Daily Battles with Difficult People

Life on the other side of the phone line when we call our representatives.

I follow the author Bob Goff on Instagram, despite never having read any of his books. I don’t remember why I started following him, other than my best friend took a class with him once and has raved about him ever since. About a week ago, his post was a picture of a beautiful sunset with the phrase, “love difficult people” centered in the image. I keep coming back to this phrase.

Congress is full of difficult people. Sometimes my coworkers are difficult even though we are supposed to work as a team toward the same goals. We have competitive personalities and get territorial over issue assignments, which in the end makes it harder to work well together. Other times it’s constituents who make our work difficult. Daily I take calls from people expressing frustration toward the political process and the bureaucracy, complaining that their voices aren’t being accurately represented. I get called names, cussed out, or sit through endless rants, and, honestly, it’s hard to stay positive, graceful and loving in those situations. Balancing personalities and trying to understand the complex machine that is Congress have definitely stretched my patience and ability to show love. 

Yet throughout the Bible, we’re repeatedly called to love. Jesus asks this of us in John 13:34, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” While this is great in theory, it’s so much harder to apply it in practice when dealing with someone difficult. That act of loving others (even when you’d rather not) means that you’re placing others’ needs above your own. You’re taking a step back from your ego and pride, responding to the humanity of those around you. If we’re being intellectually honest, can any of us honestly say that we have never been difficult? I can’t. I’m very difficult sometimes—I’m stubborn, prideful, and I think that I am always right. That, coupled with my overly sarcastic nature, can make me hard to relate to and, well, a challenge to deal with sometimes. I think that we can get so wrapped up in this “us versus them” mentality that we forget that we are all people, created in the image of God and worthy of being loved accordingly.

I struggle with this so much.

“Love difficult people” echoed in my mind all week last week, which was probably a good thing, because that week called for a lot of love. As I continue to think about this phrase, I wondered: What would this look like if we approached our jobs, cities, and the world around us in love rather than in selfishness? How would that change things?

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  • Kathy Johnson is a politically moderate Midwesterner who now calls DC home and works in the U.S. House of Representatives. She speaks fluent sarcasm (thanks mom!) and most days needs two things to function: grace and coffee.

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