Dealing with Difficult People

Have you ever had to deal with a person who was critical of everything? It seems as if some people can never be pleased. No matter how hard you try, there is nothing you can do to satisfy their high standards.

For example, a woman named Kathy had a mother who was never satisfied with anything her daughter did. Nevertheless, Kathy was desperate to please her mother, so she decided that she would spend the entire day cleaning her mother’s house while she was out of town visiting relatives. After her mother left, Kathy vacuumed all the carpets and mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors. She dusted all the furniture and bookshelves. She emptied the garbage and washed all the windows. She organized all the kitchen cabinets and even cleaned out the refrigerator. She spent two days cleaning every room in the house!

Well, when Kathy’s mother returned from her trip, she was surprised to see how clean and tidy her house was. She noticed the nice, clean smell of the kitchen. The floors were spotless. Everything was neatly organized, and not a single item was out of place. Immediately, the mother knew that Kathy was the only person who would do such a thing, so she called her on the phone.

“Hello?” Kathy said as she answered the phone.

“I see you cleaned my house,” her mother said.

“Yes, I did!” Kathy replied. “Do you like it?”

“Well, yes,” her mother admitted. “But I don’t understand why you did all this work and didn’t think to finish my laundry while you were here.”

I am sure that you have run into some people who are just as hard to please as Kathy’s mother. No matter what you do, and no matter how hard you work, there is nothing you can do to satisfy them.

As we walk through life, we are sure to encounter all types of people. Some people are thoughtful, kind, patient, and understanding, but others are selfish, mean, quick-tempered, and careless. Sure, everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses in their personalities, but the truth is that some people are more difficult to tolerate than others.

Consider a man named Dave who worked for a big company. He was a reliable employee who never missed work, always arrived on time, and always performed well at his job. However, Dave never opened his mouth without saying something critical. He complained about the management’s policies. He criticized his co-workers’ performance. He fussed about the sloppiness of the janitorial staff. When he was in a good mood, he griped about the government. Sure, David’s coworkers appreciated his hard work and reliability, but they grew tired of listening to his nonstop moaning and groaning.

When you find yourself in situations like these where you have to deal with critical people, one very important thing you can do is recognize the blessings God has placed in your life. Just imagine how miserable it must be to live with a critical spirit! When you recognize people in your life who are fountains of curses, you can bless God by responding with lips of thanksgiving and praise.

Also, you should consider that God has placed you in a relationship with a critical person so that you can be an example to them. It is unlikely that people such as Kathy’s mother or Dave will change very quickly, but your consistent, patient, godly character will be a witness to them concerning the attitudes and behaviors that God expects from his children. Take time to ask the Lord how he can use you to glorify him in these situations.

One thing you should not do is act the same way these people act. For example, it would be a mistake for Kathy to respond to her mother in frustration, unloading on her mother about all the ways she has failed to be a loving mother over the years. Likewise, Dave’s coworkers should resist the temptation to complain about Dave’s behavior as they gossip behind his back in the company breakroom.

In the sixth chapter of Galatians, Paul speaks about dealing with difficult people. He says that people who are spiritually mature have a responsibility to patiently bear the burdens of those who are less spiritually mature. In that chapter, Paul writes, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” People who complain put their pride on full display, and they are not fooling anyone but themselves. However, people who walk in humility show others a clear picture of Jesus.

Furthermore, Paul reminds us that we will reap what we sow. Those who sow seeds of anger, bitterness, and rivalry are going to eat from the bitter fruits of their own mouths. But those who respond with blessing, thanksgiving, and praise will reap a harvest of righteousness and eternal life. This is why Paul encourages us saying, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9 NLT).

Difficult people are difficult! However, God often uses these challenging relationships to help us grow into greater faith, strength, and maturity. If you are dealing with a difficult person in your family, career, or community, it may be that God is giving you an opportunity to grow into the likeness of Jesus, and that is an opportunity that a wise person should never pass up!

[Do you need help growing more mature in your response to difficult people? Click here to set up an appointment with a Christian counselor].

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