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Hello, friends! Welcome to this Bible study lesson on "Dealing With Difficult People." The world is full of individuals who make life difficult for others. Some of us have bosses who are overbearing and demanding. Others of us have relatives we don't like being around. How does God want us to handle these people? Join me now as we see what the Bible says about dealing with difficult people.

Lesson: Dealing With Difficult People

Bible Study - Dealing With Difficult PeopleThe Bible shows that God gives mankind freedom to choose. And some people choose to cause trouble for others. When Jesus Christ lived as a human, He had to deal with many difficult people. But Christ dealt with these difficult people in the right way. His examples, along with other instructions in God's Word, teach us how to handle those who cause strife.

A Christian from South Carolina relates his story:

"When I was hired as a quality control person for a major automobile auction, my paths soon crossed with the individual who decided what got fixed and didn't get fixed on the vehicles before they were sold.

"The problem was, this person did not do a good job. Many problem vehicles came to me, and I had to deal with him to get things corrected. Most of the employees at the company said he was impossible to deal with, and indeed he was tough.

"The outside vendors that did the repair work were not happy with him either. But he had his position simply because the "buddy system" was very much in place.

"I realized that one peaceful solution was to somehow get involved helping him instead of fighting him. But that had to be approved by the general manager, and he was a difficult person too! With him, it was 'his way or the highway!' I asked God to help me be able to help fix this seemingly insurmountable problem.

"The general manager told me he didn't think help was needed. But whenever opportunity came, I took advantage and humbly tried to win him over. After several months of persistence, he finally agreed to let me help.

"Soon thereafter things became a lot more peaceful. Even though this difficult person was still over the department, I became the one the employees and vendors came to. And the irony is, this difficult person thought he trained me well! God's way of peace does work!"

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What Does the Bible Say About Dealing With Difficult People?

You may know someone else who has had to deal with difficult people, or you may have experienced dealing with them yourself. As you study the Bible, you find that God lets other people and experiences build character in us. Often, we just want the difficult person to go away and bother someone else. But what if that someone else is you?

God wants us to strive for peace. So let's look at some relevant scriptures that show how to deal with difficult people.

What should our motive be when dealing with anyone?

Hebrews 12:14
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord...

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Regardless of how others treat us, we are to try to have peaceful relationships with them. In the beatitudes, Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace—said that those who are peacemakers will be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).

What important character trait is needed to deal with difficult people?

Philippians 2:3
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

James 3:17-18
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The opposite of conceit and selfishness is humility. Humility is necessary to properly deal with difficult people. We want others to be patient with our shortcomings, and we should be patient with theirs. When we strive to make peace, we are exercising humility.

How do you deal with someone who always has to be right about everything or always wants his or her way?

Matthew 5:41
"And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."

Philippians 2:3-4
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Christ said we are to go the "second mile" if that is what it takes to have peace. We show wisdom, not weakness, when we are willing to yield to others. When Abram and Lot had to separate and pick between two different lands, Abram let Lot choose. In all fairness, Abram should have had first choice, but he wanted a peaceful relationship. Even though Lot chose the more lush land, Abram knew that God would bless him wherever he went (Genesis 13:6-11).

How do we handle a boss or someone who always seems to "have it in" for us?

Luke 12:58
"When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison."

Matthew 18:15
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother."

Instead of letting a problem continue to escalate, we are to try to make peace. We need to do this privately, one on one, and approach this difficult person with humility. Addressing the problem early can prevent many problems later.

Is there ever a time we should "get even" with someone who mistreats us?

Romans 12:17-21
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 7:12
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

We should never treat someone in a way we would not want to be treated. Just because someone may mistreat us, we have no right to mistreat him or her. God says vengeance is His, simply because He alone can carry out righteous justice. In fact, when we overcome evil with good, it makes an impression on those who mistreat us!

How do we deal with situations or people that always create problems?

Proverbs 22:3
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

Proverbs 17:27-28
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

Whenever possible, we should try to avoid confrontations. If we have to be present, then we should say as few words as possible. The last thing we need to do is provoke someone. Even Christ walked away from situations that were getting out of hand (Mark 3:6-7).

How do we deal with people who continually take advantage of us?

Matthew 5:43-48
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

Even though it is against our human nature, God says to pray for those who use us. If people are continually asking us for help, God says to help. If we feel they are abusing us, we need to put the situation in God's hands and let Him work it out.

How do we answer people who like to argue, or just want to be heard?

Proverbs 26:4-5
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Some people have their mind made up that their opinion is right, regardless of what anyone else says. With these people it is best not to continue the discussion (verse 4). Others like to make themselves look superior by making detrimental comments about someone else. With these people, a polite answer that shows their error is appropriate (verse 5).

For example, certain individuals brought a woman caught in adultery to Christ stating that she should be stoned as the law says. Their only motive was to see what Christ would say; they didn't care about the woman. So Christ politely told them that those present who had never made bad mistakes should cast the first stone. This answer peacefully and immediately silenced their accusation (John 8:3-9).

How do we deal with someone who is always angry?

Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 22:24-25
Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.

When someone is loud and angry, answering in a soft tone usually quiets things down. When someone answers in a loud tone, the anger only escalates. If someone is known to always be angry, God tells us to stay away from him or her or we will end up in trouble.

What is the key to living in peace with difficult people?

Psalm 119:165
Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.

Proverbs 16:7
When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Following God's law is the key to peace. When we live by God's ways, we learn the way to peace. Living God's ways doesn't mean all people will like who we are, but they will like what we are—peacemakers!


Apply Now

God wants us to be peacemakers. By striving toward peace—not conflict—we can handle difficult people. Even difficult people like to be treated well, and that's why treating them with the respect and concern with which we want to be treated helps make peace. And learning more about God's law will help us with our relationships with all people.

Considering the scriptures covered in this lesson, write down two or three specific things you can do next time you face a difficult person (which could be today!).

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Related Resources:

Making Peace

Win-Win: Who Says There Has to Be a Loser?

Video: Love Your Enemies

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