Chances are that you have encountered difficult people countless times in your life. Maybe at your job, possibly at your church, perhaps even in your own family. It seems like difficult people can crop up just about anywhere.
As Christians we are called to love everyone, Matthew 22:37-40, but how can you love someone when you can’t even tolerate them?
In this article, I will discuss some of the reasons why people are difficult and ways you can not only deal with difficult people but learn to love them in the way Jesus modeled.
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Alright, let’s dive in!
What makes people difficult?
Well, there are a lot of reasons why people are difficult…
Sometimes people are difficult simply because your personalities do not mesh. You’re almost like oil and water together – you just can’t mix.
This is best understood when a “Type A” personality and a “Type B” personality have to work on a project together. Type A might want to address the task in an organized and methodical manner, following a schedule of tasks to be completed on time and so forth. The B personality person may feel constricted and confined because they don’t work that way. Similarly, the A personality feels out of control and anxious if there aren’t deadlines and order. Neither of these two different personalities are wrong, they’re just different. They don’t work well together because they simply don’t work the same.
It’s almost like looking at two different artists. One is a classical painter and the other is a cubism artist. They paint differently, but each does beautiful work. However, collaboration would be difficult because they are so different in their styles. While it would be possible to work together, it will undoubtedly be challenging because they each paint differently and are trained uniquely.
So it is with some people we have a hard time working with. One of the reasons may simply be because we are just wired differently and it makes a difficult environment.
Not Being A Disciple
This point pertains to difficult people that are also Christians.
I want to be very cautious here and not lead you in the direction of judging, because that is not at all the goal and it is not what God calls to do (Matthew 7:1-6).
So as we hold that in the forefront of our minds, let us continue as I tenderly say that some Christians out there are unfortunately not being transformed into Jesus’ likeness. They are continually sinning, and even though they confess Jesus is Lord, they are not active as a disciple.
These can be some of those most difficult people to encounter because they are Christians but they are not allowing God to shape and mold their hearts and actions. These people can cause a lot of pain and turmoil, especially within churches, but that is another topic for another day.
Hurt, Confused, and Needing Jesus
Then there is the vast world of difficult people and the reason for this is simply because they are hurting.
A lot of them don’t even realize they are hurting – it has just become their lifestyle.
You see, the choices we make shape and mold us. When we do not bring everything to the Lord, things really don’t get healed properly and we simply cope. However, our coping mechanisms are incomplete and are just a band-aid. Furthermore, many people don’t know Jesus and there isn’t a lot of hope for change if they don’t know the Savior.
So many people are walking around just trying to get through the day.
With the pandemic, people’s mental health has suffered as they became more anxious and depressed. So many people are carrying around a lot and simply trying to survive. What happens when people operate in this manner is that they may be able to carry on, but eventually cracks and fissures emerge and they begin to crumble-often slowly through harsh comments, impatience, anger, bitterness, and sometimes innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfire.
Again, people are difficult for a variety of reasons but the above are just some of the most prominent reasons.
Let us move forward by looking at how Jesus dealt with difficult people.
Jesus and Difficult People
Jesus constantly dealt with difficult people, yet we never see Him brooding in anger, or stuck in disbelief and offense at people’s actions. Rather, when Jesus encountered difficult people He was kind of like Teflon – nothing seemed to stick to Him. Jesus was never deeply bothered at how people treated Him-could you imagine a life like that?
Was it that Jesus didn’t care or really wasn’t affected? Was it that Jesus was above all of this and how people acted simply didn’t bother Him?
Well, to look at Jesus like that would be erroneous because Jesus, of course, was fully God and yet at the same time fully human (John 1:14). But Jesus didn’t operate in His divinity while on Earth, did you know that? Jesus depended, just like you and me, on the work of the Holy Spirit. So everything Jesus did was done through the power of God and His dependency on God. If it were not so, Jesus wouldn’t be a model for us, but rather a contrast of something we could never be like.
Everything Jesus did, was to show us how to be someone yoked to God for the source of their everything.
Jesus’ life was about so much more than simply bringing us a wonderful opportunity for eternal life in Heaven. In fact, Jesus showed us what it was like to bring life to the fullest here and now (John 10:10).
How we achieve life to the fullest is by allowing God to continually shape and mold and restore us in His likeness.
Now with that all being said, this all aligns perfectly with how you deal with difficult people. Because it is rather quite simple.
How you deal with difficult people, in a broad sense and in the way Jesus did, is by becoming more like Jesus. You depend on God for all of your strength.
Jesus was able to deal with all the difficult people because He knew who He was. Jesus was closely and intricately woven together with the Spirit so that God’s voice was loud and clear in His life. Jesus had no confusion on why people were mean or harmful to Him. He understood brokenness and sin. He knew beyond a doubt why people were doing what they were doing to Him, and yet, Jesus was blameless, sinless (1 Peter 2:22).
It is possible to be more like Jesus, but it requires dedication and perseverance.
As you begin or continue your journey to become like Jesus, I want to give you some practical tips on how to deal with difficult people.
So let’s move from broad strokes about dealing with difficult people by becoming more like Jesus and begin sketching a detailed approach on how to practically deal with difficult people.
