Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dealing With Difficult People

Do you ever get an email or a phone call from someone and when you see it you think, “No! I just don’t have the emotional strength to deal with (him or her) right now.”  It is not that you dislike or like the person but because you know the interaction will always leave you feeling downbeat and annoyed.  Dealing with difficult people can be grueling.  No matter what the topic is – you, them, someone else or something else - you know the exchange will be exhausting, to say the least. The subject of difficult people keeps popping up more and more often and today I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page concerning the same thing and it got me to contemplating why this source of tension often creeps into our lives and what impact it has on us.  As I sit and reflect on the difficulties in life I know there is a purpose in them even if we can't see what they are and I wanted to share my thoughts.
We have all come across people in our lives that are difficult to deal with and if we react in the wrong way it will only cause more unnecessary conflict that isn’t  productive. Certainly if there is something we have actually done wrong that has triggered adverse behavior we need to apologize and resolve the conflict but I’m not talking about an average disagreement that comes with life. You know the people I’m talking about, right? It seems no matter what the circumstance is it brings some sort of negativity or drama. These difficult people never seem to be concerned with anyone but themselves, their irresponsibility or reckless behavior is always someone else’s fault because they fail to see their own personal state of affairs realistically.  Their emotions go from one extreme to another and they tend to overreact and dramatize their situations.  You can feel their need to exaggerate their troubles to get sympathy and attention.  They will even try to manipulate situations in their favor despite the hurt it may bring to others. Characteristically, they believe they are always right and try to make everyone believe they are the casualty in every situation - and if you don’t agree you become the enemy.  Have you ever had to deal with someone like this? 

Difficult people can drain you and get you down but if you change your perspective on it you’ll find that dealing with these kinds of people can actually be very important for you - they teach you tolerance and acceptance. Difficult people are just one of the ways God teaches us to expand beyond our egos, teach us patience, grace & mercy.  How do you react to difficult people? Do you just listen and change the subject as soon as you can to defuse the situation? Do you agree with them to avoid conflict and end up enabling them to continue their behavior?  Do you avoid them?  Do you act irritated with them?  It’s our choice how to react and we all have had that experience where we were so angry we wanted to blow but what we need to remember is how we respond in any situation is a witness to others about who we are.  The way we react to any difficulties in our life shows the level of our faith and the closeness of our relationship with Jesus. When dealing with someone that is always difficult or annoying in some way we need to work hard to recognize that their difficult behaviors are a reflection of something they are struggling with – not us. We need to strive to not take their behavior personally.  Happy, healthy people don't feel the need to hurt others and don’t make choices that will bring constant tribulations in their life and the lives of others. We can’t lash out at them and we can’t get angry or let our own actions become negative. It took me a long time to get to this point and I still struggle with it but it is something we all need to work on. No matter how we deal with these people individually we need to pray for these hurting people. We all need prayer and mercy. Lord knows I do.

We can certainly choose to remove the difficult people from our lives or reduce the amount of contact we have. There is nothing wrong with that because we have learned there is a pattern in engaging with difficult people and it is usually unproductive if the person isn’t willing to accept responsibilities for their actions. Any kind of reasonable conversation or resolution is often impossible. If we expose ourselves to their toxicity too much it becomes unhealthy for us and we can start to join them in bashing, blaming, complaining, debating, arguing or whatever negative behavior they engage in and we will end up sinking. The best alternative for dealing with an impossible person is to be the possible person. Live in the footsteps of Christ. Show tolerance, patience, humility, and even kindness (as difficult as that may be).  Difficult people may not have done anything to earn our respect but we most certainly need to give them honor and mercy because they are another living person created by our Heavenly Father. When we treat people with mercy we can show them God’s love and mercy.  This may not change the difficult person but it surely will change us!

What impact does this have on us?  God only wants good for us but we still encounter tests in our lives that bring us troubles. They aren’t necessarily from God but He will consistently use them to test our faith and character.  Above all other considerations our Father’s desire is to have our heart.  He longs for us to establish a connection, a personal relationship with Jesus.  Our purpose is to forge a very special link and bond between our self and Him as Creator of all things and mankind. He is waiting for us to react according to His ways…in ways that are pleasing to Him. The next time you encounter one of the impossible people in your life remember there is a purpose in everything. God knows our hearts and when we have to deal with these difficult people or any other struggle in our life that hurts, angers, disappoints or frustrates us God is calling to us to cry out to him in desperation.  He is waiting for our response. Be still and listen to Him. Our Lord is giving you an amazing opportunity to draw closer to Him and trust Him. Rely on His word to teach you how to respond. Just as Jesus did, confront your enemies with a mixture of grace and truth. In 1 Peter 4:8 we learned "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."  This love means staying above the conflict and seeking understanding before doing something or saying something foolish.  It means being kind even toward our opposition. In the times of trouble draw closer to God and fill yourself with His Spirit and show peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, compassion, self-control, and mercy. As you and I both deal with people that make our lives difficult I believe that how we react will have a huge impact on our lives.  I believe that God is using the experiences to build our character and bring us to the place He is calling us to. My prayer is that our actions will bring out the best in people and lead them to know God and His unconditional love but we have to be prepared that may not happen and we cannot control others; however, believe that these people are allowed in our lives so we can grow closer to our Savior - so we can transform into the person He wants us to become and live according to His purpose. So when you cross paths with the impossible people do the possible - love them, pray for them, do not speak maliciously to them or about them, and do not respond to their hurt and offenses with retaliation or revenge. Don’t let the toxicity tear you down. When you get angry or frustrated, hurt or disappointed TALK TO JESUS ABOUT IT. Everything will work out according to God’s plan if you stay true to yourself and to Him. He has promised to carry your burdens, to heal your sorrows, and to never give you any more than you can bear. If we choose to draw closer and strengthen our  personal, intimate relationship with our Savior, and obey God's commands in the face of struggles we will please Him and glorify Him.  In exchange for our willing hearts He will reward us and pour out His mercy abundantly in our lives. 

Heart & Soul,

1 Peter 5:8-11 (New International Version, ©2010)

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 
9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 
11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen 


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