Rejection is powerful.
When I counsel people, sometimes I hear them say, “I don’t care if people like me, as long as they respect me.” When they say that, it’s an “emotional wall they use to block the hurt of rejection,” according to psychologist Marcia Reynolds.
God created us to be social, and if we’re honest, all of us care if people like us. “The feeling of love, affection, and belonging is necessary before we can reach the highest levels of consciousness and wisdom,” says psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow is saying we all need people to survive. So, how do you keep from withdrawing when dealing with someone who doesn’t like you?
Fortunately, you’re not the only one who’s had to deal with this problem. After Nathan had anointed David as the future king of Israel, Saul became his bitter enemy. Like David, all of us at one time or another deal with people who don’t like us. Perhaps you have people who want to do you harm and see you fail. This is where David found himself in 1 Samuel 24.
His enemy, Saul, wanted to see him dead, and he spent a considerable amount of time chasing David to kill him. Then one day, Saul made a mistake. He walked right into the place where David and his men were without realizing David was there.
Imagine how you might have felt if your worst enemy (or hater) was in front of you and didn’t know you were there. Would you attack that person? Most of us would not think twice about getting revenge on that person, especially since doing so would mean we would no longer have to run and hide from them.
However, David was different. Even though David wanted to stop running and hiding, he wanted to honor God more. Saul was a king that God anointed, and David knew that he could not just kill him. Understanding this, he denied his initial thought to kill Saul.
As believers, you, too, will have opportunities to choose between what you to do and what is right. Devoted followers decide to honor God in every situation and at all times, no matter what. David didn’t kill Saul when he had the chance, and God counted it as an honor. Later in David’s life, God honored him.
How can you go on with life without letting enemies, critics or haters get you down? Here are three ways to deal with people who don’t like you.
1. Try to understand them.
Haters are normally people who have issues with themselves that they either refuse to resolve or even acknowledge. What they hate about you could be the one thing they hate about themselves. Or what they hate about you could really be what they secretly admire about you.
So when they have a problem with you, understand that it is nothing personal with you. It has to do with their personal issues. Try to walk a mile in their shoes and see things from their perspective. Instead of hating them, you should feel sorry for them.
2. Be kind to them.
Probably the hardest yet most character-defining thing you can do is serve those who are unkind to you. Showing kindness is not dependent on what you receive from people. Showing kindness depends on your character. What you do or say to others does not define them—it defines you. Remember that how they see and treat you is a reflection and extension of how they see and treat themselves. Most unkind people are harsh with themselves, so they extend that unkindness to others around them.
3. Pray for them.
Jesus himself had his share of critics and haters. He did not only ignore them and continue with his mission; he also prayed for them. And he calls us to do the same: Pray for those who persecute you. He also said that when you offer peace, and the other person does not accept it, peace will come back to you.
What are some of the ways you deal with people who don’t like you in the church?
Clarence Stowers is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Chicago, Illinois. He has been in full-time ministry for 20 years. This article was originally published on ClarenceStowers.com.