Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the enigma of dealing with difficult people.

I hope you'll pardon my sporadic blog appearance of late. Just know: This latest blog silence isn't for lack of words (I've got so much to say!) but for lack of time. For now, here's a feeble attempt at clearing the cobwebs, ignoring the sore feet and the tired brain, and working through it. 


{calligraphy by Dave the Designer}

I read once -- in a book by Shauna Niequist, I think, though I've thumbed through the pages and can't find the reference -- that God continues to send the same types of people into our lives until we have learned how to deal with them, at which point we will probably still run into them, but they will no longer be the enigma or the frustration they once were before. Instead, they will just be people, just run-of-the-mill, everyday people who we share air with, and we will be free from the burden they used to -- intentionally or not -- place in our lives. 

This blog is a public place, not really meant for private, personal details, but all you really need to know is that my entire life, I have encountered the same type of person, over and over and over and over again, and I am hoping that one of these days, Niequist's hypothesis is going to prove true, and I am going to have reached the spiritual maturity at which I will no longer have to deal with them on a regular basis. 

Because the truth is? I am not always good with people. 

This is unfortunate, because I firmly believe Jesus was a people person. Perhaps not in the outgoing, charming way we think of people people, but in the know-all-about-you-but-love-and-care-for-you-anyway kind of way. 

I want to be that, but it's hard. 

I'd rather hole up in a cabin, Thoreau-style, and hang out with books instead. 

As I get older, though, it's becoming more and more apparent that Thoreau probably had people he didn't like too. There's simply no escaping it, and part of growing up is learning how to deal with it. 

When I was a little girl, my bed lay underneath an air conditioning vent in my bedroom, and each night, when the lights would go out, my eyes would immediately rest on a white string shaped like a perfectly creepy, Cheshire cat smile tucked inside the vent. My imagination -- inherited from the delightful Anne Shirley and, oh yes, my mother -- would run wild, thinking a peeping Tom had sneaked into my bedroom to grin wickedly at me until I fell asleep. 

It was years -- years! -- before I finally realized (or let myself realize) the string was just a string. Not a smile, not a monster, not a peeping Tom, but a string. A string that -- if I'd taken the time to do it -- could have been removed or cut down without much trouble at all. 

I think difficult people are a lot like that string. 

If we're lucky, sure, maybe once we learn to deal with them, those troublesome personalities will go away. I think, though, it's more accurate to assume we'll always have to deal with them. We'll run into them because we are aware of them, because they push our buttons in ways other people just don't. 

But I think, with time, those people will become more like shadows and less like monsters if we learn to handle them properly. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is I haven't figured it out yet. 

God's still sending me difficult people to work and breathe and share space and time with.

Perhaps gradually, though, in ways I can't yet see or understand, He's strengthening my resolve, my kindness, my patience. 

Because those people aren't going to go away. They may not ever change. 

But the way I deal with them, the way I see them, perceive them, talk to them, think about them? That can. 

I found the Niequist passage, by the way. Underlined in red from a time when I'm sure I was dealing with another personality I found troubling. 

I'd remembered it a tad wrong, it turns out. 

The thought wasn't so much that God would remove those people from our lives, but we would ultimately realize why we found the difficult people so difficult to begin with. 

Maybe that's the more important lesson anyway. Maybe my goal shouldn't simply be to learn how to handle, how to deal, but to investigate why my heart and head hurt when I'm around a certain type of person. 

Maybe, just like the rest of my 20s, it's a lesson I'm meant to uncover personally, to figure out the hows and the whys as they relate to me, so one day -- when I'm 30, maybe -- I'll at least be prepared for the lesson I'll have already learned the hard way.


algvtma said...

This post is completely on point, especially after just having to deal with one of these difficult people. My tactic has been turning up the charm a notch or 10 to compensate for the frustration I feel. I don't know that it's actually helpful to me, but that's all I have to combat it right now.
By the way, which Niequist book is that message in?

Megan Elizabeth said...

i'm glad i'm not the only one right now who doesn't have any free time. except for right now...haha.
i really love this post annie. what book is it that you're talking about? i'd love to read it.
i have always tried to figure out why those people who drive me crazy keep popping up in my life, and this is a really good suggestion as to why. difficult people are just that, difficult. and it's a lesson trying to figure out how to deal with them...but it's a lesson we have to learn.
thanks for the post :]

annie said...

The Niequist passage can be found in "Bittersweet" (an excellent, excellent book if you haven't read it yet).

And @algvtma, yes... I think upping the charm is always a good idea. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Annie,

It's like God used your entry to speak to my sad heart tonight.
Thank you. I wish I could learn the lesson God wants me to learn from the types of difficult people I have in my life, but then again I don't think learning could be rushed.

Thanks for being comforting and sobering me up. Please keep writing.


Syd said...

Your writing is always so captivating and honest. You have a way of expressing things that really connects with others. Great post. One that is so applicable to learning how to become our best self.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Oh, girl! Do I ever know what you mean! Sigh, I am the super-quiet-unless-you've-known-me-for-forever girl, the non-flirty girl, the keep-to-herself-and-chew-on-her-words-tightly-before-she-spews-'em girl and the people that God has consistently thrown into my life path recently have been the complete polar opposites of myself. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to learn from having to deal with certain *loud* and *needy* and *drama lovin'* people. I really don't. But I know that God must certainly have a reason. There must be something for me to learn from these people that I haven't yet.

So, thank you for sharing your quiet heart and your own perspectives on *certain* people. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my feelings on all this!

Anonymous said...

In the middle of reading Bittersweet right now. I see someone else felt the same way, but know God is using your writing to affect people you don't even know!
Keep writing.

Laken said...

I was nodding my head during this entire post -- I've underlined and highlighted that passage. That one pops into my mind all of the time.

I know exactly how you feel and, actually, I almost texted you last week during a poor-pitiful-me vent session about the same topic. So, just know you're not alone in these feelings!

Erin said...

Oh Annie, I cannot tell you how often you post exactly what my heart needs to hear. Thank you.

vintage grey said...

Such a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your heart, and it was so good to hear this! xo Heather

Denise K said...

I have some rather icky news...even after thirty, people continue to puzzle. Good luck girlfriend..I'm dealing with the same thing lately.