After my mother’s death, confusion and mix-ups occurred between her children. The text messaging that followed added fuel to the fire. One sibling refused to talk on the phone with me to clear up the misunderstandings, choosing instead to continue with a negative and hostile attitude for a few weeks, followed by silence for almost a year. Unfortunately, the venom spewed from that sibling prompted hateful rhetoric from his son who condemned and disowned his aunt on public media.

Are you tired of the name-calling, lies, and mean-spiritedness of people? Through public media and private conversations, much is revealed about individuals; their behavior and words expose their hearts. “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18; 12:34).

Who in your family or among your acquaintances irritates you? They can be critical, self-centered, overbearing, or just get on your nerves. You feel drained, experience more friction than peace when you are with them, and they often bring out the worst in you. These individuals cause unnecessary stress and often seem to frustrate others.

Do we moan about such people in our life and get aggravated with them easily? Investigating why they behave as they do may help our understanding of them, but that doesn’t make tolerating them any easier. We prefer to love them from a distance. Since we can’t always avoid these people, we need God’s help in coping with those who annoy us.

As Christians, we are a work in progress until the day we leave our earthly bodies. As we continue to mature in our faith, God tests our disposition and places abrasive personalities in our path. We must choose to love those people because Jesus commanded us to. In John 13:34 Jesus taught, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

When we are rubbed the wrong way, and become distressed in those “sandpaper” relationships, we should consider that God is at the same time smoothing out our own rough areas. Our flaws are felt and removed by the sanding, which improves and purifies our character to become more Christ-like. Perhaps God wants us to learn perseverance and patience or to be more forgiving. He may allow us to get so upset that we turn to Him and consequently deepen our relationship with Him. Many possible reasons exist for dealing with irksome people in our lives. The Lord may even choose to use us to transform those individuals for the better.

God places us in our families, neighborhoods, and jobs for a reason. We have a choice how to respond to provoking interactions, and should demonstrate God’s love even when it’s difficult. Jesus knew Judas Iscariot’s evil plans but still humbled Himself to wash His betrayer’s feet with the other disciples’ feet. Jesus exemplified how to love our enemies and advised us to pray for those who persecute or mistreat us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28).

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36). We’ll be held accountable for our words and actions, but the Holy Spirit can help us rise above the test and be without blame.

Which abrasive person does God want you to look at through His eyes? What attitude of yours needs adjustment? Have you looked inward to determine if you are that person who others dislike?

Last weekend, my troubled sibling texted a message to me, and accidentally touched my phone number. We ended up talking for almost two hours. It’s a start to breaking down the wall that blocked the close relationship we once had.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Giving our best effort to live harmoniously with difficult people is wise, especially those who share our faith. We’ll be living with them in heaven for eternity.