Dealing With Difficult People
“Relationships 101 – Romans 12:14-21
Living in this world presents us with a perpetual parade of people's problems. How do we deal with irritating, annoying and downright evil people?
What is the godly response to people who hurt us and offend us? How does a renewed mind and a transformed life approach with such relational turbulence?
Since the fall of man, there have been numerous relational struggles among people. Such as Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. Gen 4:23-24.
Someone said "To dwell above with the saints we love, that will be glory. But to live below with the saints we know, now that’s a different story." We live in a culture of broken relationships.
Mainly because we no longer know what it means to live by the power of the Spirit. We spend most of our time living by the energy of the flesh. Paul clearly detailed the results of a fleshly life.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Did you notice that most of these have to do with relational turbulence and even meltdown? Jesus warned that the life of Christian down here would not be Eden or even easy.
Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. John 15:20
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
Paul echoed the same truth. Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Tim. 3:12
So how do we respond to such treatment? There are many passages that point to the godly path through this dark storm.
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
How does a beloved son of God, a saint, a gifted ambassador respond to difficult people? Paul draws the Roman believers a fairly complete picture that runs contrary to how we might naturally respond in the flesh to difficult people.
A majority of Christians don’t respond anywhere near what we will find here in the face of relational garbage. The quick gut or flesh reaction to encounters with difficult people is as follows…
? Speak evil of them.
? Rejoice at their suffering, resent their success.
? Ignore and avoid them if at all possible
? Convince yourself how much better you are than they are.
? Do to them as they do to you (return evil for evil)
? Instigate things that you know bother and irritate them
? Make no effort to make peace - wait for them to come to you
? Figure out some way to avenge yourself ignoring any glaring needs in their life
? Allow the thoughts of their evil actions to consume you and eventually conquer you.
I want to explore what a Spirit-directed response looks like when dealing with difficult people.
There is no guarantee that responding this way will result in restoring relationships but it will keep your focus on God and produce inner peace and freedom. It may be the key that wins someone to Christ.
1 Peter 2:12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Godly response to difficult people?
1. Speak well, not ill 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
We are to bless! The word translated “bless” in this passage is made up of two Greek words. “eu” and “logeo” “eulogy” -- “speak well” The godly response to difficult people is to “speak well”, say nice things, build-up, honor, wish and pray for good things, blessings to happen. All of these things are within the concept of blessing someone. There is power in words.
Our words accomplish God’s or Satan’s bidding. When we speak evil words or say things that hurt, tear down, dishonor, wish evil things and discourage we invite the enemy a foothold in our life.
Our natural response is to speak evil or wish evil upon the offensive party. Curses are words spoken intended to bring about evil or hindrance to someone. God calls us to bless and not curse.
For the word says “Not returning evil for evil” or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
The toughest time to tame the tongue is in the face of persecution or relational turmoil. Once our mouth gets out of control we have lost the battle and join the ranks of difficult people ourselves and generally complicate things by our caustic tongue.
We become the very thing we detest. Put a guard on your mouth. Speak well not ill. Negative speech entrenches a negative attitude that cultivates a negative character and we eventually become a difficult person to others.
2. Identify with their circumstances “…to rejoice with those rejoicing, to weep with those weeping.” Romans 12:15
Another natural response to difficult people is to resent their success and rejoice and celebrate their suffering. If things go well for them, our fleshly inclination is a disappointment, resentment, anger.
We sense a smug delight when things turn difficult for them. They got what they deserved.
Proverbs 24:17-18 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him.
God instructs us to honestly identify with them and their circumstances. Rejoice with them when they rejoice. Weep with them when they weep.
Peter summarizes a whole section on dealing with difficult people like this…To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 1 Peter 3:8
The word sympathetic means “to suffer with.” Here the Spirit of God instructs us to identify with difficult people. In doing so, we perhaps may come to understand why they are the way they are. Difficult people often are struggling with difficult circumstances.
Find out what it might be before you decide to cut them out of your life or engage in an adversarial relationship. The old Indian proverb urges us not to criticize a person until we have walked in their moccasins. Rejoice with their rejoicing. Weep with their weeping.
Our fleshly tendency is to direct our emotions to function in a contrary not sympathetic way. We set up a retaliatory response by withholding emotions and drawing upsides.
We cut off our God-given ability to feel with others and identify with their pain and suffering. Failure to identify with them, especially if they are believers, blocks our divine mission and calling to minister to people for Christ.
You will never win those you are fussing against. Failure to sympathize turns us into difficult people ourselves. We cannot conquer evil. We allow evil to get the best of us. Rejoice with their success. Weep with their suffering.
The next verse has to do with properly aligning our thinking. Paul first addresses our thinking regarding difficult people. Then Paul tackles our thinking regarding ourselves.
3. Apply the same standard you use for yourself – vs 16 -“Be of the same mind toward one another”
Literally this verse reads “be thinking the same thing toward one another.” This is different than other verses promoting unity among believers.
Be thinking the same thing AMONG one another or develop a common goal or thinking. This is, “be thinking the same thing TOWARD one another.
That is, as one commentator put it, “having in mind for another the same thing that under like circumstances one has in mind for oneself. I am to want you to have what, if I were in your position, I should want myself to have.”
Think the same about them as you do yourself. Don’t operate on a double standard. Evaluate things the same way as you would for yourself.
Give them the same benefit of the doubt as you might give yourself. If it is good for you, it is good for them. If it is bad for them, it is bad for you. Most of us judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intention.
We apply a much stricter standard when it comes to others. Scripture teaches about God judging us by the same standard we use to judge others. If we want mercy we must show mercy. If we want forgiveness we must forgive.
You get the point. When we get an attitude toward someone, all of a sudden we scrutinize everything they do through this negative grid. All of a sudden everything they do is interpreted as evil and vindictive. Left too long and we develop a paranoia about everyone.
We put people in a box from which there is no escape. Our natural tendency is to treat difficult people more skeptically and harshly. Paul tells us to use the same thought process toward others that we use regarding ourselves.
4. Don’t think yourself better but be willing to work with others. - Romans 12:16 Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.
This verse includes both negative and positive responses. Our fleshly tendency is to consider ourselves on a higher status level and avoid such people altogether as unworthy of our effort or time.
We go to great lengths, in our mind, to view our “difficult” person below our level. We may have a greater difficulty controlling our thoughts and words and seek to put them down in order to look better than they are.
We try to avoid any further contact. Paul tells us to stop thinking so highly about ourselves and be willing to go along with those who are humbled or lowly or depressed. The word translated “associate” means to go along with, be lead or carried away with. How far are you willing to go in order to communicate the love of Christ?