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Posts tagged ‘difficult people’

How to Handle Toxic and Critical People

SOURCE: Leslie Vernick

We all have encounters with difficult people who leave us rattled and shaken. A co-worker undermines us in front of our boss; our friend puts us down and says she was “just kidding.” Our spouse rages and then turns everything around to make us think that it’s our fault.

Most of us would prefer to minimize our contact with people like this but sometimes it’s just not possible. We may work with them, be married to them, or have some other connection that keeps us in regular contact with toxic individuals. For a long time, Christians have been taught to forbear and forgive. While Biblical in essence, most of us aren’t exactly sure how to live it out in real life.

We know that Jesus tells us that we’re to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us but actually doing it is much more challenging. The apostle Paul counsels us in these instances not to be overcome with evil but instead, to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). But honestly, there are times when evil feels stronger and we are not sure how to stop it from getting the best of us.

Below are 5 specific steps I have found helpful in putting these Biblical truths into practice, especially when dealing with a toxic or destructive person.

1. Press Pause: As soon as you feel that poisonous dart, take a deep breath and pray for God’s help. The words or behaviors of another person have just knocked you off balance and will infect you with its toxic effects if you don’t quickly apply an antidote.

2. Don’t panic and overreact or be passive and under-react. Stay calm and don’t fall for their bait. Try not to take what they have done or said personally (which is very tempting to do). Remember, the way someone treats you, whether it be good or bad, really has little to do with you. It reveals something about who they are.

3. Ask yourself this question: What in this present moment do I need to learn (or change) in order to become the person I want to become? Here are a few examples of things I have found I needed after I asked myself this question.

Courage

Humility

Generosity

To speak the truth in love

To set firmer boundaries

Patience

Not to worry so much what others think of me

Let go of my desire to make everyone happy

Not to let this person get the best of me or to make me act crazy

Believe me, it is very tempting in the moment to defend yourself, feel responsible for someone else’s feelings, become totally intimidated and overwhelmed, or strike back with your own attack. None of these responses will help you move forward with a toxic person. However, God does promise to use these painful moments for our good. Therefore, learn what you can and let go of the rest.

4. Teach yourself to respond out of who you want to be rather than how you feel at the moment. We already know how to do this when we act responsibly and get out of bed to go to work even when we want to sleep in or when we patiently work with our child on their homework even though we’d rather be doing anything else. If you must respond to a provocative situation, speak calmly, truthfully and firmly especially when you have to set a limit or say “no”. Refuse to engage in arguing, defending yourself, or circular conversations that go nowhere.

5. Practice (and this takes time) looking at this difficult/destructive person in a different way than you have in the past. Instead of meditating on his or her faults or sin against you, search for her goodness, his humanness, or his/her woundedness. When we can see a person in this new way, it’s much easier to allow God to fill us with His love and compassion for this pitiful person who would be so blind as to treat us (or anyone) in such a sinful way. Having this change in perspective doesn’t excuse the toxic person or give him or her license to continue to do damage, but it does help us not to judge and empowers us to forgive him/her, even if we can’t reconcile the relationship.

We can honestly pray God’s best for this person and leave him/her in His capable hands. We all encounter evil situations and difficult and destructive people, but by practicing these five steps, we can learn to overcome evil’s toxic effects in us with good.

Being Patient Learning Patience With Challenging People

SOURCE:  Counseling Solutions

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

The main part of this verse is the last part, which is no doubt the hardest part. While the idle, the fainthearted, and the weak cover three categories of people we could possibly struggle with, the phrase Paul puts on the end of his sentence is the real challenge.

The idle, fainthearted, and the weak do not particularly bother me all that much unless you’re asking me to be patient with them. Paul puts three difficult people-types into one big basket and then says that you and I are to be patient with all three of them.

And who are these people I am to be patient with?

The Idle – these are the people who are not living the way they should. They are unruly, out-of-order, not walking according to the clear teaching of God’s Word. They know better because they are Christians, but are choosing to do their own thing. Paul says we are to warn them.

The Fainthearted – these are the people with “small souls.” They have limitations that are not altogether character related. Everybody does not possess a 95 mile-per-hour fast ball. There are people in our relational sphere who have certain limitations. Paul asks us to encourage the small souled people in our world.

The Weak – These are the people who are easily tempted toward certain sins. While they may be strong in most areas, there are some temptations that are particularly acute to them. And though they are seeking to fight a good fight against these temptations, Paul’s hope is that we will be extra mindful of our co-laborers by seeking to help them.

