Living with a difficult person can be really difficult. Often our focus is to avoid or endure that person. The truth is that when I live engaged in a healthy way with that person, I am actually loving that person and in some ways helping him.
In my previous post I looked at a couple of strategies for dealing with difficult people. Engaging in a love that keeps no record of wrongs, seeing my faults as much as those of the other, and learning to set appropriate boundaries with another person are all helpful strategies. Good communication about issues as opposed to conflict avoidance can actually improve the relationship.
The bible suggests another strategy for difficult people. It is the idea of “covering over an offense.” The apostle Peter suggests that we love others “deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The writer of Proverbs suggests that love covers over wrongs (10:12) and that when we cover over an offense, love is actually encouraged in the other (17:9). Covering over also keeps us from repeating the matter to others thereby causing strain in other relationships. This idea of “covering over” seems to indicate a willingness to forgive again and again. It also implies that we not dwell on the offense, but that we surrender it. We are talking about grace.
Covering over also suggests that we see a person as better than they deserve to be seen. This kind of love refuses to focus only on another’s faults, but in humility considers others as “better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). Scripture is not suggesting that we tolerate abusive or sinful behavior. Instead, our goal ought to be reconciliation and harmony in relationships whenever possible.
To some, all of this may sound unrealistic; for it is certainly not the way of the world. Yet if this is the way that God sees us, we ought to strive to do no less. Because of His love for us and Christ’s sacrifice for us, He sees us and treats us better than we deserve. He focuses on His deep love for us not on a record of our wrongs. Let us ask God to give us the grace to love those difficult people in our lives, and to keep no record of wrongs.
Dr. Tom Barbian, LPC
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