Dealing with Difficult People

How to Reverse the Momentum of Unfair Treatment

The Shimei in Your Life

Do you have a Shimei in your life? You may not know who this is but chances are you do. Shimei is a minor character in the story of King David who represents the difficult people and circumstances that can get under our skin. Why does there always seem to be difficult people hanging around our lives?

Who is Shimei

Shimei showed up when David was fleeing from Absalom. David was once again on the run for his life. While suffering through this betrayal Shimei does his best to kick David while he’s down. Technically, he threw rocks at him while he was down, but you get the point. He was David’s difficult person of the moment (he seemed to have several).

David tried to take the high road with Saul, but this family member of the former king wasn’t satisfied. He falsely accused David of things he didn’t do and publically humiliated him. Shimei treated mistreated David. He never tried to hear David’s side of the story. He could only see the world through his own hurt and disappointment. He taunted David when he was most vulnerable even though David did everything he could to treat Saul and his family the best he could.

There’s Always a Shimei

Have you ever encountered someone like this? Some people are just determined to see the worse in us despite our best efforts. Most of us deal with difficult people at one point or another. It feels like they never give us a chance or even proactively try to turn others against us. Like Shimei, sometimes a previous hurt is clouding their perspective. This can be a tricky shadow to step out of once we are in it.

There always seems to be someone like this in our lives. They show up at school, work, church and sometimes in our family as well. If it is not a person, then it is a circumstance that can become a sort of thorn in the flesh. It can be a daily irritant. How do you respond in moments like this?

Praying for Shimei

I often pray that God would remove these kinds of people from my life. “Lord, help them find their next season as quickly and as far away from me as possible!” I have even prayed, “Lord, expose this wolf! Let their true character be known!”

At the time, I thought I was being generous with my prayers, but I sure hope there isn’t anyone out there praying for me like that! Of course, this is better than responding in the flesh and giving difficult people a piece of our minds. This is exactly what David’s men wanted to do. In fact, they wanted to kill Shimei. David wouldn’t let them though.

He wondered if God had allowed this burden into his life. Would God even turn Shemei’s cursing into a blessing?

The Blessing of Difficult People

I usually don’t have the emotional intelligence to respond the way David did when facing unfair treatment from difficult people. But maybe David was on to something. I have heard pearls are formed only after an irritant enters the oyster. Something painful things have to get under the skin of the oyster before something valuable is created. Is it possible God continues to allow Shimei’s in our lives to give us the opportunities to produce pearls of great value as well?

This is certainly what happened in the story of David and Shimei. David didn’t seek revenge when Shimei treated him unfairly. Then when he was on his way back to the throne, Shimei was there to greet him. Instead of throwing stones he brought 1,000 other men to welcome David home. God blessed David’s response to Shimei by not removing this one adversary but by giving him 1,001 advocates.

Pearls or Problems

Difficult people can produce pearls or problems in our lives. How we respond determines whether we will get rid of a problem or receive a multiplied blessing. We can’t avoid unfair treatment entirley. If it is not a person, then it will be a set of circumstances that are refining our character. Responding correctly does not always bring immediate results. We can’t control how others will react. What we can do is determine to see all the people God brings into our lives as pearls instead problems.

 

I’d love to hear from you. What do you see in this story? How can we better deal with the difficult people in our lives? What resources have helped you overcome unfair treatment? Leave a comment or send me a message on social media.

Benefits of Critics

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

Many people say to ignore your critics. Don’t listen to them they say. Once during a wedding prayer of blessing, I actually prayed that the bride and groom would, “shake the haters off.” For some odd reason, people haven’t rushed to ask me to pray for them at their weddings after that.

I don’t know that this advice is always good. Sometimes I think we say “ignore your critics,” as a way to insulate ourselves from some tough things we don’t want to hear. This can lead us to even mistakenly identify people who are trying to help as people who are hurting us because they are sharing difficult truths with us.

But what do we do about the actual critics – the people who we can’t make happy no matter how hard we try? Is there anyone like that in your life? What do we do when folks keep getting drunk on the “haterade” or seem to always pull into work in their Navi-hater.

There are secret benefits of having critics, fault-finders, and unwelcomed commentators snickering behind you. All the greats had them. I don’t think you can stand for something worthy without having someone stand against you. If you turn to scripture instead of cultural expectations in your response to critics, you can tap into the benefits of those that seem to love to hate.

