We all have them in our lives—people with a black cloud swirling around them, whirling dervishes trying to control the world and us. People who live in glass houses throwing stones at others while refusing to do their own inner work. People who think they’re right and the world would be much better off if everyone saw things as they did. People who demand you return their phone calls and texts immediately, but never seem to find the time to return yours. Difficult People.
Difficult people are challenging. They frustrate us. They can make our lives miserable.
So what can we do when we encounter difficult people? What choices do we have?
Internalize. We can internalize their harsh words and anger, and blame ourselves for the problems they are finger-pointing at us.
Confront. We can confront them, try and change their behavior, try and help them see how they’re pushing others away, hoping they will see the light.
Walk away. We can distance ourselves from them. Leave them alone to sit in their own mess.
Love. We can choose to love them, and ourselves unconditionally. Give them time and space for God to work in their lives. We can let them become our teachers, teaching us the power of unconditional love.
The last option is often the hardest. It’s the Christ-path, the path of the prodigal father. It requires us to sit on our front porch in our rocking chairs waiting patiently, hoping, praying, trusting that time will teach us wisdom, trusting that eventually the difficult people in our lives will come home, home to their true self.
Sitting on the front porch waiting, keeping our mouth shut, choosing to love ourselves and the difficult people in our life is hard work. It’s easier to lash out, attack, and push difficult people away. But, when we choose to love in the face of those who are un-loving toward us, we find an inner freedom. We discover a strength we may not have realized was within us.
Our hearts connect with the heart of God.
—brian j plachta
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.