Lesson: Dealing With Difficult People
The 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?
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will
see the Lord...
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all
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
What important character trait is needed to deal with difficult
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness
of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
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?
"And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."
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
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
How do we handle a boss or someone who always seems to "have
it in" for us?
"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
"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
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
Is there ever a time we should "get even" with someone who mistreats
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
"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.
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?
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on
and are punished.
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
"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
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?
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
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?
Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.
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!
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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