The workmate who is constantly stealing our thunder. The toxic friend with a talent of draining all of our energy. The acquaintance who makes hurtful remarks under the guise of, “I’m just kidding, why are you so sensitive?” We’ve all got someone in our life who is a bit difficult to love.
Every day, we pray for new strength so we’d be able to walk out Jesus’ call to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44). But, at the end of each week, we’re worn and exhausted, and find ourselves throwing mental darts at our enemies.
Yet, because God first loved us, He wants us to love these people (John 13:34). While it isn’t easy, here are a few tips that can help us towards loving that prickly person.
1. Accept It’s Hard Work
We’d love to be able to love that frustrating workmate, but he’s got an annoying laugh that would drive anyone over the edge, and she’s got a habit of talking about people behind their back. Society will not fault us if we start griping about them to others, but these are some of our best opportunities to show God’s love!
The thing is, love is hard work—but we can ask God to help us love difficult people by granting us patience and wisdom. No doubt it’s easier to love people who love us, but there’s no credit in that (Luke 6:32). Yes, being nice to the backstabbing colleagues might be painstaking initially, but as we strive to show kindness to them, it could eventually lead to a softening of their hearts. But regardless of the outcome, our true consolation should come in the fact that we’re fulfilling a little piece of God’s will for us to be a vessel for His love.
2. Dig Beyond the Surface
We’ve heard it before: hurting people hurt people, and one of the reasons the toxic friend is being so poisonous could stem from their own insecurities. Whether it’s putting others down or constantly crowing about their successes, this friend slowly grinds away at both our mental and emotional health.
But what if we took a step back and tried to empathize with them? The overly competitive friend who boasts about every achievement or the unscrupulous corporate ladder climber might struggle with letting his or her self-worth get wrapped up in performances and achievements.
Without condoning their actions, we can take time to understand their back story. It might give us insight into their brokenness, equipping us to love them more wisely. Maybe it’ll even put us in a better position to tell them about our God who heals and makes hearts whole. Let’s remember that Jesus loves broken, unlovable, and unworthy people, and they are precious to Him.
3. Release Your Expectations
Befriending the newcomer at school or work because they looked like they could do with a friendly face didn’t pan out. Before we knew it, they dropped us for a cooler crowd, leaving behind the sting of betrayal. And we’re left wondering what’s the point of showing love if that’s how things turn out.
The thing is, sometimes we treat love as a transaction, and we expect it to be reciprocated. And when it isn’t, we feel rejected. But if we’re to love like God (Romans 5:8), then we’re to love unconditionally. And this means loving others without expecting anything back.
The command to love our enemies and to pray for them (or bless them!) flies in the face of a society that tells us to look out for ourselves as number one. But we have a Savior who did the very same for us. And if our delight is in Him, God promises to give us all we need to love the one who grinds on our gears (Psalm 37:4). In turn, our good deeds might inspire others to turn and glorify our loving Father (Matthew 5:15-16).