where a man can build his strength and freedom

How do we deal constructively with a difficult person?

Photo shows hundreds of gold lanterns lighting up the dark as we search for the gold.

I bet when you see the words difficult person someone comes to mind.

Someone you work with or someone in your family.

Difficult may be a mild term for them.

This person is a piece of work.

You may feel like singing along with Dylan in his song Positively Fourth Street:

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes

You’d know what a drag it is to see you.

But regardless of this person’s unfortunate personality,
you realize you must find a constructive way to relate to them.

Getting into conflict has not helped.

Neither has ignoring them.

So, what else can you do?

Let me offer you some ideas.

Are you with me?

Let’s DO this!

Keep it in perspective

One thing that helps me deal with difficult individuals is that I spent years working
in mental hospitals.

People in there are way-y-y-y more difficult than those we generally encounter.

Relating to really sick people gave me perspective.

Now, when all I have to deal with is someone with a few rough edges,
I feel lucky. 🙂

I think: “WOW, this person is a piece of cake by comparison!”


next time you face someone difficult, begin by demoting them.

See them as an annoyance, not a catastrophe.

You have surely encountered a few genuine catastrophes in your life.

Be glad this person is not one of them!

Even if they are, I assure you that my ideas will still apply.

They were developed deep in the trenches.

Look in the mirror

The next thing we can do is look in the mirror.

Recognize that we, too, are an annoyance!

Yes, some people ask themselves how they can deal with us!

Recognizing that we ourselves are flawed humans, not superior to others–
is called having humility.

Humility is in short supply in today’s cancel culture.

We all want to believe we are better than all those fools
we love to diss on social media.

Yet the more we practice our negativity,
the more we cancel cancel cancel them,
the more like them we become.

As we concentrate on what is wrong with the other person,
our relationship (and our own personality) simply gets worse.

Judging others is a path to nowhere.

Find the gold

Fortunately, there is a way out of this self defeating and futile trap.

But it requires us to develop an entirely different motive!

Instead of looking for what is wrong with the other person,
we search for what is right.

We search for their inner core of goodness, no matter how well hidden it may be.

We find the gold.

Whether the person we are dealing with is an annoyance or a catastrophe,
the same principle holds.

We find the gold, we take hold of it, and we don’t let go.

Instead of judging this person, we forgive them.

We forgive them their weaknesses and imperfections.

We forgive them their lack of consideration.

We forgive them their self centeredness.

We forgive them their ingratitude.

Yes, we maintain boundaries to prevent their illness (depression/addiction/anger, etc.)
from harming us, but if they are ill we forgive them for the fact they are ill.

We realize we are not superior to them.

Every one of us is ill in some way, on some level.

We ask ourselves: How does God see them?

God sees them with mercy and kindness, just as God sees us.

So, we treat this difficult person with mercy and with kindness.

We find the best in them.

We find the gold, we take hold of it, and we don’t let go.


Have you ever dug down deep and discovered the gold in someone?

I hope you will write and tell me about it!

Meanwhile, here’s a song to keep you searching for the gold in people.

It’s not just about finding the gold in a love partner.

Neil Young – Heart Of Gold

And you can practice not being critical,
by being patient while Neil finds his harmonica:)

Dr. Hall