Last month, I wrote a post on dealing with difficult people, about how we should have more understanding toward those people. We’re so quick to attack, judge, and cut them out of our lives that we don’t think about the positives that those people bring to our lives. Eventually with this series, I will discuss how to specifically deal with these people that frustrate us and make our blood boil. For now, I want to talk about you.
As much as we hate to admit it, we may have a part to play in our difficult relationships. Relationships are always a two-way street, and very few of us can say that we have perfectly handled a situation. Just like we hate to hear it, I hate to be the one to tell you that you may be at least partly responsible for the conflict. I’ve totally been there, the proudest person in the bunch telling you to own your mistakes. But sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes you need to look within before you cast the blame on someone else.
Paul tells us in the book of Romans to live at peace with everyone as long as it depends on you (12:18). I praise God that we have the ability to control ourselves. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. However, that implies that we cannot control those around us. We are only responsible for ourselves. We can’t control if a family member treats us poorly, but we can control how we react. I can’t control a cutting remark from my friend, but I can control whether or not I retaliate with a cutting remark.
Think of a difficult relationship in your life, whether it’s at work, home, school, or in your family. God has given us people to sharpen us, but the sharpening process definitely hurts sometimes! But think of the last conflict you two have had, maybe even the reason why you’re so upset with him/her. This time, don’t focus on the bad that she did to you. Focus on your actions. You may not have instigated her insults (or maybe you did), but maybe you reacted in a way that wasn’t exactly holy.
The other aspect of the phrase as long as it depends on you means that you have to give it everything you’ve got to save the relationship. Obviously, if she’s toxic, you need to create some distance, but don’t make excuses and claim that you’ve done everything you can. If you need to apologize, apologize. If you need to show more love, show more love. Do whatever it takes on your end to make it right. The rest is up to her.
On the other hand, even if you start to see things from her perspective and see where you’ve also messed up, don’t excuse her behavior. Mental and emotional disorders are becoming more common these days, especially because they’re easier to diagnose now. The difficult people in your life may not be hurting you maliciously (as in, with the intent of hurting you), but if they hurt you, you still have a right to be upset. She may have suffered abuse as a child or may be carrying the weight of narcissism or OCD or ADD as an adult, but even if her disorder caused you pain, you cannot continue to tolerate the behavior. Metaphorically speaking, whether she hit you with a baseball bat because she was trying to swat a fly or because she was trying to hurt you, it hurt you! Deal with the pain, and help her by explaining your boundaries (I’ll talk more about this Wednesday).
Remember what I said about self-control? Well, I have great news for you. Your marriage does not have to suffer because of your difficult relationships. You have the choice to let that difficult person drag down your marriage. I don’t know why you’d want to let it drag down your relationship, but if you do, and it does, it’s your responsibility now. That would be your fault, not hers (the difficult person).
You and your spouse are both adults, so you get to decide what you bring into your marriage. Your parents don’t decide for you. Your teachers, college professors, bosses, whatever, don’t get to decide what you bring into your marriage. If your difficult person is a work relationship, you don’t have to bring him home. You can drive and pray and sort through your feelings before you make it back to your spouse. You don’t have to take out your anger on your spouse.