Well, it’s that time of year — chocked full of family gatherings and recitals and work parties galore. Sometimes, what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, can end up becoming quite stressful — ’tis the season for encounters with difficult people.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this time of year. I love the opportunity to spend more time with the people I love and to get to know better the family, friends, and familiar faces that I don’t see so often — but there’s no guarantee that every encounter is going to be a pleasant one, am I right?
I wrote this post last year about the craziness of dysfunctional family gatherings at this time of year. If you’re wondering how to prepare for this years’ big family gathering, you might enjoy reading that post.
This year, though, I thought perhaps I’d take a more general approach to dealing with difficult people. The better prepared you are, the better the outcome is likely to be, right?
No matter who the difficult people in our lives, God’s is just waiting to pour his grace out on us and to transform the difficult situations that might arise . He’s giving us a chance to really love others this Christmas Season — sometimes we’re talking heroic love of the most difficult people in our lives.
This kind of love is absolutely possible, and just maybe this is the year where we make a change in our lives and in our difficult relationships — maybe this is the year where we surprise ourselves. Hope springs eternal.
For me, it’s been a more personal journey this year, trying to understand difficult people. One thing that has helped me a lot in this area is dealing with my two year old — really he has opened my eyes to things I never thought about before.
You see, I have the most amazing two year old. Really, he is amazing! I love this little guy so much, but the truth be known, he can be difficult — really, really difficult.
I had five kids who woke up every morning with a smile on their faces — but that’s not always the case with this guy. He can be downright crabby — and he just might wake up and decide he wants to scream at the top of his lungs. He just might.
Some mornings, he wakes up, and I find myself saying, “Oh crap, he’s in a bad mood.” I take a deep breath and prepare for the effort that its going to take to calm the storms of his soul. It’s not always easy for me, because I really love quiet, peaceful mornings.
But here’s the thing, when this little guy smiles, it melts my heart — breaks it into a million pieces. It breaks it wide open and sometimes, I have to hold back the tears. Spunk and cuteness go hand in hand with this little guy — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But loving my two year old — in all of his crabbiest moments — has taught me a lot about how to love difficult people. It really has, and I’m not projecting any sort of negative future upon this little guy — I mean, he is a two year old, so this is normal stuff — but still, there are lessons to be learned from dealing with him.
Just the other day, I was praying, and he was not happy — not at all. He climbed up into my lap and he started to scream at the top of his lungs. It took me a minute to respond. Like I said, I crave peaceful mornings, and he was being anything but peaceful at the moment.
Besides, I had an agenda, and frankly, he was messing with my prayer time. Truth be told, I just let him climb up on my lap and I tried to continue with my prayer. Suddenly it occurred to me, though, that this little guy was my new prayer.
Loving him, in all his distress, was the prayer that God wanted from me that morning. My new job was to drop my prayer book and try to accompany this little guy through his distress.
So, I sat there, and I put my prayer book down. To be honest, I also took a few pictures because he is just so darn cute when he’s angry. But then, I just sat and I prayed and I tried to hold him closely. Ever so slowly, he began to soften.
Finally, I tried to make him laugh. I just tickled one little toe. Slowly that crabby face began to turn into a look of puzzlement, and finally he began to smile.
Sometimes when I’m dealing with this spunky kid, I am reminded of Mother Teresa who often spoke of loving the difficult people in her life. She referred to it as “loving Jesus in his distressing disguise”.
Sometimes, as mothers, that loving of Jesus in his distressing disguise is loving our two year olds as they throw a tantrum. Other times, it means loving our family member who makes us feel bad about ourself. It might even mean loving that person who is screaming and yelling and even lashing out against us.
I’m not denying that sometimes you might need to establish healthy boundaries with difficult people. I’m also not saying that you should stay in a relationship that is abusive or endangering your well being in some way — obviously your dignity and worth might require you to withdraw from a difficult situation or relationship.
But just maybe, you’re the only person who is willing to love this difficult person in your life. Maybe you’re the only person who is willing to stick around and listen to their grievances, maybe you are the only person in the world who is willing to remain with them, in their sadness.
I know that it isn’t always easy, but with God, all things are possible. With God, you will know when to draw the line and demand a more respectful attitude and when to just let somebody get that pain out, because they are hurting so much inside.
I found this youtube clip of Mother Teresa. I think it’s a beautiful perspective on dealing with hurting people. You might have to skip an add, but it’s worth watching.
Honestly, I heard these words and I actually began to cry — a Saint spoke those words. She knew what it was like to deal with difficult people. People who yelled and screamed at her, when she was only trying to help them.
She knew, only too well, that in loving them — she was loving Jesus. She knew it pleased His heart to see her try to love the unloveable.
In our own lives, perhaps we have those same people. People who are hurt, people who just don’t seem to be at peace or happy. We have a responsibility to love them. Maybe we just need to sit with them and accompany them in their pain.
This kind of heroic love will not be possible without Christ — it just won’t. So before you go to that gathering where that difficult person will be, you need to pray so Christ can fill you up and love that difficult person through you.
Just the other day, my two year old was at it again. He wasn’t happy. My oldest son was looking rather annoyed, and he said, “Why is he so crabby?”. To be honest, that was exactly the question I had in my own mind, “why was he being so crabby?!”
I turned to my oldest son and gave him one of those answers that I didn’t actually have at the time, but it’s like the Holy Spirit just stepped in — do you ever have those moments?
I said, “It’s not easy being your little brother”. That was the answer I needed and my son needed.
All of a sudden, my oldest son looked down at his little brother and picked him up and enveloped him in his arms, in a great big bear hug. My oldest son got it. He decided to love his little brother in all of his distress and angst.
He just loved him, and you know what, his little brother just changed right then and there. He started to smile and he ran off and continued with his day, better than before.
My point is simple: You think it’s hard to deal with difficult people, well imagine for a moment what it is like to be a difficult person. Imagine that.
Imagine the pain, the hurt, the not feeling well, the overwhelming sadness that they might be feeling. We can get away from difficult people, but they can never get away from themselves!
If we try to change our perspective and try to remember how hard it must be to be a difficult person, perhaps that is all we would need to really love them and help them through their sadness and pain.
I look at my little guy, and I have great hopes for him. I see the beauty in his smile, I see the strength in his character. I see the goodness — and yes, I also see the challenges that his particular temperament might be up against. But, oh the beauty of this little soul!
I believe this little boy will become a great, big bear of a man who slowly learned how greatly he was loved and used that knowledge to love others — especially those who were hurting.
I see so much goodness in him, and I know God put him in our lives at this moment so we would all become better people. Family is the place where Saints are made — and the rough places in our hearts are often worn smooth by the encounters that happen in family. So yay for families!
At the end of the day, we’re all part of a greater family called the human race — so let’s not shy away from loving our neighbor, no matter how difficult they may be to love.
Perhaps this Christmas Season, when you encounter that difficult person, give God permission to love them through you. Ask God to help you to be a balm for their distress and healing salve for their pain.
You can be that for them, and I’m guessing that just maybe, they might bring out a beauty in you that wouldn’t be there if they weren’t in your life.
Good luck and Godspeed. Finish Strong. Since this is my last post before Christmas, I wish you the most beautiful of Christmas celebrations! Peace to you and your home!
“(Praise be)the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble”
~2 Cor. 1:3-4~