Difficult people have their own math equation.  I’m not talking about moody people or people who don’t agree with your politics.  I am talking about the people in our lives who send us to the therapist’s couch, the ones who leave you feeling infuriated and wanting to cut off contact because there seems to be no way to achieve a healthy relationship.

In a healthy relationship there will be problems caused by both people in the relationship.  When problems occur—someone says or does something hurtful—the person who is hurt will begin the equation with, “It hurt my feelings when you said, did, X.”  This may be called the accusation.

The other person may respond defensively, may say, “I didn’t mean that,” or may just say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I said or did Y.  That wasn’t my intention.”  This step might be called the acknowledgement.

The first step, X is sharing how you are hurt; the second step, Y, is acknowledging the person has been hurt and your role in it, and then there can be Z, forgiveness which then allows the offender to feel redemption.

X+Y=Z

Accusation + Acknowledgment =Forgiveness and Redemption

Difficult people follow a different path, and it never leads to Z, the good stuff of forgiveness and ultimately, redemption.

You might offer your accusation: “I was hurt when you weren’t honest with me on Saturday.”

Difficult people, rather than acknowledge the hurt they caused, choose one of three paths I have identified.  You may know more-

Path A Bring up ancient hurts

“You were hurt?  Do you know how I used to feel when I was a child and…?”  This is the diversion path.  It has nothing to do with the current situation and is meant elicit a pity response from you and cancel out any problems you may have with the person.

Path B Bring up old grievances

“You were hurt?  When I called you in 2003 you said you were going to help me with (fill in old grievance) and you never did.”    The difficult person has nurtured this wound for years, waiting for the perfect opportunity to spring it on you in the hopes it will cancel out any problem you have with the person.

Path C Death Threats

“You were hurt?  I wish I was dead, had died, plan on killing myself.”  This is the atomic bomb; when the going gets tough, pull out the death threats.  Once again, this response is meant to elicit pity and turn the conversation towards the needs of the difficult person and of course, cancel out any problems you may have with them.

They don’t acknowledge anything they may have done to fracture the relationship.  Without this acknowledgement, the problem is left hanging in the air.  Forgiveness and redemption are not available.

X Accusation + Path A, B or C= Unresolved problems

Something tells me this has to do with shame.  Maybe they are carrying around a heavy bucket of shame.  It sloshes around as they walk.  It is already so filled that they can’t take in your accusation.  They are all full up on mistakes.  They can’t acknowledge anymore.

What I would offer the difficult people:

The bucket you were given may havebeen filled by someone who lacked the capacity to forgive themselves, so they filled it with their own shame and then yours.

You can be the author of your own forgiveness.  Favorite prayer- I am not willing to forgive, but I am willing to be made willing

The people who accuse you don’t do it to hurt you.  They do it to repair a break in the relationship.

Grace isn’t just a girl’s name.