The Art of Community

How to Welcome Challenging People Into Your Life

July 14, 2021

If you are going to invest in building a robust circle of relationships in your life, then that community will have to include people that you do not easily connect with, or that do not easily connect with others.  This is not only normal, but follows the pattern of Christ.

Some people are socially awkward.  Other people are emotionally broken and need extra care.  Some people mental illness, or personalities that don’t jive easily with yours.

So when I talk about “challenging people” that’s who I’m talking about.  I’m NOT talking about people that are abusive, repetitively untrustworthy, or gossips, or are otherwise bad for your soul in some way.  Those people you just need to shuttle out of your life.

I’m talking about good people that for one reason or another need some extra care and find it very difficult to make, or keep, friends.

Often these people are boundary busters.  They may not pick up on your subtle clues about your boundaries.  Or they may not realize they are busting them.  They may be emotionally needy, or socially oblivious to your hints.

  • Know the difference between a challenging person, and a toxic person.  Just because they make you uncomfortable, or don’t easily recognize your boundaries, doesn’t make them toxic.
  • Recognize that not all relationships are balanced in both directions.  Some relationships will be more give than take, and that’s ok.  Remember that Jesus did not have ONE relationship in His life that was truly balanced except for His relationship with the Father and the Spirit.  You should not be surprised if most of your relationships are unbalanced.
  • All relationships can fluctuate from time to time, season to season.
  • If there are no (or few) unbalanced relationships in your life, you’re doing it wrong.  That’s a big signal that selfishness has crept into your perspective on community life.
  • Guard your heart against feeling superior to people that are needier than you in some way.  Condescention is a form of pride.  It is the opposite of love.  No one is your project.  We are all God’s projects.  You much to learn from everyone, including those that struggle socially.

In my experience, people who struggle socially are often the strongest and most courageous people I know.  It takes far more personal integrity to move through their life when they know that they make people uncomfortable, or they have a hard time making friends.  They fight tremendous self-hatred quite often.

Consider that at least Peter was extremely socially awkward.

  • If someone is blunt with you, when they are not angry, it usually means that you need to be equally blunt in order to communicate.  What you think of as social kindness is probably too subtle and they don’t even hear you.
    If you can build trust in your relationship, you will be able to help them with things that hurt them in their relationships.  Talk too much?  Bust boundaries?  Friends can help with that.
  • Jesus called the people at the fringes into the center of what He was doing, and He pushed the so-called “cool kids” out.  The last are first, the first are last.  If there is no “Peter” in your circle of friends, then I don’t think you can claim to understand the Kingdom of God fully.

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