Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dealing with difficult people

We've all dealt with them. That girl in your project group who does her part half-baked last minute, way after you agreed to send it to each other. That teacher who tells you to study one thing for the test, and then has something completely different on it. That guy who keeps calling you to complain about the universe (but especially girls).

No, I am not making these up. These are all examples of people I've had to deal with. I'm sure you could add more (hey, I could add more). Life just includes dealing with difficult people. And, if we're honest, sometimes we're the difficult people others are dealing with. It's part of our fallen world, where our sin nature slams into our many different personalities, values, and cultures to make a steaming hot pot of difficult. When we're with Jesus in Heaven, where there is no sin, we'll get along. But here, where we're all flawed, where we all are focused on pushing our own agenda, we're going to be dealing with difficult people, and sometimes being that difficult person ourselves.

That doesn't make it easy, though. If it was, my stomach wouldn't be in knots right now. For my internship, I have a new professor. She doesn't know all the ropes of mentoring and supervising school counseling students yet. That's something I try to keep in mind during our interactions. She often assumes things which aren't true, and getting a hold of her is like finding a box of needles in a lava pit. She expects things of her students which they aren't capable of carrying out (for example, she wanted us to resubmit a paper online, when she hadn't cleared out the previous submission, and then when she finally got around to clearing it out acted like we were loafers not getting our work done). She's flawed.

But so am I. I've been the difficult person too. I've been the person who drove my study partner crazy with all my questions for our professor when she just wanted to get going. I've been the person who's nagged people about getting their part of our group projects done. I've been the person who wouldn't speak to her friend because she wouldn't listen to advice.

So what do we do when we have this difficult person? Pray for them. Chances are, they're not being difficult just for the fun of it. There's probably something going on in their life which is "causing" them to be difficult. I was the difficult study partner because I wanted to make sure we were covering all the bases. I was the difficult group project member because I wanted to make sure we got it done on time. I was the difficult friend because I was afraid of the direction my friend was headed. That's no excuse for their (my) behavior, but realizing that helps us (at least me) realize that they're human. We all act like huge outrageous jerks when we're dealing with a lot of stuff. We forget that God's big enough to take care of even these little piddly things, and instead run around like the world's going to explode. We doubt. We sin. And we take it out on those around us.

While you're at it, pray for yourself too. If nothing else, you're going to need grace dealing with this person so you don't try to out-jerk him or her. But maybe you're part of the problem. Maybe there's something, whether miscommunication or otherwise, which has helped set this person over the edge of niceness into jerkdom. Not excusing anyone (you're responsible for your own cruddy attitude/behavior), but just pray and ask God to see what your part in it might've been, if any. If He doesn't convict you, great, you can have a clear conscience about it.

And treat the other person with kindness. We all need grace. Jesus died for us specifically because we needed grace. He urges us to love those who are jerks, to pray for people who hate us for no reason (Matthew 5:44). It's not going to be easy. There's going to be a whole lot of times where you're going to have to bite back a well-deserved snide remark, or a good slap to the head. But remember, we all deserve much worse, and yet Jesus came to save us from it. If we have been saved from hell through our relationship with Him, can't we show a little compassion to each other?

Father, thank You for Your compassion to me. Help me as I deal with difficult people, and help me to show them Your love and grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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