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.
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