How to Deal with Difficult People 

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • February 1, In the year of our Lord, 2015


  1. I have been asked numerous times over the years, and 
    1. I have asked myself,
      1. “How do you deal with difficult people?” and
      2. I suppose we could add, “And remain a Christian?”
    2. We know that there is a right way and a wrong way
      1. to doing things,
      2. including dealing with difficult people, and
        1. we also know
        2. that these people tempt us to act in an unChrist-like manner.
  2. Therefore, we want to know what the Bible says about this issue. 
    1. Does the Bible even address it?
    2. I think it is important to address this question, because
      1. many Christians do not turn to the Scriptures
      2. to find out how to live life.
    3. Yes, the Bible teaches us how to deal with difficult people.
      1. Think about it.
      2. What did Jesus say is the second greatest commandment?

        34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22.34–40).

        1. I do not think that we means we can say
        2. half the Bible teaches or commands loving our neighbor, but
          1. Jesus certainly taught that a major portion of Scripture
            1. teaches us to love our neighbor, and
            2. that the Scripture also shows us how to do it.
          2. Does dealing with difficult people
            1. fall under the category of loving your neighbor?
            2. Why would it not?
    4. Think think on this:
      1. Later Jesus took the second greatest commandment and
      2. expanded it or rather elevated it,

        34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.34–35).

        1. Were the 12 difficult people?
        2. Were the children of Israel difficult people?

          29 “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deu 5.29).
          7d Today, if you will hear His voice:
          8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
          As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
          9 When your fathers tested Me;
          They tried Me, though they saw My work.
          10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
          And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
          And they do not know My ways.’
          11 So I swore in My wrath,
          ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
          (Psa 95.7d–11)

          1. Did you know the Hebrew writer quoted Psalm 95.7d–11?
          2. Why and to whom did he quote it?
            1. He quoted it to Christians, yes,
              1. of Hebrew descent, but
              2. the message applies to all followers of Christ.
            2. Here is where I am leading you:
              1. Were the 12 difficult people?
              2. Were the children of Israel difficult people?
              3. Are we ever difficult people?
                1. I see no reason to answer, other than this way:
                2. Yes, yes, no.
                  1. For that reason, the Lord teaches us
                  2. to love our neighbor who is sometimes difficult.
                  3. Then my neighbor will love me when I am difficult.


  1. Do not take their tongue lashings personally 
    1. You will discover that they do the same things with others.
      1. I used to think the problem was me
      2. until I saw them use their acid tongues on others.
        1. However, beware of becoming self-righteous, for
        2. we may fail to see our own sometimes contrary nature.
    2. Listen to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 7,

      21 Also do not take to heart everything people say,
      Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
      22 For many times, also, your own heart has known
      That even you have cursed others.
      (Ecc 7.21–22)

      1. What did Solomon teach us not to do in verse 21?
      2. Then why did he teach us not to do it in verse 22?
  2. See it as a test of your character 
    1. We can talk good Christianity when not tested.
    2. What shall we do when someone makes life difficult for us?
      1. What we do or do not do
      2. shows whether we have applied the teachings of Jesus Christ.

        2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jam 1.2–4).
        1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5.1–5).
  3. Know the Book of Proverbs 
    1. The Book of Proverbs has many sayings
      1. worth memorizing (that is the purpose of a proverb)
      2. that will guide you in your dealings with difficult people.
    2. For example, the Book of Proverbs teaches
      1. when to answer someone and
      2. when to ignore them,

        4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
        Lest you also be like him.
        5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
        Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
        (Pro 26.4–5)
  4. Learn from older people, especially Christians

    12 …do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb 6.12).
    17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern (Phi 3.17).

    37 Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
    For the future of that man is peace.
    (Psa 37.37)

  5. Remember that people are watching you 
    1. Your family is watching you.
    2. Your co-workers and neighbors are watching you.
    3. Young or new Christians are watching you.
    4. Therefore, we need to be able to say,

      16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me (1Co 4.16).
      1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1Co 11.1).
  6. Remember Jesus 
    1. Especially remember Him during His trials.
    2. Eventually He quit speaking.
      1. Do you know why?
      2. Consider what He said, as Luke recorded it,

        67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe” (Luke 22.67).

        1. We also know that He would die as a lamb,
        2. which meant that He would be harmless.
          1. Even when harmed,
          2. He would not harm.

            18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
            22 “Who committed no sin,
            Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

            23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously… (1Pe 2.18–23).

      3. He quit speaking, but He did not quit acting.
  7. How do you want others to deal with you when you are difficult? 
    1. Remember the Golden Rule,

      12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7.12).
    2. We must practice this because we reap what we sow.
  8. How does the Lord deal with you?