How to Deal With Difficult People, Pt. 1

James 1:19-21 says, “19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

No matter who you are, everyone has to deal with difficult people. Whether it is in the classroom, on the job, in the grocery store, driving on the road or talking with a next door neighbor, we will encounter personalities that are diametrically opposed to our normal friendships or the people with whom we enjoy communicating. It takes the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” to a whole different level! Nevertheless, we come in contact with difficult people on a daily or weekly basis, and it is important we read the Word of God and apply scripture that will strengthen and prepare us  to deal with difficult people. 

James give us the three important steps by which to apply:  quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Swift to hear means that we go beyond just listening to what someone is saying, but we open the senses of our spirit to where we are humble, receptive and obedient. You have to be sympathetic in order to put yourself in their shoes, but, at the same time, you must not fall prey to someone who is hiding their true motives behind a mask. Being quick to listen is the key to knowing God’s commandments so you can obey them (Psalm 81:11, 13; Proverbs 5:7), receiving rebukes and discipline so that you do not resist or run away from God’s purposes for your life (Proverbs 13:1; 19:20; Ecclesiastes 7:5), and enabling you to free someone else of the burden and pain in someone’s heart (ex. Job’s friends). This strengthens you to deal with the difficult preacher on Sunday morning, the difficult parent or teacher who tells you what to do, and the difficult person who seems to always focus on the negative and be going through constant struggles.

The second step is to be slow to speak. Slow to speak eliminates us always being right in voicing our opinions all of the time, refusing to speak out of emotion as a result of taking a phrase out of its entire context. We must pray as David did and ask the LORD to put a watch over our mouths (Psalm 141:3). Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34), and so we must refuse to allow anyone to dictate our heart, causing us to speak out of irritableness. When you walk in the spirit, instead of reacting in the flesh, you will respond in the Spirit! This equips you to not be the difficult person of acting like you know it all, being loud and obnoxious with your own judgments and opinions, and seeking to simply cause a debate and argument.

The third and final step is to be slow to anger or wrath. This means bearing the fruit of temperance and self-control, that we are not quick to be angry and divisive but rather that we become willing to see it from another person’s perspective (Proverbs 15:1). Anger and wrath, which is when your anger boils to the point that it overflows, becoming uncontrollable, are behaviors in which God instructs us to lay down (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Galatians 5:19-26). It is not a sin to be angry. Jesus had a righteous indignation when the moneychangers were taking up the court of the Gentiles in their place of prayer when it was to be a “house of prayer to all nations” (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13). Instead, it became a den of thieves, which caused Jesus to overthrow the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them who sold doves (Matthew 21:12-17). Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil.” You will face moments where you are frustrated, but when you walk in a greater dimension of the Spirit, some things do not frustrate you as bad as they once did. It is not a sin to be angry, but when the sun sets on your anger, it reaches the place of wrath where the light of God no longer shines, giving room for the devil to operate. You begin to say and do things that hurts people, even to the point that they may never forget it. Man’s wrath will not work the righteousness of God (James 1:20). It only wounds people, including yourself, robbing God of His glory. If something seems to be boiling you with anger, get by yourself so that you can calm down, get a hold of yourself and not speak out of emotion. This positions you in how to handle people who can get under your skin while at the same time learning how not to lash in anger when something does not go the way you planned. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” There is freedom from the spirit of anger, but you must be willing to put it off and take upon yourself the lovingkindness of the Father!