On this past Marriage Monday, I discussed the first step in dealing with difficult people, and that is to develop sympathy toward them, because they are human. Since then, I’ve thought about how my life would be different if I didn’t have difficult people in my life. When I read my journal from a couple of years ago, I remembered meeting a handful of people that rubbed me the wrong way and attacked my character. Looking back, I realized how they actually helped me more than hurt me.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Think about that visual! Although the people who love us help us to mature, those who are different from us allow us to grow as well. Those people who “rub us the wrong way” are inadvertently rubbing off our mess and making us more like Jesus.
They help you gain a new perspective, which makes you question everything. I specifically had one person who I had kept at arm’s length. When I read my journal a few days ago, the memories flooded back to me about my experiences with her. One thing that she consistently did, unknowingly I’m sure, was give false testimony about me. Those who know me know that I am joyful and childlike (not childish), and I always prefer to look at the positive side. One day, I wrote in my journal that she had told me I complained too much, which is not true. She also told me one day that my joy made her depressed because she could never have what I have, which is also not true. However, although she attacked the very core of my being, instead of crumbling, I examined my heart to reflect on what I was portraying to others. Sure, I thought I was joyful, but maybe to her I complained. Maybe I desired to be childlike, but I was more rigid than I thought. Was my joy annoying? Her attacks made my reflect on my actions and attitude, which is a Biblical practice that God wants us to do on a regular basis.
They keep you humble. Difficult people remind you that you are not perfect. None of us are perfect. You want to be around the people that sing your praises all day, but trust me when I say that you also want to be around those who think you have plenty of room for improvement. At one point, this person called me out on my pride. I had a lot of pride, and I honestly still do. She helped me to see what I needed to change about my life. She also consistently reminded me how much I need Jesus, as her threats and accusations constantly kept me on my knees in prayer.
They help you to show Christ’s love. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. It is easy to love those who love us back, but what about those who don’t? (see Matthew 5:43-48). When I’m around difficult people, I close myself off and don’t want to show love to them. However, that’s not the way God calls me to live. Instead, I need to be honest with God and accept His help. God knows our hearts; He knows when we don’t love those around us. When we’re honest with Him, He equips us to love them through His everlasting, unfailing love. His love puts my love to shame.
Without those difficult people in my life, I would have never grown, at least in the ways that I have. I’ve had people criticize my writing, attack my joy, and call me out for my pride. I can’t believe that years later, I’m still thinking of the people that have hurt me, and the ways they have blessed my life. My experience with difficult people from my past also help me with the people I have in my life now. These people that I’ve lost contact with did their worst to me, and yet I’m still here and I’m still thriving. If I was able to learn to love those difficult people in my life, if I was able to “survive” every attack they threw at me, I am able to love and endure the people who surround me now. No matter how condescending, negative, and criticizing some people are in my life now, I can be confident that God is my defender and that He will grow me even through these difficult people.
If you have difficult people in your life, pray about how God can use them to grow you. Now, please understand that difficult is not abusive. If someone is being abusive to you, run. Do not endure his/her toxicity. However, difficult people are more annoying than hurtful. Allow God to reveal His love through you as you deal with these people that get under your skin.