And what should be my heart attitude toward these people?

Though there may be three categories of people in your world, there is one common thread that binds them together as far as your heart attitude and response to them. That there is only one common denominator is the good news. The bad news is that the common denominator is be patient with them all.

Here is a guiding truth that I try, though not always successfully, to apply to my heart when I am serving someone who is different than I am and needs to change:

The few things that I have learned in 50 years of living and have somewhat successfully applied to my life, I must not self-righteously expect, demand, or impose that others learn similar things in six days or six months.

A sober assessment of myself and how I have responded to God and eventually changed through years of trying, failing, trying, and succeeding helps me to moderate my heart down to the necessary levels of patience when it comes to working with other people.

Let’s face it: neither you nor I was quick to change in every area of sanctification. And if the truth were known, we’d have to admit that there are still areas of our lives that need to improve. Can we be honest on this one? Therefore, I want to be careful about how I think about someone who is not changing according to my expectations, preferences, or desires.

Being patient with the idle – as you examine the unruly areas of my life, please do not refrain from speaking into my life. I only ask that you be patient with me as you help me to grow into Christ-likeness.

Being patient with the fainthearted – I have certain limitations. However, I do not want to make excuses for sin, therefore I need you to help me discern the differences between God-given limitations that I can’t go beyond and character issues that I may be able to change. This process of discerning these differences will require much patience on your part.

Being patient with the weak – while there are many things in this world that are not tempting to me and I am grateful for the grace God has given to me in each of these areas, there are still areas where I am weak. I struggle with specific and real sin issues. I need your help. And how can you help me? Primarily by being patient with me when I fail and even more patient as you walk me through the reconciliation process with those I have offended because of my failure.

My Impatient Indicators

When I am losing patience with a person there are “indicators” that I feel in my heart and sometimes express through my actions that alert me that I am either sinning against someone or about to sin against someone. Here is my personal short list of sins that manifest in my heart and sometimes expressed through my behavior: impatience, frustration, anger, criticalness, gossip, slander, harshness, not thinking the best of, hopelessness, worry, angst, unkindness, not serving them, demanding, judgmental, and anxious.

It’s pretty straight forward:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. –1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

Handling Stress Like Jesus

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Jan Johnson

When you’re nervous or intimidated, do you struggle to think clearly?  How about when you’re being questioned or even bullied?  That phrase, “Stress makes you stupid,” describes the way we struggle to answer the easiest of questions when we feel inadequate or challenged.

Because of this, I’ve always been mesmerized by Jesus’ clarity and peace during the “day of questions” of the final week of his earthly life.  Group after adversarial group came to him trying to trick him.  He knew what they were up to, yet he was not intimidated.  He gave answers that showed not only showed his clarity of thinking (as opposed to our muddled thinking when stressed) but also his brilliance in sorting out complex questions (“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s . . .,”). I picture him that day with his shoulders relaxed, his voice calm, not indulging in dramatic or overstated questions, completely himself under fire.

Nor was Jesus combative.  He didn’t try to silence his questioners or play one-up games with them.  He took every question seriously and then spoke back to the deeper issues behind them (usually the Great Commandment:  love God; love others).  Even when he answered their question with another question (Matt. 21:23-26) it wasn’t out of irritability, but to point them to the answer.

In order for Jesus to respond to these testy intimidations with calmness, clarity, and depth, he must have lived with a deep peace inside him unknown to most of us.  His OKness was not about who liked him or didn’t like him, about who approved of him or didn’t approve of him, about whether bad or good things were about to happen to him. He walked this earth in complete peace – I think of Jesus as “peace on wheels.”  He had the kind of peace I begin to taste when I move through the day saying, “The Lord really is my shepherd;  I do have everything I need;  I can be like that crazy sheep, lying down satisfied in the green pasture. I can face shadows and darkness without fear because God really is me. can even sit across the table from a difficult person and remember that I am an anointed one of God with my cup full of whatever I need at this moment. My body really can be God’s dwelling place every minute of my life.”  As I do this, I taste the inner life of Jesus.

Jesus genuinely loved people, including his questioners.  So he didn’t see them as opponents or adversaries but as people standing in front of him that he had the opportunity to love.  This was how Jesus lived and breathed, loving God and loving others. We, too, can move into such a life, loving God and others even if it’s only for the next ten minutes throughout the day.

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