March 23, 2011

Extra Grace Required... Jesus on Difficult People

Grab your favorite cuppa something, maybe a little chocolate and join me...

This is a topic I have wrestled with most of my life... How am I to treat the difficult people (or as I often am heard calling them ~ "EGR"-Extra Grace Required ) that have been placed in my life? As I've searched scripture, picked the brains of women I admire-those who aren't afraid to speak truth yet do it in such a way as to build up not tear down, prayed ALOT and then moved in the way God directed I have come to this point in my life... It is truth & grace together with love! I must speak up WHEN God is leading me to! I must look inward WHEN God tells me to! It isn't always about the "other" person, sometimes it is as much about me as it is them!  Learning the difference is challenging.

Today, thanks to a dear friend, I have read an article that can be found at this link that has put into words EXACTLY what I've tried to tell people when they ask me how I deal with the difficult people in my life.

I am going to repost the link in parts on here (and hopefully share some of my own thoughts too) so that you can all read and absorb with me what Lakeside Christian Church shared back in August 2003.

I try very hard not to "land" on what man says, I try to "land" on God's Word...I feel like this article takes an honest look at how we want to react... Yet it takes us back to Jesus, His teachings & His real-life example of how to respond to difficult people (or circumstances for that matter). THAT is why I appreciate the authors words so much and why I think they resonated so clearly to me. His "reactions" are very much my own...however, I am called to respond NOT react (another post on that in the future).

Read on won't you? (don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments!!  I LOVE to hear from you too)

PART 1-Difficult People
All of us have difficult people in our lives.  My wife has been married to a difficult person for over seven years.  She has tried to tell me what it's like, but I just won’t hear of it!

Difficult people are special.  They are always there for us when others aren’t, but especially on our bad days.  When all hope seems lost.  They have an uncanny way of saying things that just dampens the day!  They can always be counted on to bring out the worst in us, to be obtuse and disagreeable, to make easy things impossible, to put a negative spin on the things we do, to speak ill of us, or to ignite an inextinguishable fire in our bellies.  You know, they do all the very same things Satan does.

The Bible says in Isaiah 40:6 (NIV), "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;  the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God remains forever."  Something else that remains forever are difficult people.  As much as we wish they would, they never go away!

I don’t think we have ever been taught how to deal with difficult people.  I sure wish that I had been taught how to deal with difficult people when I was in high school.  Those were some of the toughest years of my life.  As a freshman, I had guys who bullied me daily.  They'd insult and humiliate me in front of my friends, slam me into the locker, knock my books out of my hands, and destroy my art or shop projects.  One guy blew snot on me.  Those guys weren’t just difficult.  They might also be characterized as evil.

Two poor strategies for dealing with difficult people
But I only knew how to respond with one of two extremes.  The first extreme was to punch them in the mouth.  To physically and violently react, to join them on their level, and give them a taste of their own medicine.  In high school I did weight training not for athletic reasons, but for survival.  I wanted to become stronger and tougher than my enemies so as to defeat them.  Fighting can be a tremendous release.  It momentarily satisfies our base desire to exact revenge and to retaliate a wrong that has been suffered.  But in the end, I discovered that violence begets violence.

One time in high school I decked a guy, only to discover the very next day that several of his buddies wanted to take a shot at me.  I had my hands full for weeks.  I learned that it really is eye for eye and tooth for tooth.  At that age I was already too ugly to go around toothless and eyeless my whole life!  Besides, it's not the Christian way.

In Matthew 5:38-41 (NIV) Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."  Jesus wanted his followers to break the cycle of violence and not perpetuate it.

The other extreme reaction we often take, especially as Christians, is passivity.  We become like doormats and we allow difficult people to walk all over us.  This is  how we interpret Jesus' words in Matthew 5.  We think the best response is no response.  We think difficult people will repent when they see our inaction, hear our silence, taste our saltiness, or feel our love.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  In high school I rarely stood up for myself.  I’d only react when pushed to the most extreme limits.  Most of the time I’d lick my wounds and struggle in quiet passivity, counting the days until I would become an upper classman or even better, graduate!  I’d hold my tongue.  I’d turn the other cheek.  I’d go that extra mile.  I’d quell my emotions and anger.  I’d suppress my hurts.  But my passivity only seemed to empower the difficult people around me.  They were emboldened by my inaction and took their abuses to new heights.

In the same way, many of you are caught between the two extremes.  You don’t want to just stand by as that difficult person inflicts fresh damage.  But in the same vein you don’t want to become like him and sink to his level.  So what are we to do with the difficult people in our lives?  If not violence or passivity, then what?  What would Jesus do?

Check back again for Part 2-IT GETS EVEN BETTER!!!!

No comments: