Sometimes, people are just hard, ya know?
I mean, we hurt each other’s feelings, we say stupid things, we forget things that we should have remembered…
We are constantly messing up and hurting one another.
But, most of those things, can be easily forgiven.
The little mess-ups and accidental word vomits, can generally be overlooked or reconciled.
But what about those really difficult people…?
What about the wife that’s always nagging?
Or the boss that never says anything encouraging and keeps you overtime, all the time?
What about the father that is never around (physically and/or emotionally)?
Or the in-law that always seems to say the wrong thing and step on everybody’s toes?
How do we even begin to pursue these people?
And is there ever a time when we shouldn’t?
The thing about the people whom I’ve specifically listed, is that we are somewhat figuratively tied to each of them.
wife = marriage/covenant
boss = our job/financial
father = biology/by blood
in-law = family/covenant
These relationships are the kind that are difficult to escape, if difficult or unhealthy, and often times, even harder to pursue.
And what I mean by “pursue” is: To invest in. To love. To not just acknowledge, but to care for.
How do we pursue the people that make our skin crawl and hurt us and frustrate us to no end?
Many of us, choose not to pursue these people at all. I know I have done this in the past and continue to battle it with certain relationships today.
We justify our lack of concern for the relationship by saying to ourselves: That’s just how they are, and I don’t understand them, so I’m just going to avoid any type of meaningful time or conversation with them.
And in some instances, scripture does call us to “move on” (so to speak) from unhealthy relationships in certain circumstances (Titus 3:10, Matthew 10:14, Matthew 18:15-17) – relationships that we’ve pursued and tried to reconcile without any success.
This post isn’t a call to stay in unhealthy relationships or to remain close to those who hurt us.
But this post is a call, for us to take a look around at the relationships God has placed us in, and reflect on whether or not we are pursuing them how He would have us pursue them.
Most of the relationships I listed above, are not relationships that we chose – but they are relationships that God has called us to steward and pursue.
We don’t get to choose our parents or our in-laws or our bosses (for the most part). And many of you may have come to know Christ after you chose your spouse.
But regardless, these are the relationships that we are in and they are the relationships that we must do our very best to pursue.
Because God calls us too (Mark 12:30-31).
And He doesn’t just call us to love and pursue one another just for the sake of being kind.
He calls us to pursue one another so that we may glorify Him.
What better way to glorify God than to pursue and care for those difficult people in our lives? People will notice if we could begin to do this. And when they do, we get to point them to Jesus.
Is it ever okay to stop pursuing people and distance yourself from an unhealthy relationship? Yes.
But are there still ways to pursue people from a distance? Yes.
Here are 5 ways to pursue difficult people:
Pray. For. Them. A LOT. The biggest lie in our Americanized, self-dependent gospel, is that prayer is the least or the last thing we should do – it is in fact the first and the most important thing we ought to do. When we pray for difficult people, we ought to pray for the Lord to soften our heart towards them and to show us ways to love them.
If this difficult person in your life is someone you have moved on from, prayer is sometimes the only way to pursue them. Pray that God would put other believers in their lives who will point them back to Him and back into a right and healthy relationship with Jesus. I do this often.
2. Send a text
How easy we have it today. Even if you are stabbing every letter as you type it on your keyboard – send a text. Send a text to your wife while you’re at work – a simple, “I love you,” might change the course of your relationship that day. Send a text to the friend you’ve distanced yourself from just to let them know that you are thinking about them. We have it so EASY today and yet we rarely use the technology we’ve been given to really be intentional in pursuing one another. Instead of strengthening our relationships, it distracts us from them.
Use your phone for good. Send a text. It will take less of your time than opening Facebook will.
3. Control your thoughts
While this tactic allows for much distance, it also generates great healing.
It would seem as though the old saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all,” has not only failed to keep us from saying mean things, but it has also justified our angry and frustrated thoughts that are often on replay in our minds about the difficult people we are in relationships with.
But Scripture tells us to not only control our tongues, but also our thoughts.
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:8-19
The scripture above tells us that the things that come from our mouths are determined by what we store in our hearts. And we know, that what we store in our hearts is directly related to what we feed our minds and how we control our thoughts.
When we stop letting our minds and our thoughts go on unseen rampages towards the difficult people in our lives, our hearts will begin to soften towards them as well.
4. Create a memorable moment
We often times love to create memories with the ones we love, but what if we took the time to have just one memorable moment with the difficult people in our lives?
What if we bought the a gift that was so personal and so special that they’d never forget it? Or what if we reached out to invite them to coffee or a quick lunch?
These small gestures might just be the memorable moments that these people need to see for their hearts to be softened.
Recommended Article: The One Thing Guaranteed To End All Marriages
5. Give grace
And lastly, but possibly the most important thing we can do to pursue difficult people is to give them grace.
When pursuing difficult people we must first remember that we once were and are still to some degree difficult when it comes to our relationship with God. And yet, He never stops pursuing us.
As we can see, there are a number of way to pursue the difficult people in our lives – especially those whom we have been placed in somewhat of a permanent relationship with.
[Side note: If you need to change your playmates and playground (your friends and the places you hang out) in order to follow Jesus, to DO SO – as soon as you can! We ought not to prioritize our relationships with people who tempt us to sin over our relationship with Jesus.]
But in light of these steps, we ought not to pursue others with the expectation that they will change.
I’ve been learning the hard way that how we love others and pursue them will not fix them. And if that is our motive, we aren’t really loving or pursuing them – we’re trying to control them.
When we truly love and pursue others we do so in obedience to God. We do so because of our love for God and His love for us and His love for the difficult people in our lives.
And they may change, but they may not. Our obedience isn’t determined by the outcome. We aren’t obedient in order to gain success, love, or relationships. We are obedient, because in Christ, we already have all of those things.