A Microwave Is Not A Slow Cooker: How to Get Along With Difficult People

Story softens us. Even when your stories differ, they still matter because you can learn from them. Threads of someone else’s story can inform your own.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

There is something powerful about sharing stories–especially personal ones. It’s why we gravitate to memoirs, biographies, and historical fiction. It’s why we watch and rewatch movies about the underdog finally getting his chance and winning. It’s why we gather in small groups and open our hearts with people that used to be strangers. There is something in all of us that wants to be heard, known, and accepted by others.

But what do you do when you are face to face with someone that is polar opposite to you? How do you interact peacefully with microwave personalities if you are a slow cooker?

Microwave vs. Slow Cooker Personalities

It’s hard to imagine the modern world without a microwave but, believe it or not, I still remember a time in my childhood when we didn’t have one. If you wanted to pop popcorn, you had to cook it slowly on the stove or over a fire. If you wanted a baked potato, you had to prep it and but it in the oven for over an hour. It took time to get to the value we wanted, but it was worth it. Some would argue it even tasted better because of it.

People are like that too. Some people are like microwaves; they have no filter and tell the story of their life to anyone who will listen in person or at a distance through their social media. Others are like slow cookers; they are extremely selective about what they tell and how they tell it and only a select trusted few know the full truth of what is going on with them. Though neither approach is right or wrong, it causes great strife and comparison in relationships.

Personalities Collide

I love family dinners at grandmama Whitman’s house. She pulls out all the stops. Sometimes my uncle puts some meat on the grill or smoker on the porch. Most times, it’s grandmama putting all her tools to use and pacing herself through days to get the work done. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, air fryers, refridgerators, the oven, and the microwave team up to cook country food at its finest, and the counters fill with the fruit of their efforts. Yellow squash and onions. Tomato roast with home canned tomatoes. Pork chops and gravy. Vegetable beef stew. Crispy fried chicken wings. Fresh and hot loaded potato wedges. Warm rolls. Fresh pecan pie with double the pecans. Blueberry or peach cobbler with crispy buttery crusts. Butterscotch pudding with a pecan cookie crust and layers of cream cheese goodness. Rice and tomatoes with more home canned tomatoes. Stewed potatoes and kale. Butter beans. Field peas.. All with a little bacon grease for flavoring.

What would those family dinners look like if the pressure cookers suddenly decided they refused to work with the air fryers? What would we miss if our appliances decided to cop an attitude and refuse to sit in the same room much less partner together with someone who cares for food differently than them? I doubt a single dish would make it to the counter; there would be too much infighting.

People are like that too. We let the differences in our personalities and values dictate how we interact with each other. We dismiss people entirely if we disagree with their lifestyle, but we rarely pause to ask about their story. We rarely listen to the experiences that led them to be who and where they are today. How different would the world be if we listened more with curiosity and kindness than fear and judgment?

Making Peace With The Enemy

We have to get to the place where we can sit around the table with people that are hard to love and realize: I am worthy and so are you and that cannot be disputed.

Ashlee Eiland, Formation and Preaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Human(kind)

If you are stuck looking at the world through your own values, it is easy to dismiss people as your enemies who don’t measure up to them. You can even feel justified and holy doing so, but that isn’t Christianity. In Christianity, we are taught to be more like Christ because we are the image of him left on the Earth. We emulate Christ by studying how he lived his life, learning from those studies, and practicing faith and generosity in our daily lives. When I study the life of Christ, I don’t see him spending all his time with people that agreed with him. Yes, he shared his closest thoughts with friends he trusted who believed in him, but the majority of his time was spent with people who doubted him, lived ungodly lifestyles, and followed other gods. He came to heal the sick and broken and mentor leaders for them not isolate with the ones already healed and believing.

How does that translate into relationships today? How does this have anything to do with getting along with difficult people at work or around the table with you this holiday? It has everything to do with it.

The first step to dealing with difficult people is realizing you don’t know everything and that someone else’s story has value too.

You can’t put yourself on a pedestal and dismiss others. Jesus didn’t. Stop justifying the ways you are better than someone else and own the fact that you have been hurtful too.

  • Apologize with true heartfelt words if that is possible and necessary; don’t let discord become a root of bitterness in your home or family.
  • Recognize the value of stories and invite the “enemy” into thoughtful discussion, but put a pin in it before the talks turn heated.
  • Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and generosity within boundaries. You don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle to show them love, nor do you have to empty your bank account to be Jesus to others. Set limits for how much you do for free and how much disagreeable behavior you put up with, and don’t let yourself be pressured to give past those limits.

Different is Just Different, Don’t Make It Worse

Just like all the different kitchen appliances serve their purpose and work together to prepare feasts at grandmama’s house, so do people work together in the family of God to bring to life the Kingdom of God on this Earth.

We are all broken vessels and imperfect people, but God loves to work through brokenness and imperfection because (as the Apostle Paul said) “his power is made perfect in our weakness”.

It is tempting to see ourselves as better than others when our values don’t align. But if you are both serving the same God to the best of your ability, how can competition with each other make you more beneficial to the Kingdom? It doesn’t. In fact, infighting amongst Christians actually has been documented as one of the chief causes of pushing people away from God and the church. Outsiders use that struggle as evidence that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t worth it because he clearly isn’t helping you have a better attitude or be a better person.

Don’t be the one giving an unbeliever reasons to turn further from God. Be the bigger person. Forgive and forget offenses and strive for peaceful interactions within boundaries.

