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Are you discipling a demanding person—someone who leaves you feeling perpetually frustrated? Haggai 1:6 provides an accurate description of a demanding disciple: unproductive, ungrateful, hard to please, never satisfied, and self-indulgent. No matter how much you pour into a demanding disciple, chances are it will never be enough.
Should you give up on such a person? Not necessarily! But you will need to tackle the root of selfishness that is often at the heart of demanding behavior.
One way to attack selfishness is to teach, model, and practice its opposite: servanthood. Philippians 2:4 exhorts us to "look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
You can apply this to your demanding disciple by providing her with natural opportunities for service. The next time you have a major project to do at home, ask her to come over and give you a hand with it. Suggest acts of service you can do together: preparing food in a soup kitchen, helping a neighbor move, or doing yard work for an elderly person.
If Scripture memory is part of your discipleship program, learn together several verses that emphasize the importance of giving and putting others first. Choose from among the following:
1 Cor. 10:24
2 Cor. 9:6–7
1 Pet. 4:9
Explore the Scriptures together for examples of the consequences of selfishness (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, Achan in Joshua 7, Haman in the book of Esther) and the blessings of generosity (Dorcas in Acts 9:36–41, the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, the good Samaritan in Lk. 10:30–37).
It is also critical that you clearly communicate boundaries. Many demanding people are that way because no one has told them it is inappropriate behavior. Let the person you are discipling know where you draw the line (for example, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't call during dinner because that is a very important family time for us").
There is no quick cure for a demanding disciple, but as you communicate boundaries, model servanthood, give her opportunities to practice serving, and as you pray for Christ to transform her, you may be glad you didn't give up.
© 2006 by Rebecca Livermore, a Christian speaker and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her passion is helping people grow spiritually. To read more of her articles on Christian living, and to check out her always growing selection of Christian resource materials, visit http://www.rebeccalivermore.com .
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Oh, am I glad you put this in there! So many young people have bad manners, show no courtesy and respect, do not say "thank you", etc. I keep thinking, "Why aren't their parents telling them that is inappropiate behavior?" Telling a friend not to call during dinner is teaching that friend there are priorities, and your priority at dinner time is your family. I believe you have made some good points and have encouraged gentleness in handling these issues. Thanks for sharing.