You are standing in line at Walmart and someone bumps you with their cart and does not even offer an apology ... they simply stand there staring at the ceiling and looking annoyed that you had the audacity to be in their way. Or possibly you are getting gas at Speedway and you are really in a hurry, and I am talking two minutes til eight in a hurry. You quickly pull onto Harrison Avenue after glancing to the right and there he is: Mr. Monster Truck Dude with the big tires and you are in his way. Now, Monster Truck Dude has to slow down because of you and you try not to read his lips as he circles around you with his horn blaring insults your way.
Now your Krispy Kremes don't smell nearly as good, the double chocolate latte in your cup holder has lost its zest, your palms are sweaty and the stress begins to well up in you. And it is not even 8 a.m.
Difficult people. They are everywhere. They are in the store lines, on the roads, in the workplace and possibly even in your own family. There is no way in this world to completely avoid difficult people, unless you become a recluse, lock yourself in your own house, and of course, you must live alone. Then, you will probably find, that from time to time. You can be one of those difficult people and you simply cannot get away from yourself.
My first rule whenever I run into a difficult person is to consider this thought: "Hurting People Hurt People." They are hurting and have probably been hurt. I remember a dear elderly lady, Mrs. Rice. She was a well known evangelist wife from years gone by. Her face was literally frozen in a smile. Her daughters would laugh and say that a person could simply not insult her. If a clerk was rude in a store, Mrs. Rice would say, "poor dear, she must be having a hard day." No matter what someone did to her, she would remind them, "that person must be hurting in some way."
Remembering this does not mean approval of wrong actions, on the contrary, it is simply applying the age old Indian thought of "walking a mile in someone else's mocassions.
So, at this point, you are probably thinking, "OK, Pollyanna, how on earth are you suppose to do this?" My answer is simply this: Prayer. I heard a medical doctor speak several years ago. She stated emphatically that the three ways of increasing endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain) was through exercise, prayer and medication. You can actually increase endorphins by prayer. This is God's way of reducing stress in your life. How can you have peace without the Prince of Peace?
This paves the way for the second solution of dealing with difficult people in your life: Love them! I know you are thinking, are you nuts? Some people are just unlovable. I know that, but love them anyway. Do good to them. Pray for them. "Oh, you mean that heapin' coals of fire thingy, right?" Well, yes, if you take that thought in the context it was written. Many people think that the saying "heapin' coals of fire" means bringing down the fire or wrath upon someone. On the contrary, in Bible days, man used fire to cook and to keep warm and when a neighbor's fire went out, it was a big deal. So a good neighbor would take a bunch of their coals from their own fire and put it in a container and carry it to their neighbor's house so they could be warm and cook their food. This sort of puts an entirely different slant to the saying, doesn't it? You are helping the person.
True, you cannot change people, but God can, and I can guarantee this, You will change and your stress will be reduced!
I heard in college many years ago that the key to learning is repetition. With this thought in mind, I repeat some things to my children on a regular basis. One of those thing is that "hurting people hurt people." I also strive to teach them boundaries, for there is a balance and you do not tolerate abuse, but that is another topic for another day.
Reducing stress in our lives is often a balancing act. The art of loving the unlovable is a lesson we will spend a lifetime learning.
People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
FORGIVE THEM ANYWAY.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
BE KIND ANYWAY.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
BE HONEST ANYWAY.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
BE HAPPY ANYWAY.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
DO GOOD ANYWAY.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
GIVE YOUR BEST ANYWAY.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
IT NEVER WAS BETWEEN YOU AND THEM ANYWAY.
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is the counselor with Cornerstone Christian Counseling in Elkins. Contact her at: 304-940-6238 or 304-637-7018 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)