Most of us have that uncle. You know the one. The one without the filter that just makes interaction difficult and antagonizes everyone. Or maybe it’s a sibling, parent, friend, grandparent, or cousin. Regardless, the holidays tend to bring out quality time that occasionally lacks the quality due to difficult personalities. How do you help keep the peace and facilitate an enjoyable time for all? Scripture has important lessons for us when dealing with difficult people.
1. Arm your mind
Ephesians 6 makes it clear that our struggle with people and personalities isn’t against flesh and blood but against the sin nature that rages in each of us, fighting for control. Instead of dreading that family dinner or reunion weekend over the holidays or making plans to avoid, begin to memorize scripture now to remind you to love others, control your speech, and have grace.
2. Make a plan for your mouth
This is a big one. Our mouths have a tendency to recite our unfiltered thoughts before we have granted them permission to do so. In a verbal battle, Proverbs 15 says that a soft answer turns away anger but harsh words make a situation worse. Proverbs 12:18 says that the tongue of the wise brings healing. A wise man knows that it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). He acknowledges the Holy Spirit is his guide to peace and can help him control his tongue, allowing his speech to be gracious and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). This person knows that he who holds his tongue is wise.
Our mouths are powerful. With our tongue, we can damage or bring peace, point to truth and God’s way or further aggravate a conversation. Before we even walk in the door this holiday, we can make a plan to let the Holy Spirit control our mouths, and remember that we are not entitled or obligated to have the last word.
3. When in doubt, resolve conflict with Matthew 18.
Sometimes even our silence and a soft word doesn’t turn away the anger of a feisty family member bent on stirring up trouble. If a conflict is large enough to warrant addressing, we are advised in Matthew 18 to resolve conflict in a way that honors the Lord. He provided a step-by-step solution for us. Keep in mind, this solution is meant for the believer in Christ. The lost will act like they don’t know Christ, and our job in that situation is to be faithful to share the gospel and offer grace, just like Christ gives us in our sin.
When it is time to address conflict with a believing family member or friend, first go to them one-on-one and address the issue. Own your part. Seek reconciliation. If the offender refuses to listen, grab another believing family member and take them with you to confront the issue.
If you are concerned about difficult personalities this holiday, begin praying now that God softens hearts. Greater is He that is in us, and He desires for us to live in unity with one another as the body of Christ and as family. We will spend eternity with all those who have trusted Christ, so what better time than to practice living in peace with one another. You can prepare for the holiday ahead by being diligent in your relationship with the Lord and filling your heart and mind with the truth of His Word. I promise it will make a difference in how you respond when confronted by that uncle or that friend.
Written by the First Dallas Staff