Dealing With “Irregular People” in Your Life

by Jean Stockdale

Irregular People


With the holidays breathing down our necks there is no getting around the fact that many of us are about to be seated around the dinner table with some folk who are very difficult to love. I call them “irregular people.”

An “irregular person” is someone who is, for whatever reason, very difficult for you. Your irregular person may be highly regarded by other people and appear to have solid friendships. But when it comes to you, they are difficult. Perhaps it is personality differences. Maybe it is cultural differences. It could be a difference in spiritual maturity. Your irregular person (or sadly, your irregular people if you have more than one. If you have more than one irregular person in your life, stop reading this article and take to your bed! Darling, you need some rest!) is often someone you are directly related to or inherited by marriage. I assume God does this so we cannot easily get away from them! Oh you can distance yourself from your irregular person for a while, but then someone gets married or a holiday rolls around, and wham…you are forced to spend time with them! How can you, practically speaking, build a relationship with someone who is difficult or “irregular?”

Here are a few thoughts on how you can deal with those difficult relationships in your life.

1. Mental Acceptance – The first step is to realize that this person is set in their ways and they are probably not going to change. The issues that cause them to be irregular to you have been working in other relationships. Seldom will irregular people own “their stuff.” Should you approach your person to gently point out the hurt he/she has caused you, your person will typically turn the blame back on you, claiming you are simply “too sensitive.” It is in your best interest that you stop waiting on your person to make radical changes. Understand that you cannot change him/her. Your person (or persons) may be unsaved or may be a carnal believer that is spiritually dull to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Don’t keep tormenting yourself hoping he/she will change. Accept them as they are and keep trusting the Lord. The Lord does not hold you responsible for your irregular person’s actions or reactions. He only holds you responsible for your actions and reactions. Release your own expectations to the Lord and rest in Him.

2. Emotionally detached – For the sake of your own emotional wellbeing and that of your immediate family (face it, moms set the emotional thermostat of their homes), it will probably be necessary to emotionally detach yourself from your irregular person so she cannot continue to wound your spirit and suck the joy right out of you. This does not involve being unkind to your person or using the silent treatment. You merely distance yourself emotionally and insulate yourself spiritually in the Lord in order to protect yourself from the verbal jabs that are aimed at you, either intentionally or unwittingly by your person.

3. Physically Separated – It may be helpful to limit the time you spend with your irregular person if possible. This may actually enhance the relationship or, at the very least, give you some relief from your “irregular person.”

4. Ministry Oriented – While we must accept our irregular person for who they are and accept the fact that they may never change, we do not need to allow them to continually wound us with their verbal barbs. Consider this. Your person may be emotionally crippled from difficult relationships in their past and that is what keeps him/her from being to us what we need them to be. First and foremost look at your person as an opportunity to display the grace of the Lord Jesus. We cannot afford to be dissuaded by his/her lack of love and acceptance of us; we are simply to keep on doing what is right in the sight of the Lord and leave the results with Him.

Despite irregular relationships, God enriches our lives with our faith family. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Friends enrich our lives and urge us on in the faith. They come alongside us and stand shoulder to shoulder with us to fight the good fight of faith. They multiply our joys and divide our sorrows.

At conversion we are placed into the body of Christ and the family of God. Spiritual relationships transcend our familial relationship. Jesus confirmed this truth. In Matt. 12:46-50 the Bible says:

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”

The bad news: We all have irregular people in our lives and no one will probably be able to escape the upcoming holiday season without spending time with them. The good news: We have a new family in the faith!

Need more encouragement dealing with your irregular person? I have a CD titled “People, How Can I Live With Them?” available for $6.00 plus s/h on my Website.

For more resources on mothering check out my Website and blog at www.jeanstockale.com.

Jean Stockdale

*Please leave your comments below!

13 comments

  1. Bethany says:

    This is such a helpful reminder! I was driving yesterday reliving emotions from the family member you’re describing. Giving myself a pep talk about how to love and show them more kindness than ever. It’s hard and that’s why we all have to ask the Holy Spirit in every moment to help fill us continually with his love for them. Thank you for this post. It was encouraging to know I’m not alone.

    • Jean Stockdale says:

      Dear Bethany-Thank you for your comment. It is true that only when we totally rely on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17) can only of love the “unloveable” and extend grace. And, I might add, even then some people (unbelievers or immature Christians) can still be tough to deal with. In other words, just cuz you love Jesus doesn’t mean everyone else is gonna! (See John 12:1-11 Mary did not care what anyone thought of her actions that day). And the pressures of the holidays, for even the most noble of intentions, can unravel us when an “irregular person” pushes one of our buttons. You are certainly not alone!! One of the passages that helped me deal with those folks is Eph. 4:32 which says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” God bless you!

  2. Lee says:

    Thank you, Jean. I didn’t realize how desperate and thirsty I was for a word like this until I read it. You are such a blessing to us mamas!

    • Jean Stockdale says:

      Dear Lee, Thank you for your kind words of affirmation. The holidays are stressful enough on their own. If you have children, the stress is amped up dramatically. If you have to divide you time between both sets of in-laws, well you are so stressed you feel like you just need to take to your bed and forget about the whole business!!! All of us as moms can we relate. We love the Lord. we want to honor Him. We want our children to know and celebrate the real reason for the season. But some folks don’t share our zeal for the Lord and they are perfectly content to me miserable and share that with others!! I will write a follow up blog after the holidays so write and let me know if any of these helped you. Blessings for a glorious holy-day season!

