Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dealing with difficult people isn’t about you

Difficult people are everywhere. I’m sure you know a couple. Maybe more than a couple. You probably deal with them in the store, on the road, at school. You might even live with one, and you most likely work with one. Heck, you might even be one.

If you are one … Jesus loves you. Grow up.

For everybody else, keep reading.

Living, dealing, working with difficult people is just something we all have to figure out, because you can’t escape difficult people. If you quit your job because people there are difficult, guess what? Your next job will have difficult people too. If you move out of your house because your family is difficult, guess what? That’s right. You’ll live in an apartment complex or with roommates who are difficult.

So if difficult people are a constant in this universe, the only recourse we have is to learn how to deal with them.

Today’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

There are lots of books and advice on how to manage difficult people, and I’m honestly not sure if there’s one sure answer. But one thing I can tell you that I’ve learned is that if you give a difficult person a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers think that being kind to people means that we need to give others everything they ask for. And that’s not kindness, especially if what you’re giving them is bad for them. Like a diabetic. Is it kind to give a diabetic a candy bar? No! I mean, they may want it, but giving it to them will ultimately hurt them. And that’s not kindness. That’s enabling.

Just because someone comes up and asks you for something doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. And it’s not disrespectful or rude to ask some basic questions about what they want. Why do they want it? How soon do they need it? Who else will be affected by their request? Now, granted, you can ask those questions in a disrespectful or rude tone of voice, and that will change the meaning all the way around. But anyone who gets upset at you for asking basic informative questions like that has bigger issues than what you can fix.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned in dealing with difficult people: It’s not about me.

If a difficult person gets upset at me because of something I’ve done or something I won’t do, it’s not about me. It’s about them. If I have a legitimate reason for refusing to do something and can kindly and gently back up my reasoning and they still get upset, the problem is on their end. Not mine.

Now that doesn’t give you the right to be mean. That doesn’t give you the right to call names or gossip or hurt people, even if they hurt you. You can gently tell someone no. You can kindly refuse to do something, especially if you have a reason for it. And if that person still gets upset with you, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you behaved in a way that would bring honor to God.

Difficult people thrive on drama, and if you refuse to be dragged into their drama, they don’t have anything to feed on. That’s true in any situation, whether you live or work with them. Don’t get upset at them. Don’t yell at them. Don’t call them names or be passive aggressive and try to get them in trouble. Just be honest with them. If they’re off target, tell them gently.

You be the person you’re supposed to be. You do what God says is right. And God will honor that.

And, besides, you never know what God will do in someone else’s heart. You never have a reason to be cruel or mean to someone else. So even though it’s tempting to call names and gossip, don’t.

Stay out of the drama. Speak the truth with love. Gently stand firm for what’s right.