Dealing with difficult people
In an ideal world, we would have a Circle filled with our best friends, and with people we love and get along with. There would be constant harmony, progress and togetherness. The group would be vulnerable with each other, share goals and achieve so much together. There would never be a disagreement, never be a crossed word, and there would never be a moment of tension or awkwardness. Let’s be honest, this sounds appealing doesn’t it?!
I’ve often thought over years of leading, that a ‘perfect church’ would solve all the problems! If we could eradicate all tension and disagreement we would be left with heaven on earth. However, I have come to realise that some of the toughest moments and hardest of conversations have brought about personal growth in me, as well as an understanding and love for other people.
So what happens when someone in your Circle causes tension, and what do you do when your Circle is not as harmonious as you had hoped? The good news is, this is normal! Almost every group I have been a part of or led, has experienced some form of disagreement, tension or difficulty. But I am also pleased to say that the majority of the time it has been resolved or rectified. So I would like to share some things I have learned based on my experiences – both the good and the challenging!
1.Check your own heart first.
This one is key. In Psalm 139, David cries out to God, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”. This is a GREAT starting point. Sometimes when another person in our Circle irritates us or we take offence at something they say or do, we need to check our own heart and mind. This does not mean that the other person is right or exonerated but we are taught to look after our own hearts as it is ‘the wellspring of life’. You cannot help or lead someone else if your own heart is bitter. Ask yourself if it’s simply a bad day or a bad moment, and evaluate the situation only after evaluating yourself.
2. Unity is the goal.
This is always our goal, yet in Church life it can be the hardest to achieve! Paul teaches us in Ephesians 4:3 to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. It’s definitely easier said than done! But when unity is our aim, we will approach the situation differently. Unity isn’t about everyone believing the same and agreeing on every matter, but allowing our love for God and one another to be number one. That is unity.
3. Watch out for “bible-quoters”.
Sometimes after doing the first two points, there is still a difficulty in resolving issues. People often misquote the bible, or quote out of context to get their point across. Be aware of this and don’t retaliate with more verses or there will be danger of a bible-tug-of-war! The scriptures are never to be used to prove an opinion but to reveal truth. If a scripture brings harmony or useful guidance/instruction that’s perfect and good.
4. Don’t be afraid of healthy discussion.
Healthy debate is not bad. At all. In fact, Jesus often encouraged it by asking more questions in response to people’s questions! His aim was to get his disciples and followers to think for themselves, getting truth into their hearts. The Rabbis in Jewish culture did this to help their learners get to grips with the truth. When someone has a different view point or opinion, this is ok (so long as it’s not opposite to what the Bible says!). A good leader will know and learn how to steer a discussion, but won’t be afraid to close it down if it gets out of control.
5. Don’t stand for dissension or dishonour.
If there is one thing that causes problems in any small group is when one or more create dissension. This means they seek to stir up trouble, and that is their only aim. The bible speak so strongly about this. Proverbs 6:16 mentions dissension as one of the 6 main things God hates. I’d say that’s a good enough reason to watch out for it! If someone deliberately sets out to divide and cause disunity, this is serious. If someone intentionally dishonours God, leaders or others, this is something to watch out for. It’s not common but it can happen and in this instance it’s important we recognise it immediately and stop it from spreading.
6. Don’t shy away from seeking help.
Ultimately, if it becomes a growing problem or remains unresolved, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your Cluster Circle Coach and Core Team are always ready to give advice and help you through it. You don’t need to dread your Circle session! It should be something you look forward to, enjoy and get so much from. It should be an open, loving and caring group, and anything that is contrary to that, needs addressing. Asking for help isn’t weakness or lack of leadership, it is in fact the opposite.
7. Pray for them.
If there is ever an answer to a people problem, this is it. Praying for the person/people kills any bad feeling in us. Jesus teaches us to pray for those who hurt us and it pours cold water on the fire of bitterness or resentment that might be burning. Praying for their needs and for their relationship with God helps us forgive and cultivate real, agape love. Let’s not forget that we don’t always understand what is going on in someone’s life. We don’t always see someone’s hurts, anxieties or pain. When we approach everything in love and with a correct motive, we are able to see clearly and grow in discernment. When we pray we are not convincing God of what He needs to do, but rather we are convincing ourselves that God is in control, He loves us and that He is growing us as leaders of His people.