Where I come from, we have a name for people who hoard everything and can’t let go of anything: packrat. Have you ever known anyone who was a packrat? Are YOU a packrat? What happens when you try to help a packrat clean up around their house? You try to throw something away they haven’t used in years, and they scream at you “NOOOO! I might need that!” And I’m left wondering “Why can they not let go of some of those things?” The truth is, there are some people who just can’t let go of some things, and it affects the relationships they have.
In his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud believes some life experiences have taught people they are the source of meeting their own needs. He diagnoses this belief as one of our greatest spiritual sicknesses. The Bible clearly states “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19). We are most productive and fruitful when we are dependent on God and receive what He has to give us. Most of life’s problems come from either the brokenness or fallenness of mankind. We don’t do what we should do, or we do what we shouldn’t do. Problems exist because we are trying to live life misaligned from how God has designed us to live life. We don’t keep healthy boundaries, and we allow anything and everything to prevail. Eventually life breaks down.
As responsible Christians, we contribute to the emotional climate of whatever we’re a part of: our home, our church, our school, our work, etc. We can have hope dealing with difficult people because the Bible describes in Proverbs three different kinds of people and the strategies for each: the wise, the foolish, and the evil. A wise person can learn from correction. The light comes to them, and they respond to it. They may not be the smartest, most charming, gifted or talented person in the room, but they see reality for what it is and adjust to it. Talking helps in correcting a wise person.
However, when you try to correct a fool through talking, you only receive hatred. Proverbs 9:7 reads “Do not confront a mocker lest you incur insults upon yourself.” With a fool, you stop talking and give consequences. Remember, in dealing with fools, just because someone is mad at you for setting a healthy boundary doesn’t make you wrong.
The third kind of person you deal with is an evil person. The difference between a foolish person and an evil person is the foolish person will hurt you accidentally, but an evil person is out to cause harm. The only way to deal with really bad people is not to talk or give consequences to them but to go into protection mode. There are different strategies for all three kinds of people. In order to be successful, you have to be able to diagnose character.
So how do we know when not to give up on a difficult situation? If I have hope, I spend more time in a relationship or situation. Hope comes from the objective reason that spending more time on something will yield a better result. And how does compassion fit in? We sometimes can confuse compassion with enabling. We compassionately set boundaries, have talks, and give consequences. If we just tolerate and stay silent, we end up enabling the behavior to continue. There is a difference between hurt and harm—what is painful and what is harmful. Going to the dentist may hurt, but it doesn’t harm you. Compassion fits into all of this by dealing with the difficulty with the right kind of attitude and plan.
As a student in your teenage years, you’re learning what life is really all about. The sooner you can master setting healthy boundaries in the difficult relationships you have (and we all have them), you can learn to excel in life. Some may think this article is above the targeted audience age-range. I say the realities of brokenness in life are charging our young people head-on, so why not provide the biblical answers to face them?
Chad Flowers is married to his best friend and teammate, Mendy. He’s a daddy to two incredible little girls, Jadyn and Keira, and one son, Chandler. He lives in Mesquite, Texas where he has a private practice as a licensed professional counselor and serves as pastor of Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.