Learning from Difficult People

As adults, most of us have learned that there are difficult people everywhere. We see them at our jobs, in our families and even when we are on vacation. They are self-centered, lack social graces, say uncaring things, and frequently they hurt us in some emotional way.

Most of us have encountered difficult people everywhere we go. We have come to accept it. We often expect it when we are placed in certain situations. The one thing many of us did not expect was to find those people in Church. We went to Church with the idea that everyone would be friendly, kind and overflow with love.

Then it happened. Someone crossed the line. They said something of which I did not approve. Their attitude seemed to be angry and mean. They demonstrated unchristian behavior.

Unfortunately, it happens. The people who come to Church are not perfect. In fact, many of them are a total mess, and that is why they came to Church. Mistakes will be made, confrontations will happen, and people will generally rub each other the wrong way at times.

I hate it that this happens. And if it happened to you, I am sorry. It has happened to me, and it hurt, in fact, it still hurts. Through the years, I have noticed that God frequently allows these people in my life to mold me. Quite often, I am shaped more by the difficult people than by anyone else.

Difficult people …

1. Teach me to be kind. There are times I have vowed to never treat another person the way I am being treated. I want my life to exude kindness rather than anger.

2. Teach me to forgive. It is easy to forgive nice people when they fall short. It is much harder to forgive the angry people who shout “Crucify.”

3. Teach me to love people different from myself. Many times, the difficulty I have with other people is not about theology but rather methodology. I need to accept that people will handle things different than I do, and that does not make them a bad person.

4. Teach me about the Love of God. Luke 6:35 says that God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. God loves everyone no matter what they have done. We are called to that kind of love.

5. Teach me to love my enemy. Biblical love is not emotional. Biblically love is an action. Jesus teaches us to act in a loving way toward people who we consider an enemy. It takes real faith to do something kind for someone who has hurt me, and yet that is what Jesus is calling us to do.

6. Teach me to be careful of assumptions. Many times, I have thought someone was a jerk until I heard their story. I have encountered people who were abused as children, cheated on as adults, suffering from pain, and a hundred other issues. The person you feel is full of anger might just be full of hurt themselves. They are crying out for attention and have no idea how to get it.

7. Teach me to exercise grace to others. I want people to be kind to me when I fail. I want them to offer me grace in my weakest moments. Just as Jesus offers me that grace, I am called to turn and offer that to other people. The real test of my heart may be how I deal with difficult people more than anyone else.

When we are hurt and feel the pain of connecting with other people we have two options. We can allow God to use these encounters to make us better people. The other option is for them to make us bitter people. There is this strange dynamic where Christian people get hurt emotionally and then turn around to be just as hard and calloused as the people who hurt them. The other option is to let go of the pain and learn to work through our issues. I believe when we try to deal with difficult people, the end result is that all of us will grow and become better people.

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