4 Benefits of Critics

Listen

Our friends are often hesitant to share things they know we may not want to hear. This is because they want us to like them. They keep our feelings in mind. Critics don’t care if you like them. They are not interested in our emotions. In some small way, this can be a good thing if we pause to ask ourselves if there is a grain of truth in what is being said.

We may not always agree, but we can always listen. Listening is a way we can show that we value people even when we may not agree with what they are saying.

Learn

Critics can broaden your appeal when we learn from their perspective. Maybe their attitude is wrong. Perhaps they have an agenda. But maybe we can also learn how to better reach someone with their outlook on things next time before they even become a critic.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” We should be looking to win people over and not just win arguments. We can’t do this if we do not slow down and learn from those that are different than us.

Lean-in

Suffering through some unfair criticism can cause us to lean into what matters most. It can hurt when we hear someone doesn’t like our idea, perspective, or well-intended actions. This can also give us the opportunity to evaluate if we are living for the approval of God or others.

We don’t always get to respond to our critics. At times we have to turn the situation over to God. In these moments, we are able to draw closer to Him and reflect the grace and mercy we have received from Him.

Don’t Linger

While we can learn from critics, and at times should even listen to them to build future bridges, we shouldn’t linger there. Some criticism offers a lesson in letting go and moving on when things are outside of our control.

We shouldn’t allow criticism to be a focus. If we are always concerned about avoiding critics or responding to them, then there is no time to just be who God made us to be. Doing the right thing at times will be criticized. It’s not always fair, but most of the time it is best to keep loving and moving forward.

Give them what they lack

I used to be an extremely critical person. No one or nothing was good enough for me. I realized along the way that my high standards were keeping me from enjoying the people God gave me in my life. Since then, I have started offering more grace to people. I have noticed though, that the last person we are willing to give grace to is the judgmental among us.

Why give mercy to someone who doesn’t show it to anyone else? Because that is apparently what they are in most need of because they don’t have any to spare. Give grace to your critics and over time their cup may eventually overflow and begin to refresh others as well.

What Motivates You

Managing the tension between justice and mercy

Are you more justice leaning or are you quick to offer mercy? Both can be great attributes of any person. There is also another sometimes hidden factor that if not discovered will cause either to divide a team and cause you to be less productive.

The Justice League

I’ve always been fascinated by the tension between justice and mercy and how it motivates people one way or another. I am a justice oriented person. When I watch a movie where someone is mistreated it causes me to tear up. I want to fight on behalf off the person who is hurting. Justice motivates me to act on another’s behalf. That’s not all though

Some people may say I enjoy conflict because I am not afraid to enter a confrontation to make things right. That’s not really true though. I don’t like confrontation. I just love seeing justice win the day. I am willing to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable for the long-term good of justice.

What it is really about

If I am honest though sometimes my sense of justice is can become more about me then it is about justice.

When others are not as invested in our cause us justice leaguers can become upset. Part of this is about justice, but it can also be about others not doing as much as we have. In other words, justice-oriented people need to make sure their passion for justice is not just about them getting credit for doing more than everyone else.

Where does this leave mercy-oriented people? Are those likable, friendly, and forgiving people who everyone loves off the hook. Not really.

The Merciful and Kind

Godly mercy is a great thing. It is an attribute that reflects the kindness of God. Some would say that we are most like God when we forgive. But being merciful can also be motivated by self-interest as well.

If you are extending mercy because you are avoiding an issue then your mercy has taken a wrong turn. God is patient but He is also just. Being mercy-oriented becomes self-focused when it leads to inaction. Mercy is only mercy when it causes us to act, be intentional, and takes steps to help better someone else’s situation.

Mercy is what we give to those who have made mistakes as they enter the road to recovery. It is not what we hand out to avoid dealing with problems.

What slows down justice and mercy

We need justice and we need mercy. What we don’t need is self-centeredness. Whenever we mix in selfishness to justice and mercy we pollute the parts of us that make us like God. If we are willing to be selfless then justice and mercy can work together to make a healthy leaders and teams.

Have you ever noticed the tension between justice and mercy? What have you learned along the way? I’d love to hear your thoughts!