How to Deal with Difficult People as a Christian
Below are some tips I have created for you to practically deal with difficult people
- It’s Your Choice- It’s very easy to get caught up in someone’s ugliness. Sometimes it unavoidable. But you can always choose to not carry it. This is achieved by turning to God over and over. Whenever you’re dealing with a difficult person and they lash out on you, you always have the option to turn to God and simply tell Him how you feel and ask Him to restore you. You will probably have to do this a multiude of times. The great news is that will lead you to more prayer and connection to God, and that is always the most benefical thing for us. God will lead you through the feelings in His time and His way, but stay attentive to turning to Him and keep expressing your hurt and feelings. He will lead you through it. Sometimes it may take days, or even weeks or months, depending on how severe the encounter was. But this is the BEST way to deal with difficult people who hurt you.
- You Can’t Change Them BUT… – As the old saying goes you can’t change anyone but yourself. This wisdom is invaluable and necessary for dealing with difficult people. People are going to be difficult for a variety of reasons, but if you stop focusing on them and instead lift your eyes to yourself and more importantly to God, then you can stand on stronger ground. You usually can’t do anything about the other person, but you CAN do something about yourself, by choosing to respond differently, or to create some boundaries.
- Understand Yourself Better – Look, a lot of issues arise when we simply don’t understand what makes us tick. For example, when I was in seminary I took a teaching class and learned about different learning styles. I was dumbstruck to know that people learn in four different ways, according to this model. When I learned what learning style I was, I found comfort in this knowledge and understood myself even better. It’s amazing what happens when you learn something new about yourself. Maybe you don’t deal well with certain types of people because of a personallity traits they have that reminds you of a past trauma. Discovering your triggers and exploring why certain people bug you can help you deal with them in the future. In some cases, I would recommend to talk to a trained therapist to help you deal with this deeper. Check out personality tests, such as the Enneagram which is one of the best personality tests out there to not only understand yourself but to understand others. It could be very helpful.
How To Love Difficult People
In our final section, I am going to explain the ways you can follow Jesus’ command to love all people, which He placed only second to loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.
But again, how can love someone when you can’t stand them?
In reality, this is a very deep topic and would require its own exploration, but for the purposes of this article on how to deal with difficult people and love them like Jesus, I will present some summarized points below.
Jesus drew His worth from the Father
Many people were against Jesus, particularly the religious leaders of the time who were constantly challenging Jesus’ identity and trying to get Him to stop doing what He was doing. But Jesus didn’t let them bother Him because He knew who He was and knew they were wrong.
Jesus knew that people didn’t know what they were doing
The whole reason Jesus came was to help the people of God actually follow God. The Tribe of Israel constantly stumbled and fell over and over again throughout the history of the Old Testament. God knew this was because they were in need of Him to help them become restored and show them just how He wanted them to live. Jesus was and is our model for how to live in this world. And what Jesus modeled the best wasn’t love for others, nor was it miracles and healings. Rather, it was His love for the Father that was the most impressive thing about Jesus.
Jesus placed nothing before the will of God. He exhibited a life of humble and loving submission to the Father. He could do amazing things because He had His eyes in the right place and He shows all of us what life looks like when it is heavily yoked to the Father.
Knowing the Love of God Personally First
Before we can love our enemies we must love ourselves. When Jesus talks about the greatest commandment He states in Matt. 22:37-39, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Do you notice what He says there in verse 39 that your love for your neighbor should be the same kind of love as you have for yourself? But what if your self-love is low or incomplete or broken? I don’t think there is a human out there that hasn’t struggled with self-love at some point in their journey. We all need to be rooted in love, especially love that is informed and grown by God.
Since this is such a complex and deep topic, I have a great article/video lesson (you can choose whatever format best suits you) about how to receive God’s love that will be perfect for you to grow in God’s love for yourself.
In this resource, I provide you with 6 ways you can work on better receiving God’s love that you can enact right now. You can access this resource here.
Closing Thoughts And Additional Resources
It’s not easy to deal with difficult people. Furthermore, it’s near impossible to do this apart from God. Understand that dealing with difficult people is complex and unique. This is why dependency on God is crucial because each of our situations are distinctive and we need the direction of God to find our way through.
- How is your connection with God?
- Is it growing and thriving?
- Are you connecting daily in purposeful time and dedication?
How connected you are to God and your relationship is how you overcome anything. It’s not that problems or hardships won’t befall you, but rather because of your solid foundation you will be prepared for anything life throws your way.
If you are looking for a plan to stay connected to God every day that fits your unique life, you might want to check out Forevergreen, my membership for people who are looking for a deeper and more powerful connection to God and for ways to build unshakable faith in their lives.
Forevergreen is a wonderful daily regiment of focused quite-time that takes about 5-10 minutes. Following different themes each month, I daily walk you through an intentional and impactful devotion, Scripture, reflection question, prayer prompt, and daily truth- these are offered in a digital planner format and/or daily emails. PLUS I add a monthly Bible study that focuses it build Christ-like characteristics in your life. And I add in a lot of other bonuses and resources. If you want to learn more or to join: Click here for Forevergreen!
I hope this article was helpful for you and if you want to work on becoming more like Jesus then make sure you join my email list and join my Facebook group Becoming Like Jesus.
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