Let’s talk about sharks…
Stick with me, this is going somewhere.
I’m not talking about the kind of sharks you see on Shark Week. I’m talking about the kind of sharks you meet in the workplace, in relationships, and even at church. (Yikes!)
Have you ever met a difficult person?
Somebody who was hard to please, critical, controlling, negative, or even rude?
Did a few people come to mind as soon as you read that?
When we meet sharks (note: it’s not usually obvious), we often try to jump through hoops to keep them happy. Been there, got the t-shirt, went back and got a few thousand more.
Gary and I have had to swim with many, many, MANY sharks in business, ministry, relationships, and friendships. During the first few years of running our business, our life often looked like a shark-feeding frenzy.
Honestly, a lot of it was my own fault.
Because I used to be a serial people pleaser. I hated making people unhappy.
Saying no was hard for me. Disappointing people was hard for me. Both of those things made running a business and ministry really hard for me.
When I met somebody who wasn’t happy with me, it became my personal mission to make them change their mind. Hello, can you say disaster waiting to happen?
I was performing for their approval.
It was like dropping blood in the middle of the ocean.
Sharks seemed to be coming from every direction to get a piece of me. As an insecure, timid leader, I was the perfect shark bait.
Gary and I agonized over putting our trust in the wrong people. We faced betrayals, accusations, and let people manipulate us out of time and money.
One day Gary came to me with tears in his eyes. “I wrote my resignation letter today,” he said, trying to fight back the crushing disappointment in his voice.
We were so close to giving everything up because of sharks.
It was CRITICAL that we learned how to deal with difficult people.
It’s critical for you too.
You may feel like quitting today, but I want to encourage you; there are answers.
Redefine Your Role
As a Christian, I used to think it was my job to make everyone happy.
NEWS FLASH: it’s not your job to make everyone happy. Only God can do that—He’s their answer, not you.
Through the years, I’ve learned a powerful secret about sharks…
Sharks don’t eat fish because of anything the fish do. They don’t eat fish because those fish aren’t good enough fish, or because those fish aren’t nice enough to the sharks.
Sharks eat fish simply because they’re SHARKS!
I learned this lesson the hard way. I didn’t know how to separate somebody else’s reactions from my identity.
Jesus was a perfect leader and friend, and even He offended people. John 15:18-19 (NIV) say,
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
There are people you will meet in life who will get offended with you no matter what you do. If you exhaust yourself trying to please them, you may delay it for a day, but the inevitable will come.
Romans 12:18 (NIV) says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Pay special attention to the middle of that Scripture: “As far as it depends on you.” Peace in every relationship is not always within your power. People have responsibility too. Do as much as you can to live at peace with everyone, but don’t live in a state of people pleasing, fear, or intimidation.
You have to learn how to separate other people’s actions and reactions from YOUR identity.
And for the record, we can all demonstrate sharklike qualities from time to time. Especially when we’re hurting, tired, or operating out of our emotions.
Keep the Vision Ahead
When dealing with difficult people, you have to remember…
You can’t make everyone happy, and that’s okay. God never asked you to.
You’re on a mission.
You’re on assignment.
You can’t compromise your destiny to please people.
Jesus gives us an example of this in Luke 4:42-43 (NIV):
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
How someone reacts when your obedience to God and the priorities He has placed in your life interfere with what they want from you isn’t a sign of your failure or unworthiness. It’s simply an indicator of an immaturity in them.
You have to stay obedient to the will of God anyway.
Give people grace, patience, and love, but don’t take false responsibility for other people’s offenses.