April 2014

Wise Decisions &
Difficult People

“One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.” (Pr. 21:22)


Leadership certainly has its challenges. Difficult, divisive, and determined people can block a leader who needs to make critical decisions. “The mighty” can develop strategies that frequently cause leaders to feel paralyzed, afraid, and insecure. 


If we’ve been in leadership for any amount of time, we understand that within an organization (or church) some people can be challenging at times and even passively or directly resist our ability to lead. All leadership responsibilities have difficult situations. Once when I was beginning a new position in a problematic church I overheard a conversation with some department leaders who said, “After he has been here for awhile he will ‘get it’ and figure out who’s really calling the shots.” Needless to say, I was surprised and felt concerned about how they would go about helping me “get it.”


While we desire to show compassion and care for these individuals and want everyone to get on board, we also need to be “wise” in our strategy of “going against the mighty.”


The reality of leadership is that we frequently work with difficult people. We understand that there are no perfect people and that everyone has something he or she is (or needs to be) working on. It’s not uncommon for some to have agendas that are not healthy for the organization, for other people, nor for us as leaders.


Some people's characteristics (from a list of many) that I remind myself of:

  • Angry people – can overreact (passively or aggressively).
  • Hurt people – can hurt people. 
  • Wounded people – frequently have a hard time trusting. 
  • Power players – want control. 
  • Dysfunctional people – can be over sensitive. 
  • Mentally ill people – have battles that need patience and unique understanding.

The most valuable skill in employees?

”The ability to get along with people

John Rockefeller


If we better understand how to manage and lead difficult people, we can spend more time doing quality work and less time dealing with conflict.


Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people. What can we learn from his wise leadership skills? 


1.  The “one who is wise” (Pr. 21:22) understands that we are not going to make “everyone” happy. Jesus kept his focus and did what “pleased” his Father. “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (Jn. 5:30)


While we sincerely desire to make everyone feel good about the choices we’re required to make, or the direction and strategy we have determined is best . . . the fact remains that there will be people who do not agree and who, at times, do not like us.


As I read through the Bible, I’m often reminded that people even disagree with our Holy and merciful God. If everyone doesn’t always agree with God or Jesus, how can I be expected to keep everyone happy and in agreement?


2.  The “one who is wise” is not naïve to people’s motives. A common strategy can be to subtly cause us to make a decision (or to say something) that becomes a trap for us. (Don’t play their game.)


“But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” (Mt. 22:18)


We decide not to play their game of trapping or manipulation of us. In doing that, we confront them by “telling the truth” in love and learning to say “no” to unreal/unnecessary expectations.


3.  Don’t swing back. Often our response (retaliation) to difficult people can cause more challenges. A common tendency is to respond and react to someone’s wrong intentions in ways that resemble their tactics.


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Mt. 5:38-40).

Wisdom tells us that retaliation only lowers us to their level.


4.  Wise leaders ask for God’s help with difficult people – they pray for their enemies.


“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:44).


The Bible frequently reveals examples of how people were against, and even tried to harm, Godly leaders . . . David, Nehemiah, Ruth, Paul, the prophets, Jesus, and many others. Developing the habit of praying for difficult people will help them . . . and us.

Often our prayers for them can make us sensitive to some of the issues they’re dealing with in life and give us understanding. Also, God knows how to deal with divisive people who have evil intentions. I have frequently given people to God and asked Him to deal with them. It is true that when you are leading with integrity and trusting God, he will be your defender.


“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can

succeed against the Lord.” (Pr. 21:30)


You’re a leader, and leaders make difficult decisions. Leaders do the right thing and trust God to help them in the process. In our responsibility to lead we must also remember:


“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Ro. 12:18 NIV).  


Always know that I am . . .
Your Friend and Servant in Christ,

Wayde Goodall, D.Min.

Dean, College of Ministry

Northwest University


The College of Ministry at NU is here to serve you. Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in your leadership.

I can be reached at: