Several people I know are in the middle of challenging situations due to working or being related to people who have hurt, disappointed, or offended them in the past. Although the situation is causing them much angst because of the strained relationship, they wonder whether and how they should approach the person because of their past history, or they are flat out unwilling to approach the person due to their fear of how he or she will respond. Are you in or have you been in such a situation? Have you ever felt afraid to confront someone, or incapable of doing so without causing further damage to the relationship? Perhaps you feel that your boss is treating you unfairly or poorly without any reason, but rather than addressing the issue with him or her, you remain silent because it didn’t do any good when you did say something before.. Or maybe it’s a family member or friend who said something you found to be hurtful, but you stuff your pain rather than going to the person and sharing in love how what was said impacted you. Or maybe you have information you really feel convicted that you should share with someone, but you feel intimidated by that person so you choose to allow your fear of how they might respond lead you instead to say nothing.
When we are in a situation where we perceive that we are mistreated, misjudged, or otherwise have had a negative experience with someone in the past, the temptation is always to focus upon ourselves. To filter everything about the situation in light of its impact on us. To judge the motives and intentions of the other person. To develop vain imaginations regarding every action they take and the words that they speak. To nurse a grudge. To harbor and allow resentment to build up against them. That is the way of our sinful nature.
The reality is that we are all selfish, self-focused people unless and until we have received the gift of salvation Jesus offers, surrender our lives to Him, and then through the power of the Holy Spirit our focus changes from living for ourselves to living for His pleasure and glory. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are made His ‘ambassadors’, called to share the gospel and to accurately represent Him to the world and to reflect His character, His ways, and His will to others through our actions as well as our words (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). When we have been born again by the power of God, we become ‘new creations’ who no longer have to sin; we have been given the power to not sin! We have the Holy Spirit Who lives within us, Who can empower us to love others as Christ has loved us. To forgive others as He has forgiven us. To be kind and loving to people even when they hurt us. In other words, we have received the power to respond to others as Jesus would— speaking the truth in love, and taking action that demonstrates kindness and love, even when others act ‘unlovely’ to us.
So, how should you respond when confronted with a person whom you don’t prefer, are intimated by him or her, or just have a difficult time in their presence?
1. Praise God that He has placed you in the situation where He has you, and for giving you the opportunity to serve as His ambassador to this person! Praise Him that this situation hasn’t caught Him by surprise and isn’t too overwhelming for Him, even though it may seem overwhelming to you. Praise God for this ‘challenge’ that forces you to realize you are in need of His wisdom, His strength, His power, and His love. Praise Him that His love, His power, and His ways are so much greater than yours! Praise Him that He is able to do ‘exceedingly and abundantly above what you can hope or imagine’ in this situation, and that He is able to work ALL things together for your good and the glory of His Name if you look to Him, trust in and rely upon Him, and do what He has commanded and will equip you to do!
2. Pray for yourself! Ask God to open your eyes and give you a teachable spirit and His perspective on your situation, as well as His heart of love for the other person. Ask Him to give you wisdom in how to respond in a way that pleases Him. Ask Him to give you an ‘unoffendable heart’, and the eyes to see the other person as one also created in God’s image, loved by Him, and either a brother or sister—if they are a believer in Jesus— or a potential brother or sister whom God is longing to have join His family. Ask Him what He would like you to do to repair or restore the relationship; listen attentively for His Voice and obey Him. Ask Him to consume you with a holy ‘fear of God’, and to deliver you from any ‘fear of man’— the seeking of the approval of people over seeking God’s approval and pleasure.
3. Pray for the person! The old adage that ‘hurt people hurt people’ is so true. Pray for the person to know the love God has for him or her. A mentor of mine, Margaret Therkelsen, shared with me a prayer that I often have prayed for the ‘difficult people’ in my own life. She encouraged me—and I encourage you—to pray that God would give to the other person wisdom, insight, and an even deeper revelation of His love than He even gives to you! God will change your heart toward the other person when you ask Him to give you His view of the other person and when you pray that God would bless them.
4. Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgive the person for whatever wrong they may have done to you, remembering God’s kindness toward you while you were yet a sinner (Romans 2:4), that He has graciously forgiven you for your sin (Ephesians 4:32), and that unforgiveness towards others is a sin that will negatively impact your fellowship with God.
5. Be willing to humble yourself and meet with the other person to honestly and openly discuss the situation, ‘speaking the truth in love’, so that no root of bitterness develops within your heart toward him or her, and so that you are faithful to follow God’s command to do all you can to be reconciled to and live peaceably with others. (Ephesians 4:15; Romans 12:18). Be willing not only to confess your own sin before God, but also to confess it before the other person (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). It will require you humbling yourself, which is the way of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11). Ask the Lord to anoint you, to give you His words to speak with His heart of love, and to put to death anything in you which is self-seeking, self-centered, or vindictive. Remember, He will give you the strength to do whatever He calls you to do, and He always blesses obedience!
6. Look for opportunities where you can come alongside the person and sincerely affirm and take action to bless him or her. For example, if it’s your boss with whom you have an issue and you know she’s going through a rough time at home, perhaps you could make a meal for her or send an encouraging note to her.
1. Do not allege negative intent to the person’s words and/or actions. Be wise in God’s eyes as you relate to the person, but make sure you are also as innocent ‘as a dove’.
2. Do not allow a root of bitterness to grow in your heart toward the other person.
3. Do not gossip about and speak ill of the other person to others. You may ask for wisdom and godly counsel from a trusted, godly source, but be careful not to disparage the other person’s character or give false testimony designed to slant the situation in your favor.
4. Don’t succumb to the enemy’s lie that no matter what you say or do it will not make a difference. If you approach a person with a heart of love for them and truly want what is best for them, trust God to go before you. And even if the situation doesn’t change, you will know that you have done what God has required of you. You will have to give an account before God for how you responded to the situation, just as that person will have to give an account before Him. So pray that you both will have His eyes to see, His ears to hear, and His heart to respond to the situation!
Lord, thank You for coming to earth and sacrificng your life in order to reconcile me to You, a Holy God. Thank you for completely forgiving my sin against You, even though I lived in rebellion against You and your commandments and did nothing to deserve Your forgiveness. Thank You for giving me the privilege of being Your ambassador, and for the gift of the Holy Spirit Who empowers me to represent you to a world that desperately needs to know You! Please pour into my heart your unconditional love for all people, and especially for those people who are difficult for me to love—those who have hurt or intimidated me— and use me as an instrument in Your hand to draw them closer to You by demonstrating Christlike love and forgiveness to them!
Written by Julie Van Gorp
If you are feeling led to have a ‘crucial conversation’ with a difficult person in your life but don’t know what to say or how to say it, we can provide coaching to help you with that. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us at our website at https://trueviewministries.org/contact