Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “difficult”

DISHING ON DIFFICULT PEOPLE

I was being kind and compassionate and was prepared to go out of my way to be helpful. Then he bit my head off. I immediately thought, “Thanks for nothin’ there, bud!” I always go the extra mile in the respect, caring, and kindhearted department with this guy. And what I get in return is short, impatient, disrespectful responses. He grunts, he groans, or he growls at me nearly every time. He’s crusty. He’s rough around the edges to say the least. He once told me that when he dies he’s “going straight to hell because he’s one mean son of a bitch.” (Yep, that’s a direct quote from him.) Ever since he made that declaration, he’s been on my heart. For whatever reason, this week when I reached out to help out with my normal positive, considerate approach, and when he bit my head off, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

Later, another gentleman (not sure he really deserves that title if I’m being honest) told me he didn’t like me one bit at all. (What I really wanted to say was, “Yeah, the feeling is mutual!”) He let me know I was terrible at my job and that I needed to get with the program. He then stated that he didn’t like being around me and told me to go away. Apparently not long after we met I ticked him off. He doesn’t look at me, speak to me, or acknowledge me in any way. I say hello to him every time I see him. I ask him how his day is going. And he pretends that I don’t exist. Until this week. When I got an earful. And again, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

head buttWhen I deal with difficult people, my motto (and self-talk reminder) of the last several years has been, “Just kill ‘em with kindness.” But after this week, my new motto just might leave off the words “with kindness.”

“Bless those who curse you,” He said. I’d like to think Jesus was plum crazy or maybe on something when He challenged His listeners in this way. But that wasn’t the case at all. He was always taking what was right-side-up and turning it upside down. Or perhaps better to the point, He was always taking what was upside down, and turning it right-side-up. Paul reiterates Jesus’ words by adding, “Bless and do not curse.” Then Peter adds his two cents by saying, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…”

I think Jesus initiated these words because He knew that life was a grander story than just mere moments of insults and ingrates. He knew that He was part of a bigger story than the one written in the heat of the moment of disgust or displeasure with an individual. Not only was His story bigger, but so was that of the insulter, the attacker, the persecutor, the difficult person. And if He could weave kindness, compassion, grace, and mercy into their story, maybe it would awaken them to the bigger story they were a part of but just didn’t know it.

“Love your enemies,” He said. Why would I want to love them when they don’t return the sentiment? Loving them is an investment that doesn’t produce any kind of return, other than frustration on the part of the one giving the love. But this is what we’re challenged to do. To participate in God’s story–one in which He is speaking and acting. A story of unconditional love. And grace. And mercy.

“Love, do good, help, and lend to those difficult people in your life,” He said. Those difficult people in our lives aren’t problems to fix. They’re people. Made in the image of God. People to love. People to serve.

Jesus also added these words, “…expecting nothing in return.” That’s where it gets real. That’s where it gets raw. I want progress in return. I want a glimpse of something positive in return. I want my effort to mean something, to make an impact, to influence…and see evidence of it.

God says to all of us, “It’s not about the return. It’s about the story. I am writing your story just as I am writing theirs.”

So…we gear up, we armor up, we fill up and prepare ourselves to spill out love and blessings to those who curse us, our enemies, the ungrateful, the selfish, the hateful, and the mean-spirited. And we know after all the spillage, our bucket will indeed be empty. (Jesus probably experienced this on a regular basis.) But we go straight back to the Source to refuel. The Author of our story. The One who invites us to participate in it as best we can. By loving…doing good…and blessing.

 

WHAT DO GRACE AND FROGS HAVE IN COMMON?

I’m not a fan of long processes. But oddly enough I find myself in them all the time.

The “love someone for who they are, not what you want them to become” is one very…long…process. And I’m not a fan of it at all. Because it’s long. Because it’s arduous. Because it’s taxing. Because it’s not pleasant. Because it takes all my energy. Because it requires more than I am capable of. Just…because.

Think of the people in your life that get on your nerves, weigh you down, drain the life out of you, make you crazy, are hard to be around, challenge everything you say, and keep you constantly in the classroom called patience. Surely you know some of these people. I know lots. And truth be told, they’re hard to love.

What Grace & Frogs Have In CommonI want to love them. I really do. And just when I think I’m making progress in that direction it occurs to me I do not love them for who they are. I love them for who I want them to become. I love the “better” version of them that I’ve created in my mind and heart. It’s as if I idealize the “prince/princess” version of them instead of embracing the “frog” version of them.

But if I’m to love like Jesus, I’ve got to love people, blemishes and all. I’ve got to love people where they are. I’ve got to love people in spite of everything I said in paragraph #3 above.

And that’s a process. Ugh!

God’s been teaching me more and more about grace lately. And I firmly believe it’s this thing called grace that will allow us to love someone for who they are, not what we want them to become.

Strangely enough, however, I find this thing called grace is quite frightening to lots of people. You see, grace says that you’ll never change someone into that “better” version. Grace says you perhaps have lowered your standard. Grace says it’s okay to hang out with less than the absolute best. Grace just might tarnish your reputation. Grace says there’s no difference between the frog and the prince.

And grace, too, is a process. Ugh!

Who do you find difficult to love?
Who do you find challenging to embrace?
Who do you find hard be around?
Who do you find tough to like?

Rather than see the blemishes—the flaws, the ugliness, the bad attitude, the negativity, the crusty parts—seek this thing called grace. It just might be where the contempt ends and the love begins.

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