Dealing with Difficult People

What does the Bible say about dealing with difficult people? Considering when the Bible was written, it is hard to think that its authors would have taken the time to write about such petty issues. God in his eternal wisdom and providence knew that as a result of the fall, his people would struggle with this certain sin and not always get along with everyone.  For various reasons, not everyone I cross paths with is easy to get along with. It is easy to think it is not my fault, but the truth is that thinking lowly of someone is a sin. In the Bible, the Lord gives instructions on dealing with difficult people the right way.

“Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Prov. 22:24–25). An angry person can be very difficult to get along with. It may seem easier to be a friend to someone who is always angry out of fear; however, the people I choose to surround myself with affect the way I live. Just like hanging out with an overly positive person can give a more positive outlook, making company with an ornery person can and will give a more ornery outlook.  In this case, it is better to avoid the problematic person.

A huge step to dealing properly with a difficult person is realizing that the only one who sits on the judgment seat is God.  As a sinner, I must realize the difference between judging others’ choices and judging to damnation. “Judge not, that ye not be judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1–2). Judging the choices of others is not wrong, as long as it is done out of love, with an intention to approach the person about a particular sin, and to help them realize the error of their ways. Judgment to damnation, however, is wrong. A person is only as difficult as I let him be. I make a personal choice to let a particular person bother me. It is not my job to judge anyone’s motives but my own. For example, I got annoyed with a girl at my work who happens never to smile. I deemed her to be unpleasant, but who am I to say she is that way? Who am I to say there is not a reason she does not smile? A right way to handle the situation would have been to ask her if everything was okay. But I didn’t ask her. Just as I judged her, I will be judged. Judging someone this way is a sin, and the one who judges will be held accountable before God.

Is there a right way to respond when a person earns himself the label of being difficult? “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). God gave his children the ability to come to him with any problems they might have with others. He also gives them the strength to forgive. As hard as it may be, I am called to forgive those who trespass against me and pray for them. Sometimes it is easier to hold a grudge than is it to forgive, but it must be done. If I do not forgive, why should I expect God to forgive me?

To put it simply, just live with the least amount of conflict as possible. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). It is incredibly hard to live peaceably with every single person with whom I come into contact. As a result of the fall, there will never be world peace. Humans became creatures of conflict because of it. This verse was meant to encourage the chosen, the elect of God, to live peaceably. The apostle Paul understood how hard it was to live with no problems with other people, and that it would take a tremendous amount of strength to live that way. God is encouraging his children through the apostle Paul to press on and be the exception to all the conflict and hate around them.  I pray to God for the strength to live this way.

It is amazing how much a perfect, sovereign God cares enough to understand every little petty issue people face. He loves his children enough to give instruction on how to live correctly. He understands that because of the fall, getting along with everybody is nearly impossible, and running into somebody difficult is bound to happen. Through the Scriptures he gives instruction for his people on how to deal with difficult people by making no friendship with them if they lead to sin, abstaining from judging them, forgiving them, and living peaceably.