Friday, April 16, 2010

Difficult People

Life is hard. It would be much easier if I could deal with people I like all of the time and steer clear of the people I find frustrating. Why is it that time spent with someone you like adds so much to your life, and difficult people drain you of all energy and joy? It's as if the canvas of our day is blank when we wake up in the morning, and throughout the day it's either filled with pleasing colours and shapes, or muddied up and stark black and white by the end of the day, based on the company we kept that day.

I sometimes ask my friends if they find me hard to get along with, because I'm so afraid that I am one of these obtuse, overly-opinionated people and no one has been kind enough to tell me. I don't know how difficult people can carry on in the world, when they wreak havoc and frustration all around them, and then go on their merry way, whistling and pretending that they had nothing to do with the problem.

As I type this I can hear my pastor's oh-so sensible voice in my ear, reminding me that all people are broken and dealing with their own hurts and pain. I do understand this on a mental level, but I can freely admit that I struggle to be a compassionate person. I have more of a "suck it up and deal with it" philosophy, for myself and for others. There are many that don't agree with my ideas, and I can accept that, but it's challenging where my values and philosophies collide with other people's and they don't mesh.

Perhaps that is the crux of why we hit it off with some people and are repelled by others: our philosophies, personalities, and values either ring true and agree, or clash and repel. I hadn't thought of it quite that way before. It might help me not to take it so personally if I realize that the person driving me up the wall has redeeming qualities, like everyone, they just don't fall in the same hemisphere as I do when it comes to values and ideas. And that's okay, but for peace and harmony in life I prefer to surround myself with people whom I can connect with on a deeper level.

Usually when we first meet a person, we get an immediate feeling about them. It's as though something in our spirit recognizes and connects with something in the other person, or doesn't connect. I always assumed it was a personality thing, or the fact that the other person was a jerk, but I'm wondering if it goes deeper than that.

I don't necessarily want to have the same beliefs and ideas as all of my friends, but that core recognition of values such as kindness, respect, and genuine regard must be there in order for us to be friends. When I can't make that connection with another person, I have the urge to flee in the other direction because I see a difficult person who will mess up my canvas for the day.

Sometimes we can't escape people we don't mesh with. We serve on committees with them, work with them, run into them while running errands and make polite small talk with them. All I can do is watch myself and be as true to my values as possible. I can't change anyone else and have no interest in trying. I'm responsible for myself, and I rely on my friends to keep me in check where I have blind spots and can't see times I might be annoying or considered difficult. I really do want to know what these problem areas are and work on them. As far as it depends on me, I want to live peaceably with everyone. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's not.


  1. Difficult people are sent our way to test us. Over my considerable 40+ years I have been sorely tested, yet amply rewarded when I have made the correct choice of how to deal with the "tough ones". Recently I dealt with an issue in a way that could be considered vindictive. I struggled with my action for about 8 hours and then decided that the impulse I acted upon was the correct one.


  2. I could not agree more about following your instincts. We all have that voice inside of us that nudges us to action, and if we listen, we make much better decisions than when we don't.

    I'm glad to hear that you feel good about your recent decision. Knowing you, I'm sure you did make the right one.