ASKING FOR A FRIEND:
You Are A Pain In My Neck
by EmmyLou Bates
The person who’s driving 45mph in a 60mph zone, the coworker that always needs help getting their tasks done, the lady who took the last good parking spot at Target that you waited 10 minutes for, and even the friend who calls you for the 6th time that week saying she’s in a fight with her boyfriend for the 14th time this month. Difficult people. They’re everywhere and everyone. Yes, everyone. No, you are not some super human species of man that was born with full immunity against annoying habits, bad attitudes, poor decisions, and unkind thoughts. Does this mean you’re a bad person? Absolutely not. Does this mean you’re human? Absolutely it does!
As human beings, we aren’t perfect. If we were, then we wouldn’t need a savior. We all have good and bad days. We all have things we wish we could change about ourselves. We all have tempers, days were our patience runs thin, and times when we bypass thinking WWJD and go straight to that unkind thought on how if Becky with the good hair could stop talking for five minutes this meeting could’ve been over with 20 minutes ago. Yes, even on the best of days, we all are human. That means that sometimes our personalities, habits, and routines can make others smile big enough where it looks like their face might break, or it can make them cringe with the very thought of being in the same room as you. Is that a bad thing? No. The world needs all types of people and not everyone will get along all of the time. Yes, we should all love each other 100% of the time and we should all try really hard to see the good in everyone, to see the God in everyone, but again, we’re not perfect and sometimes no matter how hard we try, those unkind thoughts, annoyances, hurtful words, and general conflicts arise.
I don’t know about you, but I think that the times I struggle the most with dealing with difficult people are on the bad days. On the good days, I intrinsically find it easier to provide grace and generosity. My thoughts are more aligned with Mr. Roger’s, which means everyone’s my friend in the neighborhood. I can look past the small annoyances and keep my pet peeves to myself. But, those bad days. Oh, those bad days are the worst. You know what I’m talking about. The type of day when you hit snooze too many times on your alarm so you’re speeding to work only to be stuck driving behind what feels like the slowest human being on the planet. You know, that type of driver where you just want to tell them where the accelerator is, just in case they forgot. When you finally get to work only to see that the day is going to be incredibly busy and you’re already getting a late start to it.
The type of day when you get really excited for the reprieve that is known as taking a lunch only to realize that in your haste that morning you left your food at home on the counter. Those days at work when you find yourself thinking about how things can’t get much worse when you’re then asked by the coworker that never stops talking about Game of Thrones for help and you think to yourself, if you have to hear one more word about how so and so died in the show that you might just pull a Van Gough and cut your ears off. Yes, those bad days. They happen and when they do it feels like everyone is out to personally attack your happiness for the day. It feels like everyone around you has made a bet on who can successfully annoy you and make your day as difficult as possible (and the winner of $20.00 goes to the Game of Thrones junkie on third floor).
On those days, when our patience is short lived and the fuse is one match stick away from being lit it can be easy for us to become quick to judge, be filled with anger, have mean spirited thoughts, say hurtful words, and let 5 minutes of poor circumstance influence 24 hours of potential happiness. And I know, you’re thinking to yourself, it was one bad day. What does it matter if for one day I wasn’t the kind-hearted, patient person I aspire to be when I have 364 other days to do so? Well, it does matter because one bad day leads to two, two then becomes seven, seven becomes thirty-eight, thirty-eight becomes seventy-six and, well, you get my point. Not only can this snowball effect your own life, but the pins of people that you strike down the lane are also now included in the score. So, what we do when we encounter difficult people? Do we gather them all together and send them up to space in a rocket ship? Do we just avoid them whenever possible and call it done? Do we put on a fake it until we make it attitude when we have to speak to them and then write slanderous things about them in our journal later that night? As tempting as these things sound the answer to all of the above is no. There are five steps we need to take when dealing with those “pain in the neck” people that make life difficult.