A Biblical Perspective on Overcoming Hurtful Words Between Siblings

When I was a growing up, I moved a lot. I had one sibling. I saw cousins on special occasions. I made friends, but they were hard to keep when I moved. The one constant friend in my world was my sister, but I did not treat her as a friend at the time.

I thought that being big siswas a job description. I corralled my little sister away from trouble and, sometimes, into it. Like a wild stallion, she bucked against being controlled and resented me for it. My control and her desire for freedom created friction in our relationship that would last into our thirties.

In my stubborn effort to control my sister, I said a lot of things that I regret now. My biggest regret now is that I never trusted her to make her own decisions. It took me too many years to let go of the need to control and protect her. I regret the years I lost misjudging her and devaluing her unique individuality.

As adults, we had to learn to treat each other as equals and respect our right to live our lives differently. As adults, we had to learn to love each other without judgement. My sister was the first to learn and show me that in our relationship. Her humility and patience has spoken volumes to me.

Where would we be today if we had learned all this earlier?

I’ve always been blessed with the gift of words, but that is not the same thing as being a responsible steward of how I use them. Sometimes being skilled with words just makes it easier to hurt someone with them. It’s not true that words can’t hurt us; words cut deep and leave lasting scars.

How do hurtful words effect us when we are children?

When kids say hurtful stuff to kids, we call it bullying. We counsel bullies to stop bullying and victims to not take their words to heart. When adults say hurtful stuff to kids, however, it sticks with them. Whether they want to be this way or not, kids are like sponges; they absorb what is said and done to them when they are young, and it shapes the adults they become. Hurtful words spoken to a child become issues they have to face in adulthood. When kids say hurtful things to adults, they challenge the adult’s ability to keep a level head. They make the adult feel disrespected and devalued and want to hurt them back. It is the challenge of an adult to not retaliate in revenge or hurt but to reinforce rules and boundaries and think before they speak.

It’s not always easy to be the adult when your feelings get hurt. I faced this recently when I visited my two nieces. The two angels that used to be enamored with everything I brought to do with them were now engrossed in their phones and barely saying “hello” to me. The auntie they referred to as their own fairy godmother was now out of magic. If they said anything at all to the adults around them, it was incredibly hurtful. They were 10 and 12 and already acting like teenagers.

In my great frustration, I wrestled with giving the girls a piece of my mind. I felt checked in my spirit about doing so. I felt God leading me to pray instead. I went online and found a prayer that spoke to the hurt I was feeling and I prayed it over my family.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts, but constructing healthy boundaries among the family God has placed us with is extremely challenging. In the gap between fresh hurt and restored peace, the words with which we choose to express our emotions can be critically wounding, or soul restoring. To process emotion as our Savior would, it’s best to talk out our conflicts with Him in prayer.

Father, praise You for family. You tell us that it’s not good for us to be alone, and therefore have placed people around us that impact our lives and move us away from the loneliness of solitude. “The Lord is my strength and my song,” Exodus 15:2 reminds. We must remember that the family we live with is not responsible for our happiness. They are not charged with the status of our hearts and souls. And they cannot control how we feel, nor leap into our minds in an effort to understand the depth of our emotions.

When we are misunderstood, or a family member misunderstands us, we feel hopeless to plead our case. Help us to hold onto Exodus 15:2. You are our strength. The inability to filter our thoughts is a cue to hand them over to You. In the moments when silence is Your answer, help us to be patient. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, inspire us to recall who You say we are. Loved. Forgiven. Saved. Purposed. Unique.

Thank You for the comfort of family. The warm embrace of a mother and father, siblings, and extended family. There is something about being related that earns our trust easier other relationships. When and if that trust is broken through abuse and/or abandonment, we pray for your protection physically, and Your guardianship of our hearts and minds. Empower us to seek help and counsel from You, and from others trained to help us remove ourselves from danger and harm. Anyone intending to harm us or treat us abusively is never +w You intend us to linger with.

We confess all of the words we wish we could take back. Because of Adam and Eve’s mistake in the garden, our sinful nature can lead us down paths that we know are wrong, and into mistakes that we had no intention of making. Yet because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are forgiven over and over again when we confess to You in our Savior’s name. Help us to pass the same compassion on to others who wear on our hearts and patience. Bless us to be patient and wise, to seek You first, and speak kindness. Convict us when we are wrong, and strengthen our resolve to apologize.

Hurt within families can destroy relationships permanently. But with Your guidance, anything, and anyone, can be restored. You are our Healer. In You, we find peace. Our hope lies in You. And our faith can pull us across any divide when we let go and let You determine the way. Luke tells us “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (Luke 21:5-28). Jesus is coming. There’s no doubt about that. We want to follow Him fast and focused until He returns to take us home, or we arrive home in heaven to Him.

In the midst of conflict and hurt, it’s easy to be bitter. Misunderstanding can breed justification for cutting off a relationship like a dead tree branch. Payback and comebacks replay in our minds. Vindication runs on repeat. But God, You tell us to focus on You (Colossians 2:19). Let the world explain away, but let us listen to You first.

God, You are there in the pain we cannot bear, do not understand, and want to run from. Hold us and help us. Help us to endure long silences until we are sure You have inspired our choice of words. Quicken our hearts to forgive, and to pray for those on the other side of disagreements. Bless those who hurt us, and help us to be a blessing that shines bright in Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer by Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com

When someone close to you hurts you, it hurts more because it feels like a betrayal. Someone close to your heart turned on you. Yet, Christ tells us to pray for people like that. Luke 6:27-38 tells us to bless and pray for those that hurt us. In times when you want to hit back, take a step closer to Jesus instead.