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Shortly after becoming a ministry wife, I found myself in a church meeting where my husband was the object of criticism. He sat there quietly, offering absolutely no defense. "Why doesn't he say something?" I wondered desperately. After a few more arrows aimed in his direction, I said to myself, "well, if he isn't going to defend himself, I guess that is what a good Christian wife is for." I rose to my feet, made an impassioned, one-minute speech, burst into tears, and rushed from the auditorium! Since that traumatic event, I have done a little better at handling criticism and difficult people. (That wouldn't be hard, I can hear you say!) It's difficult when people criticize you, but it's worse when they get after your husband or family. Sometimes church members don't want to confront the pastor, but feel they can pass on their complaints via the pastor's wife because she isn't so intimidating. Criticism takes on many forms. "He's too deep," says one. "He's too shallow," says the next. "He's too dull. My Kids are bored," confides another. Do they expect you to say, "Oh, I agree, Mrs. Smith? He bores me to pieces too?" Sometimes when I'm listening to someone criticizing my husband, I think to myself, "Has this person forgotten I'm married to the man? How would she feel if I drew her aside by the coat racks to tell her I felt her husband really should smarten up his appearance?" How do we handle such encounters with difficult people? Perhaps we leap to our beloved's defense or cut the person off in mid-complaint. I usually feel quite sick or produce a headache within a half hour of such an episode. After thirty years, I still wrestle with the unfairness of it all. No matter what our position or function in the church body, all of us have to deal with difficult people. It's all Eve's fault! But it does no good blaming her for the awkward people we have to cope with in our lives and ministry. After all, all we need to do is look in the mirror to see evidence of our own Eve-ness too! So what's the answer in dealing with difficult people? Maybe an acrostic using the word difficult will help. Deliberately go out of your way to make friends with difficult people. It's amazing what friendships can do. Most difficult people are lonely. Investigate what the Bible says about the problem, then apply the truth you learn. Forgive them for being difficult. Forgive them again! Intercede for them. It's hard to be irritated with someone when you're in the presence of God. Co
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