dreams the Lord has placed in us and the roads on which He is leading us.
- If we are having an off day, forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make, and make an effort to enjoy the rest of our day.
Listen closely to the Lord’s guidance in our hearts on how to specifically handle a situation.
- When a difficult person approaches us, we may think, Oh great, here we go again, or I know how this will go, but Jesus kept an open mind when he was approached by others. You never know. The Spirit may move you, or the person who is normally difficult, to act in a different, unexpected way. Being closed to others closes us to the Holy Spirit who is working in us and in the other person.
- The most important thing we can do for these people (other than not lashing back) is to pray for them. Take the time to get to know the people that tear you down and are difficult.
- Get inside their lives, thoughts and emotions. Then pray as specifically as you can about their situation.
- Reach out to them and help them if you can.
- If there is something they have always dreamed of doing, encourage them to go for it.
- If it is something you know a lot about, offer to mentor them.
- If they are suffering from past hurts but don’t know how to get past it, research some good, Christian therapists in your area and pass on the information.
- If they are struggling with a self-esteem issue, point out all the good characteristics and talents they have. Compliment them at least once a week when/if you see them.
“See…We’re transforming our minds…”
You never know what will become of the seeds you plant in love.
Jesus, help me see you in everyone, even the people who challenge me. Light me up with your radiant love so that I may see you even in the most difficult of people. Every one is made in your image. Help me to recognize you and love you in them. Please help me when those around me try to bring me down. Help me to keep my natural human tendencies in check and not to retaliate back. Quietly remind me where my true worth and value really lie. Give me comfort in knowing that You are leading me on a better path and give me the strength to continue pursuing it. Please clear my heart of any issues that will hinder me from praying for those around me. In Your Name I pray. Amen.