Down here in the heart of Dixie where our family and friendship roots run deep, you’d never dream that we sometimes have trouble getting along with each other. Forgetting the Hatfield clan with a patriarch by the name of “Devil Anse;” for the most part we are a civil society. Still, we do encounter people from time to time who are just hard to love. So how can we mind our manners and learn to love difficult people?
Our friendships and relationships are based on how we treat others on a daily basis, but sometimes a relationship can be more difficult than beneficial. If you believe in scripture, then you’ll remember that it teaches us to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” but, the verses I want to concentrate on for this question are from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
What Love Is…
- Love perseveres during misfortune and trouble.
- Love shows oneself to be mild and offers kindness to others.
- Love takes part in the joy of others.
- Love is glad about the things that show respect to God and is happy about the execution of His purposes through Christ. (Rejoices with Truth)
- Love covers with silence the errors and faults of others.
- Love has confidence in others and in Jesus.
- Love expects good things.
- Love abides and doesn’t flee or recede during troubled times.
- Love bears “all sorts of” things.
What Love is Not…
- Love does not boil with envy, hatred or anger.
- Love isn’t possessive.
- Love doesn’t extol oneself excessively.
- Love does not inflate or bear oneself up loftily.
- Love does not crave or strive to have its own way.
- Love is not quick to anger.
- Love doesn’t keep a count of wrongs suffered.
- Love is not glad about injustice.
How to Love Difficult People
The first thing to acknowledge is that it is difficult to love difficult people. I’ve even asked God at times, “Do I really have to love her? Can’t I just tolerate him? And the answer is always the same. It is in my own best interest to “consider others more important than myself.” (Phil. 2:3)
The second thing to acknowledge is that these verses are in no way condoning violence or abuse in any form. Abiding and bearing all “sorts of thing” isn’t suggesting that you stay in domestic violence or hide sexual harassment from the authorities.
What these verses do teach us is that goodwill toward our fellowman is of utmost importance and our relationships with others directly affect our relationship with God. It is better to try to love someone than to give in to hate and discord.
So, using only these verses, let’s see if we can figure out responses to attitudes or personalities that seem unloveable.
- These verses suggest that patience is the first virtue to exercise.
- Act in kindness, not anger.
- Seek to understand the other person, and not seek our own way.
- Don’t keep a record of wrongs to hold against them.
- Rejoice in others’ success and don’t be jealous.
- Don’t reply to those who brag and are arrogant with boasting or arrogance. It is only natural to want to promote ourselves when someone thinks more highly about themselves than they should. I taught my children to always allow someone else to praise their accomplishments.
- Don’t celebrate the failures of others.
- Keep the faults and errors of others quiet. Don’t gossip.
- Believe in the good of others.
- Hope for positive things.
- Stay the course and don’t run away.
I admit that all of this sounds good in theory, but when our difficult person is mean, unhappy or arrogant, it might seem almost impossible. But, the alternative is for us to all be mean, jealous, selfish people. The world is a happier place with kindness, patience, humility and optimism. How do you handle the difficult people in your life?