(This blog was taken from Lesson 7 and 8 in Happy School Advanced.)

My grandmother had a neighbor, Cleo, who had to take care of an aging aunt during the aunt’s last years. This aunt, Aunt Luticia, had no children, and was arguably the most negative and pessimistic person you’ve ever met. Aunt Luticia complained about everything, and thought her opinion was always correct. It drove my grandmother’s friend, Cleo, crazy. 

I remember visiting my grandmother once and we went next door to Cleo’s house. My grandmother and I were there when Cleo gave Aunt Luticia a new wheelchair. She had complained for months about her old one and had requested that she get a new one. On this day, upon receiving a new, high-end, fancy model, Aunt Luticia had said, “This isn’t the one I was hoping for. I don’t like the way the wheels lock.” 

Cleo felt frustrated and then began reprimanding Aunt Luticia for her ungratefulness. However on this day, Aunt Luticia’s part-time caregiver, Nelly, was present. Nelly just started laughing, “Ms. Luticia, this wheelchair is just fine. You’re going to do great with this wheelchair. Why, I really like it.” I remember being struck by the difference in how my grandmother’s friend, Cleo, and the caregiver reacted to Aunt Luticia’s unpleasantness. 

When I mentioned this to my grandmother, she said that Nelly could go home and forget about it, but Cleo was continuously burdened and bombarded with Aunt Luticia’s negativity, so it was different for her.

Is that right? Of course to a degree, it is. But you can learn to have a different interpretation (and thus reaction) to unpleasant people’s comments. You give every situation an interpretation, and you get to choose your interpretation. Situations are only upsetting if you construe them to be. 

Here are 7 verses in which the Bible says how we are to respond to difficult and unpleasant people. This thinking is against your natural inclination but you can learn to replace and refute your current thinking. Comb through these verses with your difficult person in mind:

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Luke 6:29)

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Tim 2:24)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2)

“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3: 12-13) 

“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” (Prov. 16:32)

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Pr. 19:11)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

It’s pretty obvious that the Scripture is assuming that others will be difficult. And in the midst of their unpleasantness, we are to return a blessing for an insult. What a foreign concept! But it’s certainly not foreign to the mind of God. When we’re confronted with difficult people, this is the prescription God has written, vastly different from our natural inclinations to be offended, angry, or resentful.  

I didn’t understand this then, but actually, my grandmother’s friend, Cleo, could have learned to overlook Aunt Luticia’s negativity. I’m not saying it would be easy, and there would definitely be a learning curve. But again, it’s the interpretation that you give to the situation. She could have learned to choose meekness, patience, forbearance, and humility. 

Personally, I think forgiving difficult people is one of the hardest things we’re called to do as Christians. Recently I read that if Christians would just love, serve, and forgive, the world would be turned upside down. That’s what the early Christians did. 

In a devotional I read years ago, there was a story about two soldiers in the barracks. One had been drinking excessively and he threw his boots at a fellow soldier, a Christian, hitting him in the head. The next morning when the drunk soldier awakened, his boots were at the bottom of his bunk, all shined.

The hung-over soldier approached the Christian. “What is it about you that makes you act like this?” The Christian soldier shared Christ and the other man became a Christian.

God knows you’re going to encounter difficult people and He has given you instructions on how to respond. In my opinion, the best way to respond to other people’s negativity and offenses is to pretend you are smoke. Let the darts of their offenses and negativity pass through you like you’re smoke. Because on the other side of returning a blessing for an insult is a blessing for you: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

(You can access other blogs in this series on my website, JulieNGordon.com. Click on the Happy School Advanced tab.)