“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Life is full of difficult people. People who anger us, or rub us the wrong way, or are insensitive, or ill-mannered or loud or the one person who drives you completely crazy. Maybe they say sly insults, tell bad jokes, invade our personal space or are flat out obnoxious. They can be family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, even people in your small group. Whatever they do or however they get under our skin, they can cause damage to our walk with God.
As Christians, do we need to change or cope with difficult people? Christ calls us to love selflessly and ceaselessly. Does that include difficult people? Are we supposed to make nice, force a smile, while inside we want to be thousands of miles away with anybody but this person? How can we love somebody who is making it as difficult as they can to love them. How can we show genuine love when there is anger and disdain percolating just below the surface?
The answer is we can’t. At least not on our own.We occasionally have trouble loving even those who are dearest to us. So you can imagine how we could fall short when it comes to loving difficult people. The only true source of compassion, strength, and love is God. If we rely completely on God’s love and forgiveness for us, we can then draw from his infinite grace to love the difficult people in our lives. If you know you’re about to enter into an interaction with a difficult person, appeal to the Holy Spirit for strength, compassion, and patience. Through him, you have the power to represent Christ—even in the most trying of circumstances. Remember that your kindness and empathy could portray the gospel to someone who needs it.
The Bible has all sorts of practical advice about how to interact with people. Sometimes we may feel as though the Bible is distant and unrelated to today’s culture, but upon closer inspection, we can see that human nature hasn’t really changed. The Bible remains and is still relevant to our lives.
It is hard, but try not to take everything personally. Let things go. Pray for discernment about whether to confront an issue or let it go. It’s difficult to know when we should call out an offense or drop it. We don’t want to seem upset or ruffled all the time, but we also don’t want to bottle up all our frustrations until they erupt. We can become so caught up in proving a point or keeping our pride intact that we start to forget that we are as human as everyone else. A humble attitude admits to faults and views others as equals, instead of inferiors.
As I said on Sunday, don’t gossip. There’s nothing more tempting than blowing off steam with a group of understanding friends after an encounter with an obnoxious coworker or acquaintance. We want their feedback and sympathy or maybe we just want to talk it out. This is natural and often helpful for our peace of mind. But we must be careful not to indulge in slander or gossip. Venting should be about healing our wounds and being encouraged, not about dragging the difficult person’s name through the mud in order to feel superior to them.
Ephesians 4:32 puts it best: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Jesus is the reason we can each love deeply, joyfully, and freely.
- Is it possible to love people you don’t even like? Could you find something to love in difficult people?
- How do you define love when it comes to difficult people?
- Do difficult people determine your actions?
- What makes loving difficult people consistently so hard?
- How can we let things go rather than dwell on them?
- Pray and ask God to help you love someone you don’t like this week.