Do you bark back in anger? Or do you silently fume? Do you change the subject or cut the phone call short? Or do you try to please and accommodate so they will stop the rampage? Do you try to talk it out and explain your position? Or do you deem the conversation as hopeless and complain to your sister instead?
Maybe your tactic changes depending on the person in front of you. Do you accommodate your boss but later take your pent up emotions out on your kids? Do you vent on your mom but are sweet as pie to your boy friend? Do you have a new friend who you talk things out with but that old friend from high school, well, you know how that discussion will turn out so why bother?
This was our discussion this week at church and also in our small groups. We talked about the people we experienced as draining and our reactions to them. What was the right reaction? For the answers, we searched the gospels and read some of the interactions Jesus had with draining people in John 3:1-21, Matthew 12:1-15 and Luke 14:1-14.
We saw Jesus' reaction to people wasn't a reaction at all. Jesus knew what He was about and He was not deterred by other's questions or actions towards Him. He spoke to people from the heart about the real issues (John 3:3, Luke 14:7). He used illustrations to help others understand His position (Luke 14:6, Matthew 12:11). There were times when He walked away (Matthew 12:14-15) but that was due to His being obedient to the timing of His Father. It was not intended to avoid conflict. Actually, He invited conflict at times, and used the conflict to point to truth (Luke 12:3).
Jesus listened to the people who came to Him with questions, no matter what their motives were. Jesus knew when their real plan was not to obtain answers but to trap Him. Nevertheless, He did not back away, but answered them directly with truth and used the opportunity to reveal important information regarding the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:2-9, Matthew 22:16-22, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 15:1-10, Luke 18:18-30).
When the time came for Jesus to face the most destructive people, He prepared Himself with prayer (Luke 22:41-43). He did not do what would come naturally as a human man, but what His Father wanted. He prayed and received not only direction but also supernatural strength.
Why do you react as you do to the draining people in your life? Do you act as your parents modeled or are you doing the exact opposite because of how it worked out for them? Were you hurt or rejected at a prior time of life and swore to yourself never to be hurt like that again? Do you act to avoid conflict and anger because "Christians don't get angry" or do you confront others harshly because "Christians must stand for truth”?
I confess I usually assess the situation and try to use the approach that would work out for the best (read: "for my benefit").
|Like the ocean can be raging or calm |
depending on the wind,
so we must allow the wind of the Spirit
to control our reactions to others.
I came to the conclusion there is no specific right or wrong way to deal with difficult people. Each person, each situation, each time is different. Sometimes it is best to confront with love. Sometimes it is good to try to understand and be understood. Sometimes it is best to walk away and cool off. Sometime it is good to submit to another's ways. Sometimes it is better to say "this time, I want to decide." Sometimes it is even best to be harsh (Matthew 23:1-36, John 3:13-17). God knows which is best and He desires to tell us, moment by moment as we walk with Him, pray to Him, listen to Him. And we can count on His angels to strengthen us as well so we can do His will.
Sometimes as we obey God we find things don't work out exactly as we would like. That is where faith comes in, when we learn to trust God will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). We obey God and trust the results to Him.
And of course, we need to ask ourselves (and God) the important question: in this situation, is the draining person ME?
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)