Seven Ways to Deal with Difficult People

I took a deep breath and whispered a prayer. “Melinda” (not her real name) was at it again, and I didn’t like it. A controller who enjoyed deflating my enthusiasm, Melinda was one person I started to avoid. But I knew God wanted me to be “Jesus with skin on” to her, and I couldn’t do that if I kept running away. I had to figure out how to deal with my “difficult” friend.

We all have them—difficult people, irregular people, people who rub us the wrong way. Some, like Melinda, are controllers. Others are chronic complainers, nit-picking perfectionists, backbiters, self-absorbed, or easily angered. Maybe we struggle with them on the job, in marriage, or even in the church. (And to someone, we may be a difficult person!)

God’s love moving through us can overcome many barriers. Our goal is not to change our difficult person, because God is the One who changes hearts. But we can study the person so we can relate better, and we can learn how to respond biblically—giving God more room to work.

I want to share some things God is teaching me. Perhaps they will help you, too.

(1) Pray. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, so certainly we can pray for the one who rubs us the wrong way (Matt. 5:44-45).
(2) Relax. You can’t please everyone, and neither can anyone else—so give people space and grace! Learn to lean on God for understanding and guidance (Prov. 3:5-6). [Don’t think you’re the only one dealing with difficult people. Even Jesus had to learn to deal with them.]
(3) Allow people to be different. Choose to see beyond the negatives, because every negative trait has a correlating positive trait. (For example, a nit-picking perfectionist, controlled by God, would be a helpful detail person to keep a ministry running!) Look for people’s gifts, and try to see them from God’s perspective (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Pet. 4:8-10).
(4) Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Watch your heart motivation. (Sometimes, it’s better to be silent and allow God to work. Pray for discernment.) But especially with controllers and manipulators, truth with love helps them see you as a real person.
(5) Give your expectations to God. If your expectations are in people, you set yourself up for disappointment (Prov. 13:12a). People will fail us; God never will.
(6) Remember that you are accountable to God (2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 4:13). Sometimes Satan uses difficult people to rile us; but God wants us to respond biblically, regardless. Difficult people might also be God’s tool to shave off our rough edges or areas of pride.
(7) Keep a tender heart. Be quick to forgive (Matt. 6:14-15) and quick to ask for forgiveness. Don’t retaliate (Matt. 5:38-39).

God can do miracles when we choose to respond according to His Word, so don’t give up too soon!


crazydaisy said...

That's a great way to head into the holidays.... a little extra love for everyone!

Marja said...

Thanks Dawn for a very practical post! I have learned that 'difficult' people are the sandpaper I need in my life, and yes, I might be that to someone else!