Have you ever had a work or social situation where one person stood out as “difficult”? You know the kind I mean–your opinion is always minimized and you just can’t seem to warm up to this person’s personality.
Sometimes these people pass through our lives quickly. Often they remain. Either way, they provide us opportunities to grow in our people skills and boundary-setting techniques.
Be encouraged—personality clashes and opinion differences are normal. If everyone got along there would be no need for the Bible and its stories of ordinary people experiencing frustration with one another.
In the New Testament, Paul and John Mark fit this description. Something happened in their relationship or in their definition of Paul’s mission that caused a breach. We know it wasn’t serious sin, such as immorality or slander on John Mark’s side, or Paul would have applied Matthew 18 to the problem with John Mark. Instead, Paul simply asked John Mark to not be a part of his ministry.
Barnabas disagreed with Paul concerning John Mark and also quit traveling with Paul’s ministry because of his views. One has the feeling from Scripture that this was an “agree to disagree” parting. Later, Paul changed his mind about John Mark and requested his participation in Paul’s Gentile ministry.
Personality clashes are not sin—how they are expressed can be. In an agree to disagree parting, it is important that grace and respect be the flow of the disagreement. If things have been processed improperly, then repentance and forgiveness are necessary. However, one doesn’t have to repent or forgive for their personal opinion. Unity doesn’t mean that we have to agree about everything!
People will always be a part of our lives or else we each wouldn’t have much of a life. How we handle the personality clashes and opinion differences that come with living in a people populated world will vary depending on our level of maturity and willingness to process such things in a godly manner. Repentance, forgiveness, and extending grace continue to be part of the kingdom culture we learn and practice on a daily basis.
What have you found to be helpful in dealing with personality clashes and opinion differences? (Leave your opinionated comments in the comment section below or click on the blue comment link.)
This post is taken from my book, Help, I’m Stuck With These People For the Rest of Eternity.
In Him together, Susan Gaddis
This Post Has 3 Comments
Humility. I know that sounds oh-so-enlightened of me…but really. Humility. It’s the understanding that while I don’t have to agree with the person I’m clashing with, I DO have to hear the heart inside them. And my job in that moment is to try and touch that heart. In order to do so, I have to see the humanity in myself and my neighbor. And I get to treat them as I want them to treat me. Even if they can’t.
I think it’s helpful to try to remain constructive. When people are stepping on each other’s toes, instead of criticizing what the other person does wrong, ask in a positive way if they would be willing to do something differently as they relate to you. Make sure to also state ways you respect or appreciate them as often as possible, so that constructive feedback is not taken as attack or rejection. Staying constructive can sometimes involve not responding to high emotion with an equally high emotion, but to discipline yourself to be the de-escalator. Also, de-escalate yourself by taking care of your body. Take deep breaths when needed, enjoy a cup of herbal tea, take a brisk walk. God knows our hearts, and the limitations of our bodies to deal with stress well. Make us of that knowledge, to both mentally and physically be prepared to respond constructively.
Mary, it really is hearing the heart behind the words that is important and connecting humility to do so is a very helpful observation. Thanks for putting that into words for us.
Jessica, I like your focus on being constructive and your suggestions of how to act allows us to see how “constructive” might play out in an uncomfortable situation. Thanks for the examples. How…if I can just remember to do those things… big breath… cup of tea… de-escalate… and participate in the situation in a positive manner by showing respect through questions and appreciative comments. Good stuff!