“Are you aware of the tremendous advantage frogs have over humans? They can eat anything that bugs them! Wouldn’t it be great if we could just consume our relationship problems rather than letting them consume us?” (Be A People Person, Maxwell, p. 104). Admittedly, there are times when it is very difficult to love other people. We do not always get along, or see things from the same perspective. This difference in viewpoint leads us to distrust other people, insult them, or simply avoid them. The biggest problem with all of this is that it leads one to live an introverted life, apart from reality. We can accomplish almost nothing when we refuse to open ourselves up to others and extend the hand of love:
It is a sad reality, but there are many different types of personalities. Some personalities are easier to mesh with than others, but how we treat difficult people will go a long way toward helping progress the Gospel. We will not always like everybody we meet. We will not always get along. But we must try, and we must put as much effort as possible into letting go of our preconceptions and helping difficult people find the Gospel. Jesus knew exactly what it was like to love difficult people, as He states, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48). When it comes to people we meet and people we will have to spend eternity with, it is important for us to show love and concern to the greatest degree.
There are some very basic ideas we need to remember when dealing with difficult or unloving people:
Peeling Away Layers
We may find that as we peel away the layers of people we do not like, or who treat us poorly, those people actually do not like themselves. Difficult people often suffer from self-loathing, whether consciously or unconsciously. They may not even realize how much they dislike themselves, which is why it is so important for us to be patient with them. Some people only treat others poorly to keep their attention off of their own problems. Truly, this may be the root cause of much of the world’s complaints. When somebody looks for faults in you, they are only doing that to make themselves feel better. They think that if you have faults in your marriage, in your parenting, in your attitudes, etc., then their faults are excused.
But, friends, we cannot choose how others will treat us, only how we will respond. And what a shame it is to see Christians bickering over stupid things, refusing to get along. In most cases, discontentment in the church is over pointless things. God never wins when the battle is petty. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It should be our goal as Christians to live at peace with all people. We should never want to exacerbate social or relational problems, or open old wounds for no good reason. The desire of the holy person is peace, contentment, quietness, and unity with others. Treat others better than they treat you – always! “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
Difficult Personality Types
Even though there are many personality types, all people need the same things – to be converted and born again (John 3:3-5). The very good news is that all people have the ability to change. They can do it if they set their minds to it, and actually desire a change. How many of us can say that we did not undergo at least some personality change when we became Christians? When we are baptized we become a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian should allow himself to be transformed into something, and conformed to the world of corruption (Romans 12:2). Our attitudes, our habits, and our character flaws should be done away with upon conversion. Some may say, however, “But this is just how I am” or “You can’t change character flaws.” But too many verses in the Bible say otherwise (Colossians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:22). If we are not expected to change how we are, then why be converted? Does “conversion” even mean anything? Remember, part of “eating what bugs you” involves confronting people with personality types that differ from yours and helping people change.
We can either help each other grow and change into the Christians we are expected to be, or we can just continue dividing because we refuse to love people who rub us the wrong way!
This personality type lives in his own world. Astronauts are dreamers who can be very brilliant and creative, but allow this to inhibit them in developing personal relationships. After all, who wants to be friends with somebody whose head is always in the clouds? They allow their brilliance to make a barrier between themselves and others, and use pride as a defense mechanism. This is similar to the Pharisees, who viewed themselves as existing on a higher plain than everybody around them (Luke 18:11). Astronauts bother people who like absolutes and are grounded in reality. It annoys “down to earth” people when astronauts talk about their dreams and high goals in an arrogant manner. Admittedly, well-educated people and those who are less so will clash. They speak different, they think different, they desire different things. So when you deal with somebody like an astronaut, remember a few things:
The volcano is explosive and unpredictable, and it is easy to see why these individuals have a hard time making and keeping friends. They are unapproachable, and never able to relax. Other people find it difficult to talk to the volcano, even amongst Christians. We see this manifested in the church member who nobody wants to confront when he is in sin. Nobody wants to contradict him in Bible class, or suggest contrary options in a business meeting. You cannot offer constructive criticism on parenting or marriage. And they never want to have anything to do with confronting their sins. But:
The Thumb Sucker
One of the most difficult people to deal with is the thumb sucker. They tend to pout and wallow in self-pity. In their minds, everybody is against them and nobody will be their friend. Thumb suckers put a damper on the work of a congregation because they suck the energy right out. They are essentially wet blankets. But such a person needs to be reminded that their mood is a choice. People become moody because they want to manipulate others and control a situation. Also keep in mind that everybody in the world has problems, but many of us are able to confront our demons and conquer them. So does God expect some people to live a cheerful life, and others to live moody, sour lives? There are other people with more serious problems who manage to be happy (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5), so why do thumb suckers get special treatment? The real fact of the matter is that self pity is very damaging to everybody. It destroys a congregation, inhibits people from obeying the command to be content (Philippians 4:6-7) and it keeps people from going to heaven (Numbers 13-14).
The Garbage Collector
“Oh, how they love to rehearse and replay the injuries they have suffered at the hands of other people. They nurse their wounds and hold onto their wounded ill spirits. The fact that there is garbage in life is depressing enough, but to collect it and haul it around town in a dump truck for public viewing is downright sick” (Maxwell, p. 111). The spiritual garbage collector is the person who cannot let things go, but keeps bringing up all of the junk that happens between him and other people. He or she goes from relationship to relationship, damaging people and leaving with nothing but negative emotions and feelings. Garbage collectors are consummate pessimists, who hold nothing in our souls but ill will and misconceptions. Their memories are constantly occupied by all of the perceived evils that people have done to them. These people:
Remember to love people as God loves them. Even though there are individuals who have very abrasive, cold, rude, or even despicable personalities, the grace you give to them cannot compare to the grace God gives to you through Jesus Christ. The least you can do is try your hardest to love difficult people. Just eat what bugs you – do not let it eat away at you.