It’s been said that the ones who are most difficult to love are the ones who need love the most.
Having been both the giver and the recipient of undeserved love, I can attest to the truth of that statement.
I had a long talk about bullies and mean girls with my daughter. I explained that most bullies act the way they do because they have something going on in their lives that makes them feel bad, so they want to make everyone feel bad, too. The same applies to adults. Think about a day when you were the grouchiest you’ve ever been. What else was going on in your life that day? That week? That month? Chances are that there was something that was triggering your grouchy behavior.
Not long ago we had a bully situation at church. This bully was the daughter of a visitor and she was very good at turning the girls against each other during their kid’s class at church. My daughter would come to me and tell me what was happening in class, and I was beginning to find it hard to ask my daughter to be kind to her. Then I found out what had been going on in this child’s life: her parents are divorced, her mother lives hundreds of miles away, her mother uses drugs frequently, her father lives in anger because of his mother’s death, and he has the beginning of a drinking problem, her step-mother (the one who brought her to church) tries to help, but the girl’s father tells her not to help…bottom line, this poor child is in desperate need of stability, security and love.
She was a tough child to love. She was mean and spiteful. But she needed the most love. She needed someone to hold her, to love her and to make her feel secure. The step-mother tried to bring this into her step-daughter’s life, but the girl’s father made her stop bringing his daughter to church. I don’t know how the little girl is doing now, but I can only pray she is being loved.
There’s a quote I’ve read that says, “Always be kind because you never know what battles someone might be facing.” And it’s true. We never really know what’s going on in someone’s life. As cliché as it’s been made to sound, what would Jesus do when it comes to loving someone who is difficult to love? He would love them with compassion.
In Mark 6:30-34, Jesus is seeking a place of solitary quiet when he notices that a large crowd is following them. Rather than pretend he didn’t see them, he looked at them with compassion “because they were like sheep without a shepherd,” and he began to teach them.
That is the little girl who was visiting our church, she was like a sheep without a shepherd. She was wandering, trying to find a place of security and safety. She needed a shepherd.
We are so fortunate to know our shepherd. We are so blessed to know our king. How fortunate we are to know that when we’re having a bad day we can take it to our God. He is our safe haven, our rock, our pillar of strength, our security. He is love, He is compassion, He is a gentle heart. We are so blessed to know we have Him. Not everybody has that.
When you encounter a difficult child, whether a student in your class or a classmate of your child, look at that child with compassion. It’s possible that the child is a sheep without a shepherd. He or she is looking for direction, for security and for love.
When you encounter a difficult adult, whether it’s a teacher, a colleague, or another parent, look at that adult with compassion. Chances are they have something going on in their lives.
Jesus would never deny love to a difficult character. I can speak of that firsthand. I am a difficult character. I react to my bad days, and my moods linger when it’s been a bad week. But I am never without love. Knowing that I have the love of my Savior helps me feel secure, and helps to soften my heart. Sometimes that’s all I need in order to correct my behavior: a loving hug, whether it’s a physical hug or a spiritual hug, it’s something I need.
Love on the ones who are difficult to love because they are the ones who need it the most.