The Hardest People to Love

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 @ 3:56 PM

We all have them in our lives...difficult people.  We hear messages like " Love is all you need" or "love will make a way" but what happens when your best effort to love that difficult person in your life fails? What if you believe you are even loving beyond your own capacity, tapping in to God's supernatural love and STILL--there is no reconciliation or restoration of that relationship? Love is never FULLY realized if it isn't received. Many times, the difficult people in our lives allow pain, anger, bitterness, grief, envy, and/or fear to stand in the way of them receiving our love--and even the love of God. Pop psychology calls these folks "toxic." Their unhappiness and negativity spills over in their words and actions leaving those they care about the most, in the wake of their emotional spew. Galatians 5:21 spells out this toxicity of the sinful nature as reaking of hostility, quarreling, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfishness, dissension, division and envy (to name a few!). Yet we are called as receivers of God's grace to produce the fruits of HIS spirit even amid the toxicity of others. Let's face it, though-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self-control can seem so out of reach when dealing with these difficult, unhappy people.

Here are a few things to remember about our choices in those times of struggle:  
(1)  Their choices do not have to dictate our choices--we CAN choose the fruits of HIS Spirit and live in truth. 
(2) We can choose to forgive even if an apology never comes. Forgiveness hinges on the actions of one.  
(3) We must confess the wrong we may have done to them in our reactions to their words/actions and seek forgiveness-- whether or not they grant us forgiveness. (4) Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. It requires the actions of at least 2 --at least 2 people choosing to love and forgive and build a future together despite the hurts of the past. 
(5) Realize that forgiveness must always precede reconciliation, but reconciliation doesn't always follow forgiveness (due to #4). 
(6) Because we are called to fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable-- things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) we may need to set greater physical, relational, emotional and/or spiritual boundaries with the toxic people in our lives. 
(7) Accept that you cannot fix them. They must take responsibility for their own relational, emotional and spiritual health.   
(8) It is OK to ask to be treated respectfully--even in those difficult relationships. When you are being treated disrespectfully, kindly communicate the disrespect you are feeling and the change in words/actions that will allow you to continue communicating with them. For example, "It's not ok for you to shout at me, please lower your voice", "when you make sarcastic comments, I feel like you are not taking me seriously. Please do not use sarcasm"). If they cannot or will not make adjustments, consider greater relational boundaries.  
(9) Choose to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) daily to protect your heart and mind from the relational attacks that may come to threaten your own peace. 

If you know of anyone struggling with a difficult person in their lives, feel free to pass this encouragement along to them today!
Carrie Austin