Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that we will not get on with everyone. It’s inevitable we will end up crossing swords with someone—be it in the family or at work. Individuals have not always seen eye-to-eye because we’re all different in personality—some are fast, some slow, and we all see things differently.
It has to be, because of our cultural differences. Our personalities are different, so why do we think there will never be any conflicts or differences—or why are we surprised when a clash occurs? Who drives you crazy? Is it someone who talks all the time, or is bossy and argumentative and overbearing—or always seems arrogant with a ‘know all’ attitude? What about that person who criticises everyone (including you)—or is lazy, rude, or totally ignores you? There are hundreds of reasons why we may not relate to every one we meet.
Author Mark Rosen wrote a book with the interesting title Thank You For Being Such a Pain – Spiritual Guidance for Dealing with Difficult People. And part of what he said grabbed my attention. He said, “While the circumstances of interpersonal difficulties may differ, the theme is ever the same. People have been making other people miserable for thousands of years”.
Another book I heard of was written by Bruce Goettsche, co-authored with his son Rick, called Difficult People – Dealing with Those who Drive you Crazy. As a committed Christian, he wrote this book because he was troubled by the amount of conflict he saw in churches, families, and other relationships. And Christians are supposed to love everyone, including that person who irritates you.
Dismantling the Walls of Hostility
What am I supposed to do? Mark Twain was fond of saying, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits”. Perhaps that annoying person is showing back something we don’t like about ourselves – something about our own nature we need to change.
As always, Jesus has the answer. In the Sermon on the Mount he talked about this kind of issue:
You have heard people say, “Love your neighbours and hate your enemies.” But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you… If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that?” (Matthew 5:43-44; 46-47 CEV).
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Jesus said that God’s love breaks down all barriers including people you don’t like. No-one said it would be easy, but do it we must. He says we are to live by the law of love—and to pray for that person you can’t stand. Pray for a better understanding and more wisdom to understand that person.
Mark Rosen tells in his book about a neighbour who would come to his home and just walk straight into his home without knocking first or ringing the doorbell. Rosen tried to reason with him that this was not the best way to enter a neighbour’s home. It didn’t do any good. One day he had the opportunity to visit the country and the childhood home of his neighbour and realised it had no front door. This man had grown up not knowing anything about privacy—he didn’t know any better.
Do you know someone like that who drives you crazy? Have you ever tried to really understand them, and find out why there is a wall between the two of you? Martin Luther King once said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”.
Jesus was saying that when we dismantle the walls of hostility towards that difficult person, something wonderful happens. We become children of our Father in heaven. We mirror what God is really like, with a love that comes from him. It’s not a natural love—it’s divine.