Dealing With Difficult People

We’ve all had difficult people in our lives. These are the ones who are impatient, complainers, angry, or prideful. They can make life unbelievably difficult and discouraging. You likely can’t just banish them from your life (they may be family or close friends), so that means you have to learn how to handle them. Not surprisingly, the Bible describes how to deal with difficult people.

James writes, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:17-18). The effects of divine wisdom produces a series of seven adjectives. It is clear that James views wisdom as a quality that motivates certain kinds of behavior. Let’s consider the qualities:

  1. Pure: This word signifies moral blamelessness, such as the undefiled chastity of the virgin bride (cp. 2 Corinthians 11:2). Wisdom which is free from any stain or blemish would be incapable of producing anything evil.
  2. Peaceable: James criticizes those who falsely claim to be wise for their contentiousness (3:14; 4:1-2). According to the Old Testament also, wisdom produces peace (Proverbs 3:17).
  3. Gentle: To be gentle is to be kind. With such an attitude, the Christian, motivated by wisdom, will follow in the footsteps of his Lord, who also was characterized by “meekness and gentleness” (2 Corinthians 10:1).
  4. Willing to yield: This is one who is “easily persuaded” — not in the sense of gullibility, but in the sense of a willing deference to others when unalterable scriptural or moral principles are not involved.
  5. Full of mercy and good fruits: Acts of mercy are those “fruits” which genuine wisdom, like genuine faith, must produce (cp. 2:8-13).
  6. Without partiality: This means showing no favoritism, and discriminating against no one. But “without vacillation or wavering” is nearer the meaning. One can always count on this wisdom’s deciding every case in the same true way.
  7. Without hypocrisy: Wisdom is without pretense. It never acts the hypocrite or wears a mask. It never speaks in a fair manner when it secretly means otherwise; its words are never hollow.

As you can see, these seven attributes, if properly heeded and used, will allow you to deal with harsh, unreasonable people. James’ description of the wisdom from above reminds one of Paul’s description of “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. While there is little verbal resemblance, the emphasis in both texts is on humility, peaceableness, and upright behavior. What Paul says the Spirit produces, James says wisdom produces. Use this wisdom the next time  you are faced with a confrontation of problematic people. This wisdom will permit you to glorify God and produce a good end with the person that you’re attempting to influence.

Kyle Campbell