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Dealing with Difficult People

After being sick, you become really grateful for health. Access to medicine. Naps. The other day my head was nearly bursting with sinus pressure and a new antibiotic had me both nauseated and foggy minded. But a mom’s life doesn’t stop just because she’s sick. Moms don’t get luxuries like that.

I needed to run my kids to school and make a quick stop to deliver something to a friend. Entering the parking lot I was trying to decide if I should just pull up to the curb and run in…or park like I normally would. I thought I knew what I was doing, but mid-decision I changed my mind. I hardly noticed that in doing so I coasted through a stop sign that, truthfully, gets run a lot. It’s one of those parking lot stop signs, are they even real? (Ahem.) 

Totally oblivious, I park.

Groggy, I walk into the store and an angry woman meets me in the lobby. Immediately she jumps all over my brain. I didn’t see it coming. Did you KNOW you ran a stop sign? Did you KNOW I was out there and going to cross and you drove right in front of me? I’m not sure she actually said this next part, but I heard it: Did you KNOW that you’re a complete idiot and I consider it my JOB to let you know?

In situations like these the truth is sometimes I can be grace filled and sometimes I can be anger filled, but thankfully today I chose grace. I had no strength for a fight. I looked at her and said I’m sorry. I made the mistake of trying to tell her my mind was a bit foggy because I was sick and just went on some medication that was making me feel even foggier. To which she shot back with an even more hostile tone than before: Well did you THINK that MAYBE you shouldn’t be DRIVING? 

Silent, I realized that I didn’t know what else to say. It was my fault for making excuses and I had zero energy to fight so I said, You’re right, I’m sorry. I kept walking and she kept walking right along next to me and it was awkward.

A few minutes later I called my husband (while I was driving) and told him what happened. I barked to him, What is WRONG with people?? As if on cue a video image played across my mind of a week earlier when I had done a similar thing to someone who had inconvenienced me. A situation where I found it impossible not to let someone know they had wronged me. A silly thing, stupid actually, but I saw myself: I was the old lady giving this bewildered man a five-second piece of my frustrated mind. Poor guy, he didn’t see me coming either.

Turns out I’m one of them. “Those people.”

Oh this life; it gets you. I truly believe that most of us are doing the best we can. Practicing grace and choosing gratitude but sometimes we just flat out miss it. Sometimes our brains are foggy and we just can’t see. We cannot know what people around us are going through; the shadows of sickness, pain, insecurity, rejection and grief that hide beneath the surface. In all our rushing around we are prone to bump into one another. We are certain to have conflict. Some days it doesn’t feel, sound or look anything like grace.

So what then? How do we move forward from one of “those people?” How do we find grace?

  1. Accept: Here’s the deal: we’re going to screw up. Grace is not natural and we’re going to flat out miss it most of the time. We’re going to fall into our patterns and our stupid, selfish human nature. The more perfect we try to be, the harder it will be to find it.
  2. Forgive: If you screw up a lot then you know I will screw up a lot too. We’ve got to be willing to overlook some offenses or we just better stay home. We’ll do less damage that way. Even best friends are going to misunderstand and brush up against one another. Unforgiveness is a burden that is far too heavy to carry. It plants a root of bitterness in the fertile soil of your heart. Beyond all reason, I’ve learned that you actually can forgive someone even if the apology never comes.
  3. Choose: I don’t get to control how anybody else reacts to life or to all my many imperfections. Sometimes I try my best to cover them up and sometimes they’re just hanging out for all to see. But I can choose what I see. I can choose how I will respond. I can choose to let it weigh on me for days or weeks or months or to simply let it go. When I remember it is my choice, it helps me choose better. 
  4. Breathe: In my better moments I find grace by remembering to breathe. All it takes is a moment to choose: Will I respond in line with my nature (anger, frustration, hostility or indignation) or with who I want to become? Our whole life we are going to encounter difficult people, and it only takes one domino to fall and we’re in it. The fight to be right. First. Best. But when we take that second to breathe…it gives us the moment we need to choose to respond instead of react, plunging ourselves into the fight.

Our fierce nature can be so strong. And tiring. The woman in my story was ready to fight. I can honestly say I think she really wanted to fight. I could see it, it gripped her chest like a vice. It shone out through her piercing eyes, the tension held in her face and tightly pursed lips. But my response caught her off-guard. You’re right, I’m sorry, I said. But she wanted more. As she marched in step alongside me, I remained silent. There was nothing more to say, even though it felt awkward and terribly uncomfortable.

Sometimes there just isn’t anything to say. That’s when you practice. I accept I am not perfect and I will fail. I forgive you for wanting to be right and prove your point, I’ve been in that place too. I will choose to find a lesson in this experience to make me stronger, braver and better; And I will breathe until this feeling of awkwardness passes or until I can remove myself from this situation. And then the first moment you get, you pick up the phone and call someone and say, “What is WRONG with people?!” Or you choose not to waste your breath.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Rita Roykovich March 29, 2015, 4:14 pm

    I think most of what you’re saying here is right on the money… however, I do think there are situations where having to prove your point is warranted. However, in a perfect world, the best approach to proving your point is to do it with much humility.

  • maxine lesline January 24, 2017, 3:45 pm

    This is helpful speaks to me at a difficult time… perhaps there will be a weakening in the strength it gives me.. but even a short span is welcome.

    • admin February 1, 2017, 6:09 pm

      Praying with you Maxine. xo

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