You Asked For It – Dealing With Difficult People

Introduction:
The reality is we’ve all experienced people with personalities that, well, let’s just say—aren’t too pleasant. Some can be slightly annoying, while others can be infuriating. It can be a spouse or a co-worker, even a person at church. Even Jesus had to endure difficult and challenging people. In fact, he was the master at it. John Ortberg, in his book, The Me I Want To Be, reminds us of the challenges Jesus faced. “The Romans wanted to silence him; Herod wanted to kill him; Pilate washed his hands of him; religious leaders envied him; his family thought he had lost his mind; his townspeople wanted to stone him; Judas betrayed him; soldiers beat him; the crowds shouted for his crucifixion; and his own disciples ran out on him.” Yet, when Jesus was on the cross, he prayed to his father saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Something To Talk About:
As we talked about during Sunday’s message, here are four things to work on when dealing with difficult people.

Refuse to be offended: Don’t take it personally. Refuse to be offended. When people are rude they are revealing themselves, not you. God says get over it. Sometimes we need to develop a thicker skin and just not be offended by so many things. On Sunday, I mentioned that we should consider the source. Look past the behavior – there is something behind the behavior. You don’t know their whole story. Knowing the hardships in someone’s life can give you an entirely new perspective and understanding of their personality. Dealing out judgment comes so easily to us, especially when we are leveling it at someone who makes our lives miserable. But if we know the rest of the story, we won’t be so quick to feel anger and annoyance. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
Refuse to gossip about them: When we have a person who is difficult, we want to relate by talking about them. It makes us feel good, but it’s unloving. You’re getting back without talking to them. Instead, talking behind their back. Gossip is incredibly destructive. Even worse, when you gossip about a difficult person, they win because now they are controlling your conversation. A great question to ask yourself is, “Would I say this if they were standing right here? Is this going to be helpful or hurtful?”
Refuse to play their games: Learn to say no to unrealistic expectations. Tell them the truth in love.  But don’t get caught up in doing things the same way they do. “We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NLT)
Refuse to be unforgiving: When someone hurts us we know the Christian thing to do is to forgive them. We should forgive them so we don’t hold onto the hurt. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is about letting go. “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

Questions:

  1. Who are the people you find the most difficult to deal with and irritate you the most? What can you learn about them this week that will help you understand their behavior and show them grace?
  2. Why is loving others often so difficult? Why is it so difficult to view these people through Gods eyes?
  3. Do you still need to forgive someone in your life? Is a lack of forgiving keeping you from just letting it go?
  4. What can we do to help us love, rather than hate, those who have wronged us? Consider Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6: 27-31 as your answer.
  5. What can we do this week differently in dealing with difficult people?

Take One Thing Home with You
When you are dealing with difficult people this week, take a moment and look into the mirror. Ask yourself whether you can be difficult too. Our natural tendency is to reflect on how other people are causing you difficulty or pain. But what about us? If we are are honest, we would have to admit that yes, we are difficult from time to time as well. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say that difficult or annoying or troublesome people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It says all have sinned. Romans 3:10 adds “None is righteous, no, not one.”

You may not be difficult or the the source of conflict this time, or maybe even in most times, but can you say that you have never been difficult to get along with? That is why the first thing we should do is look in the mirror and evaluate our own actions. Ask yourself how might I be contributing to this problem? Or have I ever made the same type of mistake that they are making and why? It is wise to be slow in judging others for their behavior or words.

The bottom line is that in most cases you cannot control your spouse’s critical nature, or your co-workers tendency to gossip about you, or your neighbor’s not wanting to tie up his dog. You may have trouble keeping the dog from digging holes in your yard, but you can control your own behavior (words, attitudes and actions). Because at the end of the day we are responsible for our behavior not the difficult people in our lives. We make the choice whether to be difficult. God is not going to hold you accountable for how others treated you, but will instead look upon your heart. “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Putting all this together, the way to deal with difficult people is to love them, pray for them, maintain a humble spirit, and relate to them in patience and kindness. But more important is the need to pray for the Spirit’s power to change our own hearts and minds toward the difficult person and enable us to see him or her as needing the same love, grace and mercy that God extended toward us.