Dealing with difficult people is hard!
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you greatly dislike disagreements and confrontation.
When someone challenges your opinion, pushes your boundaries, or says something rude/hurtful, do you immediately get defensive? Do you walk away feeling offended and upset?
Life is full of difficult people. It is 100% impossible to avoid them (although avoidance is often used as a temporary coping mechanism).
When faced with with a challenging situation with someone, the best place to look for advice is the Bible!
Sometimes, God commands us to respond with love and restoration. Other times He tells us to walk away from the relationship.
Below are several valuable biblical principles on how to deal with difficult people.
1. ) Ask Yourself, “What Type of Person Am I Really Dealing With?”
Before you address someone who is being extremely difficult, carefully evaluate what type of person they really are.
Fact: All toxic people are difficult. But not all difficult people are toxic.
First, let’s define the difference between “difficult people” and “toxic people”. TOXIC is a very popular term in today’s society, but what does it actually mean.
Some difficult people are deeply hurt, discouraged, and unstable. Instead of asking for help and welcoming encouragement from others, they lash out at the people around them – damaging the relationships with those who are closest to them.
However, if these difficult people are toxic, you will know it very quickly!
They are those who want to hurt you, always keep you down, seem jealousy and envious of others, keep you from healthy relationships, steal away your joy and sense of peace, use others to meet their own needs, consistently stir up drama, and keep you from being the person God created you to be.
With toxic people, enough is NEVER enough. They will not stop causing you pain and emotional suffering.
Question: “What type of person am I really dealing with?”
Answer: A difficult person or a toxic, difficult person?
2.) Apply the “Luke 6:26-31” Principle
Luke 6:26-31 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies. Do Good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. And from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
God gave us these clear instructions because he KNEW that it is in our nature to respond to difficult people by arguing, exchanging hurtful words, getting offended, and often abandoning the relationship altogether.
- We are supposed to love this difficult person the way Christ loves us.
- We are supposed to not talk negatively about them or gossip about them. Actually, we’re suppose to speak well of them!
- We are supposed to pray for them. (Praying for someone can help to change your heart towards them.)
- Sometimes, even giving a gift is appropriate! Something that will bless and help them.
There is nothing more Christ-like than being someone who responds to hate with love and kindness.
I Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
These verses are some of the most memorized verses in the Bible! And yet, they are some of the most difficult to apply to our lives.
3.) Confront their Behavior
Confrontation is a difficult and uncomfortable.
But without it, you are much more likely to become increasingly upset and resentful towards this person.
You cannot allow a difficult person to continue their hurtful behavior without confronting it and having a mutually respectful conversation.
First, the Bible instructs that you should handle disputes in love, with a goal of restoration.
Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
When you talk to someone privately, you can address misunderstandings, and hope that the problem can be solved.
This way, you can both avoid gossip and hurt feelings.
The Bible also talks about the importance of having a witness with you. If this person has the tendency to lie or twist your words, this step is invaluable!
Matthew 18:16 “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
If the person refuses to accept any fault and responds in a hateful way, it may be best for you to go your separate ways. (I Corinthians 5:11)
Christians are instructed on how to handle disputes in Matthew 18.
4.) Sometimes, You Need to Separate Yourself From Toxic People
Being vengeful and spiteful are NOT Biblical principle.
However, the Bible does address when it is necessary to distance and separate yourself from people who are toxic and damaging.
Romans 16:17 “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
Matthew 15:14 “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Proverbs 23:9 “Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.”
II Timothy 3:1-5 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
If someone is constantly hurting you, purposefully keeping you down, keeping you from having healthy relationships, stealing your joy and sense of peace, consistently stirring up drama, and keeping you from being the person God created you to be – it is probably time to separate yourself from them.
Depending on the situation, you may just need to distance yourself from this person by setting clearly defined boundaries. Other times, going “no contact” may be necessary.
5.) Realize that Forgiveness and Restoration Are Two Different Things
In the Bible, God commands us to forgive each other.
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
However, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that there are no consequences for their actions and that you should put yourself back in the position of being hurt again.
True forgiveness means that you don’t want to seek revenge on that person. It means that you are going to commit to not hanging onto bitterness against that person.
Usually, forgiveness takes a lifetime of effort.
Even if it takes a conscious choice every single day to forgive that person, it is a gift from God that allows you not to stay bitter and resentful.
6.) Pray, Ask For God’s Guidance, and Read Your Bible
Before, during, and after taking the steps listed above, PRAY PRAY PRAY!
It is so easy to react to difficult people in a toxic manner ourselves! In the end, we are the ones who have become hard-hearted and bitter.
Only God has the ability to change our hearts toward others, restore relationships, guide us in the right direction, and give us peace about whatever decision we feel is His will.
Regardless of whatever decision you make, remember that God always calls us to forgive and pray for others.
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
Forgiveness is powerful because it allows you to let go of bitterness and hate. Without forgiveness, there is no healing!
Learning to move beyond the pain and focus on all the good things that God has placed in your life is a wonderful gift.
- 9 Types of Toxic People the Bible Warns About
- 5 Tips on How Not to Be a Negative Person
- What Does The Bible Say About Going “No Contact”?