Dealing With Difficult People

     Who is the difficult person in your family? At work? Picture them.  Maybe they are a constant critic, or very controlling.  Christians are called to be peacemakers, even ministers of reconciliation; how do we do this with the difficult people that we find in our context?  How do we pursue relational peace?  
      First, PRACTICE HUMILITY.  I am embarrassed to admit that I was an adult before it occurred to me that there are people who view me as the “difficult person” in their life.  Most of us seem to have crystal clear clarity about the shortcomings of others but a blindness to our own brokenness.  Here is an experiment to try sometime: The next time you are at a restaurant, sit quietly and listen to the conversations around you.  You might hear two waitresses complaining about a co-worker or a person at the table next to you grumbling about their “idiot boss.”  When I have done this experiment I have never heard a person sharing about their own flaws, or how they messed up or hurt others.  If you are in conflict, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your contribution in the clash.  Maybe you are only responsible for 10 percent but you can truly own that part.  Sometimes when you apologize for your part, you give the other person the gift of going first so they will own their stuff as well.  Isn’t it worth a try?
     Second, CHOOSE TO BE AS UNOFFENDABLE AS POSSIBLE.   You can choose not to take offense.  Really, it is possible.  The Scripture says the prudent overlook an insult (Prov. 12:16) and it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11).  I have learned to question my anger.  Is God angry about this?  If not, then I should let this offense go. 
      Third, WHEN NECESSARY CONFRONT (Matthew 18:15).  Be gentle and affirm the relationship.  Own your part of the conflict and then share what needs to be confronted.  Then, we must ACTUALLY listen.  There is no guarantee this will work but when entered into prayerfully it often does.
     Fourth, FORGIVE (Mark 11:25; Col. 3:13).   This is giving up your “right to revenge.” This involves really seeing the whole person, not just the offense.  It involves acknowledging that as Christians we are a forgiven people who are then called to be a forgiving people.  Easy to say, hard to do; I know. Bitterness is like a cancer, only forgiveness is the antidote.
     Fifth, ESTABLISH HEALTHY BOUNDARIES. “Forgiveness is a decision to release the offender.  Reconciliation is the effort to rejoin the offender” (Anger:  Facing The Fire Within, June Hunt, 64).  A Christian must forgive to be obedient to God and to find personal peace. However, reconciliation requires some truth and repentance from both parties, therefore, reconciliation is not always possible.  There are times to limit contact or completely walk away from a person.  While I think it is rare, it does happen.  Even the gospel itself offers forgiveness to all but only some repentantly respond and are reconciled to God.  
     Once, after a message I gave on this topic a woman in the church asked for my notes.  She smiled as she jokingly said she wanted to borrow them so she could stomp on them.  Apparently I hit a nerve.  Let me close with the Apostle Paul’s challenge, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church