Dealing with Difficult People, Part Three

Dan’s series on dealing with difficult people continues this week. Opening with Proverbs 21:22: (21:22): “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust,” he explains that wisdom holds a heart to deal with the mighty, or what matters most. Part of the task of forgiveness is to deprive somebody of their false gods.

Forgiveness is not as simple as “forgiving and forgetting.” It is much more complex. It involves a willingness to cancel the debt that someone owes you, for no one has the means to pay back the harm they have done. Forgiveness is also bound to love; if you have a lack of one, you have the lack of the other.

The person who has been forgiven has the privilege to cancel the debt and carry out forgiveness by doing good. Dan here begins to draw from Romans 12. In verse 17, Paul begins, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people.”

It sounds like an impossible burden, but Paul conditions it with, “As far as it depends on you…” This implies that the task is not possible, but it can still be your desire. The passage also explains that it is God’s to avenge, but there’s no instruction to not desire justice.

Obviously, this is a complex passage. It shows the intersection of strength and power, mercy and justice. At the end of the passage, Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Here, “overcome” means to utterly destroy.

The weapon to use with a difficult person is forgiveness. But what does this forgiveness look like?

The picture of turning the other cheek does not seem sensible, but it is revealing. If you turn after you are struck the first time, you at some point see the other person and expose the violence of their heart.

To offer forgiveness is to offer the gift of strength and kindness that cannot be dismissed by the other.

You take away their power by engaging their own desire and exposing what they have a difficult time naming. So love is here about actually entering into the conflict.

  • For those who drain you: take away power and offer mercy
  • For critics: take notes and ask for examples of their immensely high performance and pray the cross of Christ to come between
  • For those who are envious: let the envy grow so it shows itself as a failure to hear

With difficult people, there are only two choices: attacking and cursing or loving through truth telling.

This is where we get to live out the power of the Gospel.