    • Jean Stockdale says:

      Thank Cheryl, for you kinds words. You are such an exhorter in my life!! I love you and appreciate your “sanguine” view of life!!

      Thank you for praying for me. I continue to battle a lingering case of bronchitis. For over 8 weeks now I have been hacking and coughing. I can barely stand to be around my own self!! Have a glorious holy-day with your family.

      You are loved. Jean

    • Jean Stockdale says:

      Sweet Mandy, Thank you for your remarks. My boys are grown now and out of the house. Craig and I have adopted a policy that works well for our family. First of all, I am the “mother of the groom”. A title I hold dearly!! Because I am mom to the boys and not the brides, I feel like I need to let the “bride” and her family make the decision on when and where they will celebrate the holidays and I (as mother of the groom) flex around what her family wants to do. We usually celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sat. after the holiday so our boys can be with their in-laws on that day. These allows them to enjoy that family without having to rush over and celebrate with us, eat another stupid turkey, and interrupt the babies and their naps. This may not work for everyone but I go and shop on Friday after Thanksgiving, get great bargains, and have a leisurely time to cook and prepare. The children are able to have a relaxed time with us. Although one year we simply canceled our family Thanksgiving because too many conflicts was making it stressful. Craig and I shared the holidays with dear friends and ate out a meal with our children at a later date when schedules are more relaxed. We have a rule-treat family like very special guests and treat very specially guest like family. That has worked for us!! Let us hear from you after the holidays and share what worked for you. Blessings.

      • Jean Stockdale says:

        Oh my. My heart hurt when I read your question. When you are married to either an unbeliever or an immature believer, God’s word to you is found in 2 Pet. 3:1-4. In essence Peter is teaching that a man who is not in right relationship with the Lord, can be won by observing his wife’s “gentle and quiet spirit.” Nagging, threatening, bargaining-none of this will work. But he can be won “without a word” when he sees the life of Christ lived out in the life of His wife who has cast herself upon the Lord. Memorize this passage and ask God to work it into your life. Also Stormie Omartian has written several good books on how to pray for your spouse. Get one of those and start praying and claiming God’s Word for your marriage. I am hoping you are already in a good solid Bible preaching/belieivng/teaching church. If not, I urge you strongly to ask the Lord to lead you to one immediately. Then you will probably need some folks to walk through this with you. The enemy wants divorce for you. God wants reconciliation, healing and wholeness for both of you! Ask your pastor to consel with you or start meeting with a Christian counselor. Some churches offer this free of charge. Build a strong support group of spiritually strong people to meet with you, hold you accountable, and to pray with you as you pull down whatever strongholds are threatening your relationship with your husband. Become active in Bible study and Sunday school if you aren’t already. This will strengthen your resolve to follow God’s Will. Lean into Jesus. Cast your cares on Him. Only Christ can repair relationships as you strive to walk in personal holiness and practical righteousness. This frees the Lord to bring conviction and work in his life. I don’t want to sound glib about your situation. I can sense great hurt behind your question. Please stay connected with me through this site. I will ask the Father to minister to you and restore this relationship. Blessings.

    • Jean Stockdale says:

      Thank you Melissa for your kind words of affirmation! Our boys are grown, married, and we have 5 grandchildren. Our goal is to have a time that honors the Lord with our children and their families. But there are now another set of in-laws/grandparents and their wishes need to be honored as well as want our children to have the freedom to start their own holiday traditions for their own families. This is why I tried to enjoy every season of my boys’ lives while we had the at home because we know the day would come, apron strings would be severed, heart strings in the Lord would be strengthened in their adult relationships with us, and we could “release them” without regret. Words are cheap and I made that sound like it was an easy thing to do but it was not!!! Anyhoo, we try to flex around the needs of everyone. I know that I would rather not get to see my children than to force them to attend “out of obligation.” So we have sought the heart of the Lord, allowed our boys to “leave father and mother” and have found a wonderful adult relationship with both our boys and “our girls” because they know there are no expectations placed on them. This frees everybody. Now you may have some extended family that can’t get on board with this kind of attitude but you can make plans to deal with your own children (when they are grown) and thereby break the chain on unmet expectations. I want to enjoy my adult children and their children around the fellowship of the Lord and not around trying to please everybody and their brother!! The first year Jason and Patti were married, I was explaining to Patti that I wanted her to tell me when it was best for all of us to get together. My extended family had always done Christmas Eve together. But that was what her family had done. I suggested I do Christmas breakfast then. She asked if my mother (who had always had the celebration on Christmas Eve since I was a child) would be upset with the change of family tradition. I told Patti, “Sweetie, how bout you take care of my son, and I will take care of my mother!!” Traditions are great things until they begin to strangle you!!I love traditions. That is why I did mine for the 20 years I had the boys are home. Now their wives get to have a say in how things are done. And I am just happy for whenever we get to be together to celebrate the birth of our King! I will do a follow up blog post after the holidays. Please share with us how your holidays went. Blessings. Jean

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