“I don’t like your hair,” the older woman told me while we were standing in church before the service started. I did not know how to respond! A friend stepped in and said, “I think it looks great,” and gave me a supportive glance. I was bewildered when she told me the same thing next week. “You are hurting my feelings,” I replied, with all my emotions just barely below the surface. Somehow, this stopped the blunt observations and actually started a nice friendship that continued until she passed away a few years later. From what I gathered, she did not like change, and even me straightening my hair was too much for her.
I was ready to put her in the “difficult people” category of my life, but God had other plans! What can we do when we encounter people who are hard to deal with? How can we be praying for difficult people?
Have realistic expectations of people in the first place.
Do we always say the right things? Is every word carefully chosen before we speak? Do we never make a selfish choice? Of course, we all make mistakes, and some of those mistakes hurt other people. Sometimes we know that we did (and should apologize, of course!), and sometimes we don’t know that we did. Luke 6:31 NIV says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We are broken people in this world who may hurt each other. Let’s have the same forgiveness for others that we would want them to have for us. Let’s speak honestly about it instead of letting our bitterness grow.
Pray for them.
Romans 12:14 NIV instructs us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” What better way to bless someone than to pray for them? In prayer for difficult people, we not only lift them up to God and ask for His will for them, but God often works in our hearts at the same time. When praying for difficult people, it is very hard to be angry at that person who is being prayed for. When I take this route, I often find compassion for the person. As it has been said, “Hurt people hurt people.” God may change their hearts through our prayers but often changes our hearts, too.
We have been forgiven of so, so much. Psalm 32:1-2 NIV tells us, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” God knows our sins and forgave them when we asked for forgiveness. It’s impossible for us to give a full accounting of our sins against God. Let’s give that same generous forgiveness to others. Sometimes reconciliation may not be possible, but forgiveness will help us not dwell on the list of wrongs we have against them. Without forgiveness, we can be weighed down by bitterness, with a need to see them just as hurt as they hurt us. With forgiveness, we can see that Jesus has covered their sins and we don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Please know I am talking about dealing with difficult people, I am not talking about harmful people, or advocating for anyone to stay in danger or in an unsafe situation. Talk to a trusted friend if you aren’t sure what the difference is.
If you want to read more about forgiveness on this website, you can read How to Forgive and Three Bible Verses to Read When You Need to Forgive. I have started reading, but haven’t finished, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst (affiliate link.)
Prayer for dealing with difficult people
Dear Lord, Thank you that even though I am difficult sometimes, You have mercy on me and forgive me! I pray that You will help me deal with others who may offend me or hurt me, knowingly and unknowingly. Please help them wherever they may be hurting, or correct them where they might be sinning. I pray that You will help me to forgive, as You have forgiven me. And I pray that You will release me from any bitterness I may harbor. Your compassion on them is enough reason for me to forgive them. I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.