Iím not asking much. If I canít get along with the whole world, I would be happy just to get along with the people in my office. It isnít everyone, just a few difficult ones that are positioned just in the right places to make you miserable. With nearly six billion people in the world, we have little choice but to try to cope with the difficult people in our lives.
We try to be Christ-like and love everybody like the Bible tells us to do but, letís face reality here, it is certain that we will have a least one person in our lives who try our patience, get on our last nerve and test the limits of our Salvation.
We might as well admit the fact that there is no place that exists where you will have perfect harmony with everyone. Oddly enough, you won't even find it in a church. Isn't it strange how you and I can sit here right now and think of at least one person in our lives that we wish would get another job, get a transfer or just simply go take a smoke break? Sometimes we even pray that God would move them or move us and THEN we would be happy right? We falsely assume that our lives will finally have peace when we are delivered from the difficult person. Wrong. You and I know exactly what happens don't we? When that person leaves there are two others that replace that one. It makes us wonder about Godís sense of humor doesnít it?
We canít always wish or pray away the difficult people in our lives. If we can't achieve perfect harmony in our relationships with people then we have to find some way to deal with them. We need to understand why difficult people are the way they are. I know we might say that we don't really care but we should try to examine people who seem intent on making our lives miserable. Why are they like that? Consider these reasons:
#1 - People have baggage.
Television evangelist Joyce Meyer always makes the statement that "hurting people hurt people". When I first heard that statement I thought it was just another cutesy statement she came up with, but in reality when you actually see into the depths of some people you understand that this is true. We all have some kind of insecurity. There are some who have been hurt deeply or betrayed in their past and this puts them more defensive in their relationships with others. They may put up several layers of defense as a way to protect themselves from being hurt. We have to understand that people aren't all going to be like us and, instead, if we pay attention to what the difficult person needs, then we might be able to change the relationship for the better.
#2 - Physical Problems
People who suffer physical pain can sometimes be a pain to those around them. The woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22) was probably considered a nuisance by her family and her neighbors because she was always going to the doctor. Mark 5:26 even tells that she spent all she had. When people have physical problems, the focus is on getting rid of the pain, not relationships with people. This focus often hinders the effort into developing relationships because of the pain. I know that when I have had periods of illness in my own life that I havenít always been good in my attitude toward people around me. If you are not accustomed to bad health, it has a way of humbling you. Physical pain has a way of making life a little more difficult and requiring more effort.
#3 Ė Childhood
The way we are raised as children has a tremendous impact on how we develop our interpersonal skills. Someone who has been abused or neglected as a child will probably have a lot of problems in getting along with others because of all the insecurities and suspicions they have in the motives of other people. Much of our self-esteem or lack of self-esteem today was established from our childhood. Sometimes these insecurities are imbedded very deeply. Emotional pain from childhood can remain as emotional scars in adults. Our nation has a serious problem with the home. Children are growing up without a mother or a father. This significantly stacks the odds against a child and result in defective self worth.
#4 Ė Bad Life Experiences
Some people have been through very traumatic experiences such as death, betrayal or divorce which have significantly impacted their lives. I have heard some preachers get behind a pulpit and tell people to just, ďGet over itĒ but until we have been through the same things ourselves I donít think any of us have room to stand up and tell anyone else to just ďget overĒ the bad experiences in our lives. I am sure you would agree with me that life has many twists and turns along the way. We may be enjoying life today but we could be one doctorís report away from tragedy. Bad things do happen to good people but bad things can result in good if we allow God to be in control rather than allowing our experiences control us. (Romans 8:28)
#5 Ė Personality Differences.
Letís just face it Ė we are all different. God didnít create us to be exactly alike. Even people with similar personalities can still have problems getting along. We are all unique in our ways. Something which may seem normal to me may be a bit peculiar to you. Weíre just not all built the same way. I have a few in my own life that just hearing their voice irritates me. Iím having to pray hard about my attitude toward them since they obviously have no clue of how I feel. That sounds bad doesnít it but Iím being real about it. Weíre not always going to feel warm and gooey about everyone. As shocking as it may sound, sometimes WE can be that difficult person! Itís a lot like that song that children sing that says: ďHeís still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.Ē
The Bible tells us that we should make allowances for others but there are some people who hide behind the statement that ďitís just the way I amĒ as a cover for any difficult personality traits they might have. I think this mindset is a cop out for people to hide behind. Itís easier to use that thinking rather than taking the initiative to change. It is true that Jesus will take you just as you are but a change must occur when your life is truly changed. We can sing ďJust As I AmĒ but there is a change coming to where we become a new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So how can we get along with difficult people, be a Christian and resist the temptation to cuss them out? There are seven ways we can do it but in no way will it be easy to do without the power of the Holy Spirit to help us. Donít try these without His help:
#1 Ė Cut them some slack. Yes, I know how we REALLY hate to hear this one but itís true. What if YOU were the ďdifficult personĒ? Would you want someone to cut you some slack or wish that a bus would hit you in the street? Now THAT is quite a revelation when you look at it that way! We tend to be judgmental until we are the ones that deserve judgment. We suddenly plead for mercy. Whether we like it or not, it does work both ways.
