Developing Patience with Difficult People

serenity-prayer

Rick Warren suggests that one of the “marks” of mercy is that “mercy is patient with difficult people.”

Apparently God has deep appreciation for the struggle this is for us, for the Bible is filled with the records of many great people of faith who had to deal with difficult people in their own lives.  for example:

  • Abel had a difficult brother who murdered him (Genesis 4)
  • Esau had a difficult brother who cheated him out of a blessing (Genesis 27)
  • Jacob had a difficult father-in-law who cheated him repeatedly (Genesis 29-30)
  • Joseph had difficult brothers who sold him into slavery (Genesis 37), and a difficult master’s wife who had him imprisoned under false charges (Genesis 39)
  • Hannah had a difficult relationship with her husband’s other wife (1 Samuel 1)
  • David had a difficult relationship with his best friend’s father who tried to kill him (1 Samuel 18 and following), and a difficult son who tried to steal his throne (2 Samuel 15)
  • Hosea had a difficult wife who was unfaithful to him (Hosea 1)

Throughout the pages of Scripture we meet people who had to deal with “difficult” people.

How should we deal with the difficult people in our lives?

Reinhold Niebuhr offers a helpful prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Someone came up with a version that is probably a bit closer to how we often feel: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to destroy because they ticked me off after being extremely tolerant and patient with them!”

Someone else proposed: “God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”

But, in many ways, if I am to be brutally honest, this is what I would have to pray: “God, grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change; the Courage to change the people that I can; and the Wisdom to know it’s me.”

What it really comes down to is this: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone, since I’m clearly not you, God.  At least not the last time I checked.  And while you’re at it, God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.  It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people, who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway.  Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers.  Basically, God, grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not you.  Amen”

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One response to “Developing Patience with Difficult People”

  1. Therese Harper says :

    Thank you again, Tom, for good words!

    Therese

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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