Years ago I meet a man who practically couldn’t get along with anyone. Not his real name, but I’ll call him John. It was rather odd at first because I realized that everyone walked on eggshells around him. His family members couldn’t stand being around him. In fact they cringed at any contact with him. Almost every time they connected, it was a time filled with tension and strife. He was easily offended and quickly retorted with his words or attitudes.
John had only a few friends. I quickly realized that these were people who lived far away from him. It seemed that the only way people could connect with him was to keep a distance. These friends spoke with him on the phone occasionally and personally met only once a year. They understood his irritability and kept their distance from him physically and emotionally.
We’ve all encountered such people and wondered how to handle the situation. These are the people you see walking up to you and your emotions react with fear and confusion. You know that this interaction will be full of strife and tension. How are we to handle this situation? The ancients understood such people and said: “The vexation (annoyance) of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (Proverbs 12:16). Either an insult or simply something annoying can rub your ego the wrong way. Proverbs says it’s the fool who allows the emotions to go out of control and takes it out on others. But the prudent learns to ignore such insults.
So when you see such a person walking up to you, check your mind and your heart early. Get ready for this upcoming difficult encounter with an attitude of “pre-forgiveness” for that person. This is where you get ready to meet that person with a preset attitude of forgiveness. Check your heart and see if there is an inflated ego that could easily get deflated by this person’s reactions. Ask the Lord to give you a heart of compassion for this person. Speak to the person with an understanding that you are that “prudent” person who will be able to ignore the insults sent your way.
This perspective of pre-forgiveness is a proactive way of dealing with such people who are habitually abrasive and difficult to deal with. In this way, you don’t ignore the person, nor do you put yourself in the risky situation of being hurt. You are guarding yourself as you continue to interact with this person.
Ready to put your pre-forgiveness to work? Try it this week with at least one person who is difficult to deal with. Then come back to this blog and share your experience in the comments by clicking here.