We all know what it is like to deal with difficult people. Whether at home, at work, or in our day to day lives, dealing with those who are difficult is something that we can’t avoid. Thankfully the Bible has a great deal to say about how we deal with others while helping us to understand that there is a right way to handle conflict in our relationships. I have recently done a two episode podcast series on this topic that you can find here, but for those that prefer to read, todays post will give us some perspective on Dealing with Difficult People.Let’s begin by taking a look at two key passages of Scripture that deal with this topic. While there are many places that we could go, two of my favorite relationship passages are found in Philippians 2 and Ephesians 4.
Here are the key verses:
3. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.5. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
After you have thoroughly meditated on these passages, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind:
1. Understand that we will all deal with difficult people.
If you don’ have difficult people in your life, maybe you are the difficult person in everyone else’s! We all have to deal with difficult people. You are not alone and should not treat your situation as unique. When we realize that everyone deals with those who are “difficult”, we will also realize that success in life is often tied to understanding how to deal with them.
2. Not all difficult people are Bad People or People who want to hurt you.
Before we characterize someone “difficult”, we need to at least consider that their intention may be to help us. Someone simply telling you what you want to hear does not mean that they are for you or on your side. Sometimes it is the one who tells you what you need to hear that actually cares about you.
Proverbs says it this way:
Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
4. There is a right, Biblical way to deal with difficult people.
We will look at several Biblical principles, but don’t forget that there is a RIGHT way to deal with those who re difficult. Fight the temptation to respond emotionally or even intellectually and instead maintain a commitment to responding Biblically.
5. You won’t always get the result you want. Your focus is dealing with difficult people in a way that glorifies God. Take the pressure off of yourself.
Whether or not the difficult person responds the way that you would like for them to, your goal is always God’s glory. You can control your actions towards others but you cannot control their response.
6. What we perceive as Difficult may be the outward revelation of Hurting. Always default to Grace.
This is simple but one that we often forget. Often when people are unkind it is because of something going on in their life that has nothing to do with you. There is a saying: “Hurting people hurt people.” Always defer to grace and you may find an opportunity to help the difficult.
With all of that in mind, here are some practical steps when Dealing with Difficult People:
Just a note to begin: Matthew chapter 18 provides a great framework for dealing with those who have sinned in the context of the local church. For the sake of our discussion here, we are not going to deal with those who are clearly sinning and under the authority of a local congregation.
How do we deal with Difficult People?
I. Know who you are-Identity
1. Live a reflection of who you are as a Christian and follower of Christ.
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2. Follow Christs Example.
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
3. Find your place in the body.
When we are focused on doing what we have been called and equipped to do the actions of others have much less of an impact on us.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
II. Maintain the right Attitude
1. No Strife, Vainglory
So much of the conflict in our lives is because we are living and acting out of pride and a willingness to fight over things that don’t matter. A Biblical response to difficult people is not a response rooted in our own pride. If pride is your motivation, you may be the difficult person in the relationship.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
2. Humility and Patience
This is the opposite end of Strife and Vainglory (Pride), and should be the attitude that guides us. Be humble and patient and you will get a much better response from those in your life.
3. Seek the good of others
I make this point as often as possible, but seek the good of others instead of your own. Put another way, it’s not about you. Find a way to work for the benefit of others.
Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
4. Don’t Justify wrong
Do not use the behavior of others to justify your own bad behavior. There is never an excuse to behave badly.
Eph 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
III. Take Action
1. Find Common Ground-Seek Unity
Philippians 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
2. Speak the Truth in Love
You need to speak the truth but you also need to speak it in love. What is love? Love is doing what is best for the object of your love. Speak the truth with the intention to help but never with the intention to hurt.
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
3. Be kind
4. Be forgiving
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
None of the above is hard to understand but it can be extremally difficult to DO! Difficult people will always find their way into your life. How you RESPOND will either give glory to God and provide an example to others or serve your own pride and ambition. Follow a Biblical example for dealing with those who create conflict in your life and, regardless of outcome, you will be an example of God’s grace to others.