Getting Along with Difficult People — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

Getting Along with Difficult People — Morning Devotions

You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. - Martin Luther

By Chris WittsThursday 1 Jun 2023Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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Sorry, but it’s going to happen sometime. You will have to deal with somebody you don’t like, or someone you don’t get along with. It’s called the ‘reality of relationships’, and it’s never easy. Some people would rather do anything else than deal with a difficult person.

It probably happens at work where you have to deal with him or her every day—and it gets very awkward, to say the least. It can be challenging and difficult. At the end of the day, defining ‘difficult’ is a uniquely personal thing. What is challenging to me may be a breeze for you. We’re all different. Understanding your personality, preferences, and triggers can help you to recognise the types of people and situations that irritate you.

I’ll put it another way. I bet you know someone who I call ‘slightly irregular’—that’s a better way of putting it. People who are impossible to get along with—they never give us compliments or only criticise us face-to-face or behind our back. They seem to delight in making our lives difficult, and we don’t know what we’ve done to offend them. It may be we take things too personally, and overreact to what others say. I know people can make your life miserable sometimes. That seems to be their intention. You think to yourself, If I could just ‘fix’ that person, everything would be better. But we can’t fix other people—we can only make choices about ourselves. But still the same, there are some who know how to push your buttons and cause you grief—I’m sure of it.

There are different ways to handle this issue. Why not try and step into their shoes to see from their perspective. Ask yourself, What’s their agenda or what’s in it for them? They might be going through a hard time in their life and just projecting their pain by being difficult, so compassion from you can go a long way too. You might be wrong yourself but are too proud to admit it. Saying sorry or standing down will disarm and soften your opponent. Ask yourself, By locking horns with this person, how beneficial is it in the long term and is it worth it? Always seek a ‘win-win’. If someone loses, then we all lose. You can read books and articles on this theme or go on line. That may be very helpful.

Dr Robert Schuller, who was pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in California, told about a man with whom he had shared an unfortunate car accident. The man used all kind of foul and abusive language. Dr Schuller looked at him straight in the eye and said, “Mister, God loves you and I’m trying.” There are a lot of people that God is capable of loving, but they make it hard for us to love them. There’s this problem of difficult people—in the home, at work, on the highway, and some even in the church. You can’t escape them.

It was Martin Luther who famously said: “You might not be able to stop the birds from landing on your head. But you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”. Rather a cute quotation—but think about it for a moment. You can’t stop certain events from happening, but you can control your own reaction. We don’t have to let our lives and attitudes be ruled by someone else—that irregular person who drives you crazy.

It’s not about pretending everything is alright when it’s obviously not—it’s becoming different on the inside, how we feel and how we react. How good it is to be responsive instead of being reactive. Don’t let others spoil your day.

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Bear With One Another

The Christian faith shows you a better way. God’s message in the Bible is clear. We are to bear with one another, and love them—even those we don’t especially like. It’s a command Jesus referred to many times. We can’t ignore it. Here are six practical ways, among many others, to show love to a difficult person God has placed in your path.

1. Pray for your own heart
Ask God to soften your heart towards this person, to put off anger and irritability, to put on meekness and kindness, to understand this person’s struggles and meet them with compassion (Colossians 3:12–14). It says here ‘Put up with one another. Forgive. Put on love. Love is perfect to tie these together’.

2. Pray for them
Ask God to be at work in their hearts. It’s amazing how God works in unexpected ways as we pray for these people.

3. Move toward them, not away from them
Although our tendency is to want to steer clear of people with whom we have strained relationships, they are exactly the people we need to be intentionally moving toward. Find ways to engage them in conversation, meet them for coffee, send them a text.

4. Find specific ways to bless and encourage them
Send them an email. Write them a note of appreciation. Buy them a book that has been an encouragement to you. Tell them you are praying for them.

5. Give them grace, just as God extends grace to you
Remember God’s lavish grace poured out for your own daily sins. Ask God to help you bear with them, forgiving them, as he has forgiven you.

6. Realise that you too could be the difficult person in someone else’s life!
You might not even realise that you are a thorn in the flesh for someone close to you. Don’t be oblivious to your own shortcomings and sins.

So, when that child has you on the brink of tears, or you’ve just received a harsh and critical email, or you’re confronted with that extended family member who drives you up the wall, ask God for grace not to run away, but to keep engaging that hard-to-love person in love. God will be honoured and our hearts will find deeper satisfaction as we seek to love people just as Christ loved us when we were his enemies.