#2 Ė Pray. Prayer works. I once had a supervisor that was difficult. Everyday was a new ďadventureĒ at work because you never knew what mood they would be in on any given day. My job is already stressful so you can imagine how much more stressful it was to have a supervisor that was so difficult. One day my supervisor totally humiliated me in front of my co-workers in a staff meeting. I had enough of this treatment and from that day on I started praying for the situation by asking the Lord to either move me or move my supervisor. Guess what happened? He did both. He moved me and my supervisor. Of course, the answer to this prayer took about a year, but prayer worked. I didnít pray for any harm, I prayed for strength until deliverance came for me. Even if God chooses not to move either one, pray that God will change YOU in the process.
#3 Ė Speak positive words. Oh, it is so easy to gossip about the difficult people in our lives isnít it? Gossip can blindside you and suck you into its grip. We just need to vent about our enemies donít we? Itís easy to whimp out and take the easy way out. I encourage us to take the higher way and speak positive (or whatever positive you can find) or say nothing at all. When you speak negative words about the difficult person, it also makes you negative in the process and increases the difficult personís effect on your life. (Proverbs 25:11)
#4 Ė Overcome evil with good. Nothing is harder than to be good to someone who is treating you mean. Jesus commands us to do this when we are treated unfairly. (Matthew 5:44) Instead of doing evil, try the opposite and be good. Our society is so obsessed with revenge. If you upset someone, they will wait for the right opportunity to get you back. Donít be quick to seek revenge on someone for doing you wrong, instead look for the opportunities to do good regardless of how you are being treated. This is the key to spiritual power. When you overcome evil with good, you will have an impact on the difficult people. (Romans 12:20-21) It may not be immediately but if you do it long enough, God will work on your behalf.
#5 Ė Use Wisdom If Confrontation Is Necessary. Ultimately we will all be in a situation where we have to confront the difficult person. Never do it in the heat of the moment because we will be tempted to fire back. There is a right way and a wrong way to confront people. Just because we are followers of Christ does not mean we have to cower down to everyone and be whimps. We can stand up for ourselves when the occasion arises and if there is a time to confront someone, we shouldnít assume that we are supposed to avoid all confrontations.
#6 Ė Recognize that the difficult people can make you stronger. God has placed them in your life for a reason. Until he sees fit to remove them, try to recognize the opportunity you have to be refined. We may not like it but until God changes the situation, there must be a reason He is allowing it. Is it a divine appointment? God doesnít always share His plans with us so we can only work with the situation we have. Your life may be the only Bible someone will read. Every life has an impact on someone. Maybe you are the one that can reach that lost soul you have been assigned to work with or that roommate who has a void in their life which can only be filled by Godís love. Work with the hand that God deals you.
#7 Ė Donít ignore them. Do not live in fear of difficult people.
I know what you are thinking about these seven things I have just listed. I didnít say they were easy things to do when that difficult person is humiliating you in front of others or using every cuss word in the profanity vocabulary at point blank range of your face. The devil is going to strategically put these people in your life as God allows. Remember that ó God ALLOWS him to do this. Just as God allowed Satan to afflict Job and take everything from him, God will allow Satan to afflict our lives with difficult people BUT there is a reason. Are we going to endure the difficult people for nothing? Donít give into the temptation to retaliate. You wonít win in a vengeance competition. Everybody loses and the greatest loss will be souls in an eternal hell. You may think the place you are in is hell right now but it is nothing in comparison to the eternal punishment we face without Jesus Christ.
People do not need religion. They have seen it and experienced it with all of itís hypocrisy and they are sick of it! People are looking for a real God that lives through people. Stop talking the King James Version language with the ďtheeĒ and ďthouĒ to be impressive. Donít quote scriptures ó live the scriptures.
The only way to truly deal with difficult people is by the example Jesus set for us. He always spoke the truth with love. He never intimidated, threatened or ignored difficult people. Follow His example and you will discover the secret of spiritual power.