The older you get, the more experience you have with various kinds of people in life. I am sure that each of us have had to deal with difficult people in our lives or may be in the midst of dealing with them now. That being true it seems like this is an important topic to focus on.
This month my Recalibrate life read is The Worn Our Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephen’s and Alice Gray. I am learning so much as I go through this book chapter by chapter. I especially like it because along with discussing difficulties in our lives this book also gives you tools to help you deal with areas discussed and the problems that arise.
As I mentioned before, we all have difficult people in our lives. Sometimes they live right inside our homes with us, sometimes we must deal with them at work. And other times they may live in our neighborhoods, or maybe we see them at our churches, schools, or when involved with other groups. The authors refer to difficult people as “burlap people,” a seemingly fitting title.
The more worn out and overwhelmed we are, the more difficult it is to deal with them. I know from personal experience that I often overreact when dealing with the difficult, spouting off like an active volcano when I am overwhelmed and short on patience. This is not only true for me, as the authors discuss the importance of preparing ourselves for our dealings with the “burlap people” that rub us the wrong way.
As I am learning more and more about myself, I am realizing that I often react out of my own hurt, exhaustion, pain, and overwhelm. Taking this realization into consideration made me agree with the authors when they explained the importance of considering that the other person may be struggling also. Their attitudes and behaviors are often influenced by their feelings and life’s problems.
An area of consideration mentioned, that really hit home, in reference to those who grate on our nerves, is that of thinking about what is real versus what is perceived when it comes to that relationship. I had an in-depth conversation this week about how difficult it is to sort out perception from what is real about others especially if they are family members. As we grow up with our siblings and parents or as we live with our spouse and our own children, we each look at things from our own perspectives.
I know my brother and I have completely different views of our parents and our growing up years. Yet, we are only 13 months apart and we lived up through our teen years in the same home. Our emotional wounds and life experiences can blind us to what is real.
Our attitudes form out of our perceptions, and, for sure, both stress and negativity can get in the way of responding to others in a kind manner. We need to check ourselves to see if the person is really being difficult or if we are the one overreacting.
I know I overreact when I feel overwhelmed about too much to do. For example, I always assumed that my husband’s expectations were the same as mine but recently I began seeing how I often overreact to his words, when he is not criticizing at all. This was especially true this past year. We finally talked about it and he helped me to realize that I was putting all of the pressure on myself. He was in no way being difficult, yet I felt like I wasn’t living up to his expectations and that he was disappointed, frustrated with me, or even angry with me. I learned that none of these were true, I was misinterpreting it all.
I was recently listening to a Shauna Niequist book in my car while driving and she was talking about dealing with a difficult person in her life years ago. She mentioned talking with her boss about the struggles she was having and he asked her why this difficult person got under her skin so much. She did not have an answer, but it was something she gave a lot of thought to. She went on to discuss how it seems that when we run into a certain type of difficult person and are unable to work it out in our relationship with them, somehow it seems that the Lord continues to bring that type of person into our lives over and over. It seems there is a lesson in it all that we need to learn before we can move on.
I know I have found this to be true. I recently realized how much I struggle with controlling people. Isn’t that funny considering I just became aware of how very controlling I am? The Lord taught me a major lesson and continues to teach me about fears and the relationship to the need to control. Learning this connection between fear and control has helped me to better understand others. I am learning to see the same connection in them and not respond with anger and frustration. It makes a big difference in those relationships.
Sometimes, though, the difficulty with the person is beyond our understanding and out of our control. There are instances that you must have to choose to “detach and distance” yourself. I have had to do this with different people in my life at various times. For me these situations were more about a difficult period of time in my life and I have been able to since restore the relationships. The possibility of restoration may or may not be available depending on the situation and the people involved.
Another suggestion in the book is to choose to set boundaries. When we have to set boundaries, it is very important to be firm and state your boundary clearly. Henry Cloud has written many books on setting boundaries for various situations. Each of his books that I have read proved to be very helpful and informative for the relationships I was dealing with. I think that boundary setting is very important in our lives, especially with people who like to take advantage of others or ones who just don’t know where the limits are.
One other suggestion in the book is to pray for those difficult people in our lives. The Lord has a way of working in each of our hearts when we pray. He can lead us in wisdom in each individual situation. It always amazes me how He changes and/or directs our hearts for His good. Praying is always a very important answer to any of life’s problems.
So, if you are currently dealing with a “burlap” person in your life, hopefully you have found something helpful here. As I said before I have found this book extremely informative and helpful. I have one more post related to it that I want to share with you next week. The next post will be about routines in the life of the worn out woman. I hope you will be back to learn about how routines can be helpful in your life.