Let’s be honest, we all have that one person in our life who can ruin our day by just breathing the wrong way. You know, that person who can make your blood start boiling with just one quick glance, the person that makes you want to do and say things that Jesus definitely would not be proud of. We all have that person and if you don’t then you are probably that person (just kidding. Kind of).
For me, that person just so happens to be my brother. My brother and I do not get along at all; our discord goes way beyond any normal sibling animosity.
For a while, I blamed him for the entirety of our squabbling. He was too controlling, self-centered, selfish, and he didn’t have any respect for anyone, etcetera, etcetera. I chose to ignore my own misgivings and justified that he deserved every stinging word and dirty look I could throw his way. This went on for years which only allowed our anger towards each other to turn into bitterness and thrive.
I will never forget the day all of this changed (for me at least). I had started getting more serious about my relationship with God and was tired of the mediocre; There was a yearning inside me for something more passionate. It was early one morning and I was praying after my daily devotion. I had felt very unsettled in my spirit which led me to asking God to reveal any areas in my life that I needed to work on. I’m not even joking when I say that the words had barely left my mouth when I heard that still-small voice in my mind whispering, “apologize”.
I immediately knew what God wanted. The day before, my brother and I had gotten into a huge argument. I can’t recall what it was about now, but I do remember that it had been explosive. I also know that he had really hurt my feelings and now God wanted me to apologize. Me! Why should I apologize when my brother was the one who started the whole thing? When he was the one who hurt me? God was quick to remind me that I had said some hurtful things too and after a little more resistance, I finally swallowed my pride and apologized to my brother. I wish I could say that it was some huge, heart-felt apology but it really, really wasn’t. I won’t lie, a part of me got a lot of satisfaction from seeing the dumbfounded look on my brother’s face when I said I was sorry (I’m not perfect, okay).
After that I began studying scripture, trying to find how I could prepare my relationship with my brother; mostly because I knew God was disappointed with my behavior and partly because I never wanted to apologize to my brother again (like I said, I’m not perfect).
God helped me with my search and I was able to identify four areas I needed to work on if I wanted to improve my relationship with my brother:
I needed to control my anger, I needed to control my tongue, I needed to learn to forgive and love, and I needed to pray… a lot.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV), “In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foot hold.”
When dealing with a difficult person, you need to keep your anger in check. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t be angry. Anger itself is not the problem; the problem is how we handle our anger. We can either control or react to our anger. When we choose to give our anger free-reign, we are actually giving Satan a foot-hold in our life and we can bet he will jump at the chance to take it. If we do not vent our anger properly, our anger can hurt and ruin relationships. When we keep our anger bottled in, anger causes bitterness that festers and infects our heart and mind. It is best to let go of our anger and give it to God. He is just and faithful and will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
James 3:6 (NIV) says, “The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
If left uncontrolled, the tongue can become a violent weapon at Satan’s disposal. Idle and hurtful words spread destruction quickly and once spoken, the damage cannot be undone. Of course you can apologize, but those hurtful words will still be out there in the open.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV), “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Words have the power to either build someone up or break them down. With every word we speak, we need to consciously consider if we are pleasing or disappointing God.
Romans 12:21 (NIV), “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When someone hurts us our first reaction may be to get revenge rather than to forgive. However, if we want to love someone the way Christ loves us then we should be willing to forgive. Once we experience God’s grace we should want everyone to experience it. A common misconception is that by forgive someone, we are excusing their wrong doings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our God is just and by forgiving others we loving them despite their mistakes just as Christ has loved us and trusting God will take care of everything else.
And I have saved, perhaps, the most difficult for last: pray.
James 5:16 (NIV) says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
When dealing with a difficult person we need to pray for ourselves. Almost every day (and multiple times a day) I am asking God to grant me the patience and grace to deal with my brother in a pleasant manner and to help me to control my anger and my tongue.
We also need to pray for our difficult person and I do not mean that in a negative way (you know, like the country song where the guy prays his ex-girlfriend will get knocked in the head with a flower pot.) We need to pray peace, comfort and healing over our difficult person (because chances are the reason they are so difficult is because they’re dealing with something difficult.)
My relationship with my brother still isn’t perfect and some days I lose control and say hurtful things (those are usually the days that I forget to pray and ask God to keep my anger in check.) However, little by little, God is helping me repair years worth of damage between my brother and I. Hopefully, one day, my brother will become that person to me; you know, the one you can always depend on and will never let you down.