It’s easy to react to whatever we see on the surface of someone’s behavior. It’s much harder to see through the words and the emotion to the heart of a fellow human.

The Apostle Peter gave us a game plan for dealing with difficult people. The first step is to find common ground with people, and the second step is to see deeper than their difficulty.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

~ 1 Peter 3:8 NIV

To be sympathetic means to feel for a person. And when people speak or act in hurtful ways, it’s always because of two factors. First, every one of us is a sinner. And second, every one of us has been through pain. That is, we’re all broken, to one degree or another.

And ultimately, hurt people hurt people. People who complain about everything often grew up in homes in which they could never please Mom or Dad. People who reject others quickly are often protecting themselves from potential rejection because rejection is all they’ve known.

People in pain tend to speak and act out of their pain. That doesn’t make it easy to endure, but it does help us to have more internal peace knowing that when people lash out at you, it isn’t always about you. It’s often about them and their pain.

How was Jesus able to pray for his enemies? How could he ask the Father to forgive the very people nailing him to the cross? How could Jesus so easily display such deep compassion for radical sinners?

Because Jesus always saw deeper than a person’s immediate abrasiveness to the depth of pain beneath the surface. And he’s the ultimate model for all of us.

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