difficult people, faith

Dealing with Difficult People {Help!}

We all have them in our lives, those people we would rather not be near.

No matter how hard we try to be peaceful, they push our buttons. They’re angry, selfish, antagonizing, maybe manipulating. Maybe all of those things.

We try avoiding them.

But it’s impossible when you work or live with them.

So, what do we do? How do we deal with those difficult people in our lives?

In Today’s Christian Woman, Hillary McMullen writes in her article, The Art of Loving Unloveable People: 12 Steps to help deal with difficult people, the first two steps involve, praying for the Holy Spirit’s intervention and consulting Scripture.

Amen! My friends, there are no two better places to start. Hillary writes:

We can’t do it on our own. Our broken, sinful hearts aren’t capable of scraping together nearly enough love to cover the foibles and flaws of our fellow humans. We occasionally have trouble loving even those who are dearest to us. So often, our feeble, fleeting attempts at love fall flat and our patience runs dry. TCW

Holy Spirit’s Role

Truly, on our own, stuck in our own perceptions and hurts, it’s impossible to respond with genuine love to people who  consistently drive us crazy. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, and that’s where prayer plays a huge role. We have to ask the Holy Spirit to take over when we want to put on our boxing gloves or run and hide.

He’s a prayer away.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

Why do we need the Holy Spirit? Well, because the fruits of the Holy Spirit are everything we need to deal with difficult people.

Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).

Could you use a little bit more of this fruit?

Ask for more of the Holy Spirit. Ask for His wisdom.

Remember who the Real Enemy Is

Jesus told his disciples that the enemy has come to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). The enemy is determined to destroy our relationship with God. That’s his first mission. The second is like it. He loves to destroy our relationships with people. The enemy fights against the greatest commandments from God to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:13).


  • Hurt people hurt people, but helped people help people.
  • Broken people break people, but rebuilt people build people.
  • Shattered people shatter people, but whole people restore people.
  • Damaged people damage people, but loved people love people.
  • Wounded people wound people, but healed people bind up the wounds.
  • Bound people bind people, but freed people lead others to freedom.  (Unashamed, by Christine Caine)

We are all a work in progress. None of us have arrived, but God does not expect us to love the unloveable in our own strength. He knows. He’s walked on our planet as a man. He knows how frustrating people can be. But Jesus always looked past their skin to their hearts.

[bctt tweet=”God does not expect us to love the unloveable in our own strength. ” username=”wordsbyandylee”]


Jesus was not a doormat. His words were not all cotton-candy coated in chocolate sweet. He rebuked. He put the nasty, self-righteous religious in their place. Loving people does not always look loving. We don’t want to enable the continuation of the bad behavior. That being said, keep in mind God wants us to be wise in our relationships.

I am not a relationship expert, but the Lord continues to grow me in this area, and these are a few of the steps I’ve learned that help me deal with difficult people.

8 Steps to Deal with Difficult People


  • Pray for Grace.- Grace enables us to respond in the best way possible. It is chesed, acts of loving-kindness and mercy. Grace is wisdom in the moment. If I know I’m going to encounter a difficult person (I see them walking toward me or their name pops up identifying an incoming call) I pray for grace.


  • Know your boundaries and act on them. If I do not have the grace to hang out with someone, or do what they are asking me to do (help them in some way)–in other words, if I just don’t feel strong enough to deal with that encounter for that day (or that season), I trust my feelings and keep my distance. I may not answer the phone. I might keep our conversation to texting. Also, if I’m experiencing anger trying to help them or feel they are taking advantage of me, I need to say “no” next time. It’s okay my friends. I found my “loving” was often enabling rather than helping rebuild, restore, heal, or free. If you struggle with boundaries, I highly recommend the Boundaries book by Henry Cloud and the Boundaries series by Allison Bottke. 


  • Respond rather than React. When that difficult person pushes your buttons, take a deep breath. Repeat the fruits of the Holy Spirit (the last one is self-control), pray for grace and wisdom, and don’t respond until He gives you the words. Silence is okay when you are waiting for wisdom.



  • Pray to see them as God does. This has helped me so many times. Remember, hurt people hurt people.


  • Pray to forgive. It’s scriptural. We forgive because we’re forgiven. “Forgive them Lord, for they don’t know what they are doing.” If Jesus said this, shouldn’t we? We can’t do it without the Holy Spirit.


  • Pray to love. It’s so much easier to have a relationship with difficult people when God helps you love them. But remember, love is not always easy or pretty.


  • Pray for them. Pray for God to help them heal. Pray for the root of the problem to be uncovered.


