The problem: the UNLOVABLE person in your family! Today’s guest blogger, Julie Ganschow, director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center, gives practical insight on how to love the hard-to-love family member, even a child or parent. You can Julie’s blog here.
Plenty of you live with someone who is difficult to love. They may be cranky, obstinate, frustrating, mean, and selfish. They are really unlovable. If you didn’t have to spend time with them or live with them, you would not.
I am not saying they are beyond redemption, or that they are incapable of being loved. I am saying that their actions and attitudes have brought your relationship to the point where every aspect of your relationship with them is painful, hostile, and adversarial.
The only person they appear to care about is themselves. And they give little thought or care to how they affect you. You love them deeply, are concerned for them, and want to love them otherwise you would not be hanging in there.
You Want to Love the Unlovable But It’s Tough!
They make it very, very difficult. Your love is often not returned or acknowledged. They treat you as though you “owe” them. There is so little respect for you or your wishes. Also, they lie to you, sometimes steal from you, and hurt you all the time. All they appear to care about is how you affect them. Your loved one is supremely selfish and self-focused.
Often, you or other loved ones try (and fail) to change them. And while some behavioral changes can take place and seem to stick for a while–sadly they don’t last. People learning how to love a difficult spouse may have benefited from some good Bible-centered counsel know that behavior change is only temporary.
You’ve learned that their moods seem to change with the wind. Because they are mostly feeling oriented and feeling driven they may appear to be “manic-depressive” in their behavior. What this means in biblical terms is “sinner.” Specifically prideful and selfish.
The world of the unlovable person revolves around what they perceive to be their needs and wants. If they “feel” like doing something they will, if they don’t “feel” like doing it, they won’t. When their perceived needs are not met you receive an angry silence or hostility from them.
Clear Expectations and Boundaries Matter!
You have to set boundaries on what you will or won’t tolerate from them. Clear expectations on acceptable conduct are necessary.
Sometimes the boundaries come in the form of consequences like the break-up of a relationship. You must evaluate their words and actions. I encourage you to be vigilant as to when they impose on you an expectation that you must never fall short of satisfying their demands. They will want to blame you when their happiness is not achieved.
Worse of all, we want to fix them.
We mistakenly believe that if we are just nicer, more loving, and more patient; give them all they want that they will change. This is false. It is not about us. It is about them, and will remain that way until they repent.
There will never be enough for them; they won’t be satisfied. What meets those perceived needs today, won’t tomorrow.
When you love such a person you must pray that God will capture their heart. As much as you want to change their actions or attitude, particularly toward you, you must realize you cannot.
Only He can change them.
So you pray, and pray that they will somehow want to change to conform to the image of Christ. You hope and pray that something, anything will cause them to long for Him more than anything else they desire. If prayer appears to go unanswered it becomes depressing and discouraging. Most people quit because they can’t stand the discouragement.
It’s Hard to Watch to Unlovable Suffer
The problem for those who love unlovable people is that you do love them! You love them deeply and completely. If you are spiritually minded you hurt for them because you can see the real need they have is for repentance and change (Eph. 4:22-30). It is very painful to watch them flounder and seek after all the wrong things.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Can you recognize and accept why Christ has given you the burden for this person?
- In what ways does this persons un-loveliness remind you of a time when you were similarly unlovely?
- Can you glory in the cross you carry for the joy set before you of being conformed to Christ-likeness?
- Can you accept their place in your life as being a tool God is using to change your heart?
For your loved one, pray that God will bring him or her to the end of themselves. Ask the Lord to give you what He wants for them, that they would desire in their hearts to love and serve Him only.