The Romans 12 Guide to Dealing with Difficult People

Rev. Deb Koster

July 21, 2021

It is easy to feel justified in our anger. In our righteous indignation, we can see clearly the faults in other people. A so-called friend behaves thoughtlessly and ignores our feelings. A coworker maliciously cuts us out of an opportunity. A family member betrays our trust leaving us stunned. We feel powerless, and in our own self-pity we paint ourselves as the victim. So how can we respond to those who hurt us?

Paul offers some great advice in Romans 12:9-21 on how to avoid getting sucked into the destructive modes of wallowing in self-pity or acting out in anger. Consider his advice on how to live with difficult people.

Love must be sincere

Be honest about the hurt that you have experienced. Don’t offer an accusation, but state how you feel. Use an “I” statement to express your emotion. If you can lead with “I feel hurt” or “I feel frustrated” you have invited someone else into your emotional life. They may not respond kindly to it, but give them the opportunity and they may surprise you. A sincere acknowledgement of the pain is a first step toward bringing healing.

Cling to what is good

Focus on the good stuff and don’t let the evil junk have a foothold in your life. Your moral compass knows the difference between right and wrong, don’t let another person’s bad behavior entice you to participate in their drama. Don’t allow addictions, grudges, or sinfulness a place in your relationships. Draw boundaries around evil behavior and don’t let the problem become your focus.

Maintain brotherly love

It is hard to be loving when other people are inconsiderate, but it is what God calls us to do. We are told to honor one another above ourselves. This means that we choose to show them the respect that we want to see characterized in the relationship. God loved you in your brokenness and he will equip you to sacrificially love others.

Keep your spiritual fervor

Do not let bad behavior rob you of your spiritual joy. Bad behavior can draw us completely into the drama and cause us to forget that our God is bigger than all of these problems. The universe is still under his control, so we need to live like we believe that. Don’t let drama be the focus when God called you to be better than that. Stay on mission without getting pulled into the conflict.

Be patient

We all screw up sometimes and we are all a work in progress. We would want others to be patient when we mess up, so try to be patient with them. This does not mean being a doormat that others get to walk over, but rather choosing to extend courtesy and compassion.

Bless them

Jesus instructed in Matthew 5:44 that we pray for those who persecute us. If we pray for people who treat us badly then we will begin to see them through God’s eyes. We can stop seeing them as evil and instead begin seeing them as a hurting, broken person that God loves. Prayer may or not change the other person, but it changes us and gives us kingdom vision. Prayer restores our joy and allows us to be hopeful even when things around us look discouraging. In prayer we focus on God rather than on the problem which is our one true source of hope.

Live in harmony

We can’t control the stuff that happens to us in life, but we get the opportunity to show that we are more than just a product of our circumstances. As we model the grace of Christ to unkind people they get a chance to see Jesus. It is not easy to have grace for others, until we consider the grace that Christ afforded us. Choose to seek peace in light of the sacrifices that Jesus made for you.

Put aside pride

Our own pride gets in the way of living the way God intended. If we are filled with our own agenda and ego we will not have room for the Spirit to work. Grace can’t flow through us to others if we are focused on our own right to vindication. Keeping your mental list of why you are right and deserve to be angry will never come close to accomplishing what the healing grace of God can do for a situation.

Focus on your contribution

In all that is your responsibility, you are called to keep the peace. You cannot control the behaviors of others, but you can control yourself. Look thoughtfully at how you contribute to the problem and consider how you can be a peacemaker. Be willing to apologize for whatever part you had to play in things no matter how small your contribution was. Lead the way in taking responsibility.

Demonstrate love

Revenge belongs to God and has no place in our relationships. Showing love in the midst of hate gives a visual picture of the sacrificial love of God. It is a strong witness when others experience love that they did not deserve. A tangible act of love goes a long way in healing wounded relationships.

Jesus set the bar high for us. In John 15:12 Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” We have been loved unconditionally and sacrificially. Now we need to choose. Will you rage at others? Will you wallow in self-pity? Or are you willing to take the risk of showing love? The choice is yours.

About the author — Rev. Deb Koster

Deb Koster is a producer, writer, and speaker for Family Fire. She is also an Innkeeper at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, MI where she leads marriage retreat on weekends. After over 20 years as a Registered Nurse, she completed a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Deb and her husband Steven enjoy doing ministry together and they are the parents of three awesome young adults.

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