"Getting Along With Difficult People"
What's the main problem with this world? Easy answer: People.
Probably most of us have felt that way at one time or another....especially with those people who are like Heavenly Sandpaper....the ones the Lord allows to be in our lives, but who "rub us the wrong way." Or so we think.
For example, it might be Judy the Judger who is critical of what everyone does and says, including telling a family member they're not loading the dishwasher exactly perfectly. Or, Mark the Martyr who complains about how hard he works on church projects and makes sure everyone - and we mean everyone - around him hears how nobody appreciates his efforts.
In our case, our heavenly sandpaper was a young woman in a class we taught when Bob was on the staff of a chuch in Southern California back in the 80's. The moment she arrived she needed our constant attention....in our faces, telling us every detail about her work day, asking nonstop questions, trying to dominate every discussion group we had. Frankly, she was one of those who made us feel every time we saw her we wanted to get out of Impulse Power and jump into Warp Drive Five in an opposite direction. We couldn't, however, since we were the teachers. We figured we would tolerate her until the six-week class was over. And by-the-way, yes, she was a Christian.
One day when the two of us were having devotions together we read the passage of Romans 15:7 - "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God," we realized we hadn't been doing this with our heavenly sandpaper. When the Apostle Paul wrote this verse, the word acceptance meant - "Welcome with open arms." We knew we were not even close to welcoming her with open arms and that our approach was ungodly and down right impolite. Tolerating, yes. But accepting? No! We weren't accepting her in an unconditional way, as Christ had accepted us. We wanted her to change so we could feel more comfortable. Know what we mean?
We decided to put on what we call our Jesus Specs. That means those invisible glasses we can all put on so we can view people the way Jesus views them through God's eyes - worthy of respect - which will show up in the way we talk and treat people.
Wow! Whatta difference when we put them on! His view always helps us separate the person from the behavior. Let's run that by again. Our Lord helps us separate the person from the behavior. He will help us all discover what it is in a person's life that makes them so difficult. What we discovered about that woman, and subsequently about most difficult and irritating people, is that the vast majority of them just want others to accept and care for them. Unfortunately, their behavior usually causes others to react in the opposite way. And, oh, let's not forget that the two of us, and maybe even you, just 'might' be a difficult person to others. Hmmmm. Sometimes we never think of that, do we?
Anyway, viewing this particular woman through our Jesus Specs, we took the initiative to find out more about her life. We found out her parents had passed away when she was a child and she'd grown up in an orphanage since there were no other relatives in her life. She was passed over by people wanting to adopt because she was older than what the couples wanted. As a teenager, she met a guy who finally gave her the attention she so desperately needed. They married, but within a year he'd left her.
So here was a very hurting young lady who desired so much to be accepted but everyone seemed to reject her. She wanted acceptance and here we were showing her merely tolerance. We were very ashamed of our attitude and our lack of love and sensitivity. God used our heavenly sandpaper to teach us a great lesson about acceptance and how to live out 1 Cor.12:25 - "There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other." We confessed before our Lord, accepted His forgiveness and turned our attention and interest toward this woman. She became more alive with smiles, appreciation and thanksgiving. We mean it really showed.
Who is your heavenly sandpaper? Your spouse? A child? Someone you're dating? Family members? Neighbor? Coworker? And on and on?
And, by the way, it's okay to let your heart pound as God distinctly places these people in your mind - those who need your love and attention and who are not receiving it from you. Remember, God has placed these people in your life for a reason. To deal with them, always put on your Jesus Specs and see them as God sees them through the eyes of Christ our Lord. They will look very, very different. We all know what God wants - and what those 'special' people placed in our lives need. It's your choice.
Bob and Yvonne Turnbull