By Dr. Harold Sala
What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men. Daniel 2:11
G.K. Chesterton, the British author and critic wrote, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people” (Mark Rosen, Thank You For Being Such A Pain, (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), p. 13.)
Difficult people are all around you. In the office the difficult person tells you your faults. At home he or she has the frankness to tell you your lipstick isn’t the right shade, that you are wearing the wrong clothes, that your fried chicken isn’t as good as Colonel Sanders’. Your difficult neighbor tells you that your house isn’t painted the right color, or that you should have more sense than to vote the way you do, or that your tree is on his property. A difficult teacher picks at your work, accuses you of plagiarism when you wrote your own essay, and reminds you that she has the power to keep you from graduating.
A difficult person makes you miserable, refuses to give you your due recognition, ignores your good work, and minimizes your contribution to the cause, thinks that your business is his business and feels compelled to point out your flaws.
The Bible is a 3000-year record of difficult people who made other people feel uncomfortable. Cain, Adam’s son, made life difficult for his brother Abel, so difficult that he found him in the field and took his life, and from that moment to the present there have been difficult people with whom you have to contend. They won’t go away. There’s no escaping them. In his book, Thank You For Being Such a Pain, Mark Rosen says, “A difficult person is someone who causes us to feel things we’d rather not be feeling.” (Rosen, p. 13.)
Today, however, some have elevated the task to an art form—they are the ones who bedevil you and irritate you and make you wish that a bolt of lightning would take them out of your life.
That’s why difficult people offer a great challenge or an opportunity. They can be as abrasive as an axe that cuts to the root, or else their acerbic deeds, words, and personalities can serve as a grinding stone, sharpening the edge of your axe. Instead of allowing them to get to you, you learn from them, profit from their critiques, and gain an inner strength which makes you a better person.
Everyone is difficult to someone. Most of the time, however, people are not trying to be difficult. Their personality simply runs against the grain of yours. Their insecurities produce flaws in their relationships which they don’t know even exist, and, at the time, they actually think they are doing you a favor to point out the fact that your lipstick isn’t the right shade for your complexion.
Since we lived across the street from a golf course, I began playing golf as a kid. With my brother and several of my friends I would whack the ball around the old Overland Golf Course. It was great fun because we enjoyed each other; however, it was when I began playing with guys who were much better than I that my game improved. They made the difficult shots that I missed and it was the pressure to do better which made my game improve.
The same thing occurred in college and graduate school. Hazel Potts was brilliant. She knew English literature as did no other professor I ever had, but she was also difficult, at times very difficult. She had a cold look that could turn your blood to ice water and a mannerism which reminded me of a matron in a woman’s prison. But I can tell you one thing for sure, I learned more from her than from the teachers who had pleasant personalities and big smiles.
You can profit from those difficult people in your life.
Resource reading: Daniel 2.