Step One: Overlook the Offense
Step Two: Pray for Them
Step Three: Forgive Them
Step Four: Bless Them
Step Five: Do Good to Them
Step One: Overlook the Offense. You probably thought an internal, loud, “HA” when you read that, but it’s no joke. I get it, someone has wronged or hurt you and now you’re supposed to overlook it? Even though that statement is pure English it may seem like I’m speaking in a foreign tongue. And, before you stop reading this and decide to turn your attention to something else, let me just say that this is not meant to diminish your feelings or to undermine the event that happened. Without engaging in Step One, strongholds can never be broken. Liberation from what has happened will never occur. You may be thinking, “Okay, fair point, but how do I do this?” The answer is two words: empathy and understanding.
When we develop compassion and understanding we’re more inclined to investigate the story instead of jumping to the ending thinking we know what happened in-between. I don’t know about you, but when I read a book it’s the middle part that gives value to the story. If we can provide grace and learn the why, we can then position ourselves to be the who in their lives to help rewrite the story’s ending.
Step Two: Pray for Them. We all know that the power of prayer is limitless. That prayer is our ability to speak to God, to know the father, and to build relationship. It’s easy to pray for people in times of poor health, for victims of tragedy, and for the fruition of our friends and families. How often though do we pray for our enemies? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I did this daily. It’s hard to pray for someone when they’re making it difficult for you to do your job, if they’ve caused you pain, if they constantly belittle your character, or if they’re being a blockade to the success of your day. In fact, just thinking about doing this can make me want to put up a guarded wall.
This simply means that we can be so hard set and closed off to someone because of what they did or how they’ve acted that even if we overlook the offense, we’re not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to tear down those barriers and establish connection. When we pray for those people, we allow the holy spirit to transform stone to sand.
Step Three: Forgive Them. Forgiveness is by far one of the most complex emotions that humanity holds. To provide others with mercy and grace, even if not deserved is a concept that befuddles my brain. It’s easy though to connect the parallels between God’s love for us, of Christ’s sacrifice for us and forgiveness. We were sinners, every one of us. We threw stones, we shouted names. We spat in the face of mercy. And, nonetheless, Jesus still loved us enough to sacrifice himself to save us. He loved us enough to choose to forgive us from every sin, every mean word, every mistake. And when you think of that love, of that sacrifice, you can’t help but feel wrecked. You have to choose to forgive. When you do this, you can overlook the offense, you can let go of the past, and you can obtain the freedom to move forward.
Step Four: Bless Them. In the Greek to bless someone means to speak highly of them. We’ve heard over and over again the power of words. We know that if we speak it then it will be so. We encourage one another to speak life over and into each other. Imagine what would happen if we spoke this way to those against us. The change that could be made, the future that could be. When we bless those that are against us we can create a new reality with our words.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those that mistreat you.
Step Five: Do Good to Them. How many times have you heard the phrase, “treat others the way you want to be treated?” It’s called the golden rule for a reason.
What a powerful statement. Seriously, just think about that for a minute. Think about the concept that you can bring others to the Father by doing good unto them and what that really means. It’s easy to treat those who treat you badly the same way, after all the phrase, “an eye for an eye” is famous. Nobody ever seems to remember the end of that phrase results in being blind. When you rise above and extend a fraction of the mercy and grace that God showed us, you are not only building God’s house but you are setting yourself up for blessing in return.
You may be thinking to yourself, well, this all sounds great, but it’s easier read then done. The truth of it is, you’re right and you’re not going to get there in one day. The good news though, is that God gives you a chance to work on this all the time. The next time you’re having a bad day utilize it for a time to practice what has been preached. I’m not saying you have to stop and thank God for every blunder that happens, but instead of thinking about the ten ways you could get out of working with the annoying coworker who always bothers you at the most inconvenient times, instead ask them about how you can help make them more successful at their job. Ask them if there’s something going on that is making it hard for them at work to finish their task.
On the good days, try to find opportunities that expand your comfort zone to do these steps. When you practice these steps you turn habit into routine. The fact of it all is, at all ages and seasons of life, we will encounter difficult people. If we know how to handle it when it happens we can prevent strongholds from forming, embrace liberation, and be rewarded with God’s blessings.