  • Pray for God to turn this messy relationship for good. I love Romans 8:28. 

And that brings us to the Scripture that can help us deal with the “much needed grace” people in our lives. We can’t change others, but we can change ourselves.

Here’s a Bible Reading Plan for Dealing with the Difficult




Sneak Peak of Scriptures and Prompts

Ephesians 4:32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

  • Ask God to reveal any unforgiveness you hold in your heart. That unforgiveness affects our relationships.

James 1:19: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

  • Practice listening today. If you are angered, count to ten before you respond and ask for the Lord to give you a gracious response.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

  • Have you kept any records of wrongs? Write the name Jesus over them.

Proverbs 15:1. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

  • If you have always reacted in anger, ask the Lord to show you where the anger is coming from. Ask Him to reveal why you react that way.

Colossians 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

  • Write a prayer asking for His kindness and grace today.

1 Peter 3:9: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

  • Who will you bless today who is normally a difficult part of your day? (Don’t do it expecting your kindness to be reciprocated. Do it for Jesus.)

Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

  • If it is possible . . . if it’s not, let go and let God. Let Him have control. We can’t change anyone.

Get the printable here. 

Daily Discussion and Teaching

We are not alone in our messy relationships and dealing with difficult people. And we’re not alone in our search to live more peaceful and life-giving lives. Join me every morning M-F on Facebook at 8:20 ET. Come to my kitchen! Sit at my table and bring your coffee. :) Come dig deep into these verses with us and discover the life in the Bible and the power of the living God to heal our hearts and our relationships. Just follow me on Facebook or watch later on my YouTube channel.

Also . . .

Don’t forget to download the printable with the scriptures and prompts for your own Bible study.



Grab my hands. . . “Dear Lord, it is so hard sometimes to be kind and peace-loving to those people who are so difficult to live with. We can’t do it on our own. I pray this article and the verses on the Bite of Bread will help each one of the hearts reading to experience your freedom in loving with grace that restores and heals. May we use our kingdom citizenship to bless people here. For your glory! Amen.”

“Our job as believers is to excel as servants in realms of wisdom, that the world around us might benefit and see the kindness of the Lord drawing them to repentance and relationship with Him.” ~Bill Johnson The Power that Changes the World


Digging Deep in Relationships,



PS. If this was encouraging, and you don’t want to miss any Bite of Bread reading plans and posts, subscribe today! You’ll receive a 22-Day Devotion on Psalm 119 called Finding the Beauty {Full} in God’s Word.Just click here to dig deep to live fully. 🙂 



Other helpful articles on this topic:

10 Verses to Help Deal with Difficult People

Free Bible Study Guides /dealing with difficult people




  1. […] open to change, ears listening, hearts searching for His response, His grace. I have an article on dealing with difficult people. It’s probably a good addition to this post. I’ve also placed a link below to an author, […]

  2. […] Dealing with difficult people {help} … at Andy Lee.  A lot of the advice here involves specific things to pray.  I think that’s perfect, since trying to graciously deal with difficult people on our own will pretty much always result in failure. […]

  3. Kathy

    This is so difficult when the push your buttons person is also a Christian and/or a family member where it is tricky to set boundaries. But God………….

    1. Amen! I know Kathy! I’ll be praying for you. We’re all a work in progress. Pray for eyes to see.

  4. Thank you Andy. I needed this.

    1. Hi Jann! Well,I’m sorry you needed this, but I pray it will be a blessing in the midst of the dealing with your difficult person. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Love this post, Andy. I’ve had a difficult person in my extended family for years. It’s ironic how often she cries “victim” when she is the abuser…both verbally and emotionally. Sometimes I’m at wit’s end in how to deal with this person. And while I can’t “delete contact” on this loved one. I pray for God to give me wisdom on how to set boundaries and love her…even from a distance at times. Thanks for these wonderful tips and thoughts.

    1. Oh Karen! I know it an be so hard. I pray these tips and scriptures will begin to help you in this relationship. I’ll be praying for you too! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. ‘Good word! So often we think we can love or forgive in our own strength instead of depending on the Holy Spirit. I use to wonder if someday when I became a mature Christian if I’d just be loving, kind, patient, etc. That hasn’t happened—the flesh is still the flesh and is not pretty! The fruit of the Spirit is just that—the fruit of the SPIRIT. It will never come from the flesh, nor will the flesh naturally have these qualities. Only as we seek and rely on the Spirit to help us demonstate the fruit will it happen.

    1. Thank you Sandy! I love your wisdom and your walk with God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *