Hi friends, it’s Thanksgiving time! I (Jennifer) love that a day is marked on the American calendar to count good things, but I hope you aren’t grateful just once a year. Among many, I count my trusted friends, Tracy and Kim, as two favorite blessings. This month Tracy shared on the topic of gratitude here, Kim’s up next week, and then we’re introducing our guest, Hyacynth, the fourth week. Peek on Tuesdays to read the latest posts. Better yet—subscribe to receive e-mails, and you won’t miss a thing! You’ll be glad you did.
I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and a heart full of gratitude for the goodness God has provided for you and those close to you. My list of blessings is a mile long when I intentionally look, but sometimes it’s harder than I want to admit to spot some. This month FACETS focuses on what to do when we encounter difficult people in life. A rough time in relationship with someone, glitches and hitches in what ought to be a smooth interaction, and I find my internal peace melting and running away like butter on a big, ol’ pile of mashed potatoes. Do you have a cycle of frustration with someone you want to change? I do. Do difficult people make your blessings list? *Sigh* That can be a tall order, but I want them to!
I write with the clear reminder: if I can’t find the difficult person in my life, it might be me. If everyone else in my life is difficult, I might consider that I’m the common denominator. So I’m sensitive on two levels—I examine my relationships to be the peacemaker in a difficult interaction, and I need to address my broken relational ways with someone to stop being the difficult half of the interaction. (Whoa! Stuff’s gettin’ real right there, isn’t it?)
Relational tension can be rooted in varied “personality wiring.” It’s not always natural for opposites to interact (though, I hear they attract). Consider that, but I’m thinking about something else. I’m concerned about harmful words or actions that bruise and break relationships. Depending on the damage, we may label people in strong terms: source of frustration, annoyance, adversary, or enemy.
So what do we do when we encounter a difficult person—or even more intense versions of “difficult”?
I’ve had trouble of late, so I searched the Scriptures for wisdom on this very thing. The truth is, I found something I definitely should not do and things I absolutely should. I’m thankful the Bible is clear if I look carefully.
What Not to Do…
Why is it God explicitly states the “do nots”? It’s because He cares—about us and the people we interact with. God’s heart reflects love and care. He doesn’t want pain for us, but it’s part of this broken world. If we’re willing to do what He prescribes, we can spare our hearts some hurt, and we can impact others’ lives positively. So what is His wisdom?
Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, Proverbs 24:17 CSB
It’s tempting to gloat when someone who has caused us pain falls flat, but we are given specific direction. It’s never right to celebrate someone’s downfall, He says. (Think about this in multiple realms: personal, professional, political, etc.)
And then there’s the flip side.
What We Should Do…
The beauty of the Bible is the clarity on some topics. When it comes to relationships, there is wisdom and straightforward direction.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; Proverbs 25:21
But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Romans 12:20
The Complete Jewish Bible words it this way: “fiery coals [of shame].” I notice I’m not responsible for shaming, only the loving way needs are met. Does this display of love sit well with you? I’m thankful these words come at Thanksgiving when eating and drinking is so much a part of the day. What if the choice to share food and drink with a genuinely sensitive, loving heart could be a reality? What if forgiveness made that possible this holiday or any day?
Difficult people in life? Jesus makes it clear—
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5 [emphasis added]
This is what we should do with the difficult people and extremely difficult people. It’s how we respond to little things (the “small change” of relational stress) and the word or action that cut so deep it scarred the heart, mind, and body. In humility, love and pray. Maybe the hardest choices, they are the things that free us from self-made pain prisons (resentment and anger cause self-inflicted pain for the duration). Choose well. Make the next right choice!
I hope we all embrace the truth here. Choosing love and prayer is never wrong, but it can be hard. Like, the excruciating kind of hard!
On top of meeting needs, loving, and praying; may I suggest a perspective shift? Whether the difficult person is standing in front of you or your own brokenness is troublesome, try seeing things this way:
16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him like that. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5 CSB
What if our focus were to reconcile relationships (trying our very best!) in hopes of showing one thing. If the love we received from God through Jesus made enough of an impact that we cared to extend it, would people notice? I have a sneakin’ suspicion they might.
Thanks for reading along, friend! If this post is helpful, that’s a “God thing.” Share away if you think others might be blessed. The FACETS would be thankful!