Bible Question:

How does one deal with a very negative person? I have a sister who is the most negative person and hateful (I do not like using the word) person I have ever known. She never has a nice comment to say, finds fault with everything and everybody, and makes cruel and smart remarks about everyone. I have talked to my Dad and he says that I am just going to have to try and not be around her. He says that he is at a loss as to why she this way. Occasionally, I have responded to her comments as I feel that it is a waste of time, but I find myself drained and under stress just being around her. Most of the family does not want to deal with her. She has caused a lot of problems with the hateful things she says. It seems that she enjoys it. What does one do from God’s point of view? She talks a good game when she says that she knows God. But how can one follow Christ and be so mean? Anything will help.

Bible Answer:

In order to answer your question about dealing with a negative person, we have assumed that your comments are accurate. We also want to answer your question in two parts. First, we want to see what scripture says about people who claim to be Christians and yet act like non-Christians. Second, we want to know how God suggests that we respond.

Reason For Conflict

Every Christian wages a spiritual war between wanting to sin versus being holy. As Christians spiritually grow, they find more and more victory over sin in their lives. That is the message of 1 John 2:13-14,

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (NASB) 1 John 2:13-14

We mature as Christians from spiritual children to spiritual young men and then to spiritual fathers in the faith. The young man is having increasing victory over sin, is strong and knows the Word of God. The message is simple. Spiritual growth takes time and God is looking for a pattern of life. God knows that there is a conflict within us between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-23). The apostle Paul had this to say about himself,

. . . but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (NASB) Rom. 7:23

When God sees an area in our life that needs to change, He will start working on us. He may bring suffering into our life as a reminder to not sin (2 Cor. 12:6-7). He may simply guide us in our Bible study or let us hear scripture from someone that encourages us to change (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Or, He may discipline us (Heb. 12:3-12).

Yes, it is true that a person’s conduct is a mark of the truthfulness of the claim that he/she is a Christian. But Christians can also act like non-Christians. Only God knows who is not a real Christian. He may just be working on them and they may be suffering. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul called the people to whom he wrote the letter “saints” but then proceeded to tell them what was wrong with them. They were doing a lot of sinning. True Christians are sometimes unloving. When we are constantly this way, God will start to discipline us. In fact, God may already be doing that. It is common for young people to rebel against their parents and against God in a number of different ways. When this happens, God will work on all of these areas. He can make our life a “nightmare” in order to change us. God wants every Christian to be holy.

“YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.(NASB) 1 Pet. 1:16

That is His goal. God cares more about our holiness than about our comfort. If He must, He will make our life more and more miserable until we submit to His will. When God is working on one family member, the entire family may suffer because that person is suffering and not submitting. God uses these times to “spiritually grow the rest of the family” in other ways. It is a time for us to love, to comfort, and to be considerate one another. God may be working on the entire family – some more than others.

You Can Help

The Bible does offer families and others in conflict some help. First, when someone speaks negatively to you, remember this “golden” verse.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NASB) Prov. 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute. Prov. 15:18

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. (NASB) Prov. 17:14

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. (NASB) Prov. 20:3

It works. It may not eliminate the other persons’ anger, but it will reduce it. When we respond negatively, we cause more hurt which then causes additional hurt. When we give kind answers to hurtful comments, we help the situation. We show God’s love.

Here is a great verse to remember when confronted by an angry person.

If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. (NASB) Ecclesiastes 10:4

When we combine Proverbs 15:1, 18; Prov. 17:14 and Prov. 20:3 with this verse we have an important spiritual principle. When confronted by angry persons, do not retreat and give them what they want; give them a gentle answer. However, if you conclude the comment or criticism of you was correct, then you need to make things right. It honors God to apologize.

Second, when other people are in conflict, do not try to help.

Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. (NASB) Prov. 26:17

There are exceptions. A parent has the responsibility to take control and restore order, and so do church leaders as well as government officials. Employers have the same responsibility also. This verse means that you should avoid getting into an argument or debate between your sister and someone else. Avoid it.

Third, God wants you and your parents to love your sister. In the following passage from 1 Corinthians, I have highlighted a few key virtues of love.

Love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . . (NASB) 1 Cor. 13:4-8

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. (NASB) Prov. 10:12

Remember always be there for her. Finally, there is also a time to leave your sister alone – when you are about “to explode.”

An arrogant man stirs up strife . . . (NASB) Prov. 28:25

A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back. (NASB) Prov. 29:11

Did you notice that the wise man “holds back” his anger? A wise man rarely gets angry.

Forgive Her

Finally, forgive her. Do no let bitterness become a problem in your relationship with her..

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 (NASB)

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled . . . Hebrews 12:15 (NASB)

Hebrews 12:15 warns us that bitterness creates problems for us. Then we execute revenge on a person but God has told us to leave that to Him (Romans 12:19). 2 Thessalonians 1:6 says that God will repay those who afflict us. But only God knows her heart and how much, if any, that she deserves to be paid back for he behavior. Since He is just He knows the right response. Read what Jesus said about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35.

Conclusion

In summary, try to understand your sister, watch your own attitude and forgive her just as Christ forgives us (Ephesians 4:32). Love your sister as yourself (Matthew 7:12) and pray for her!

Reference Links:

A Forgiving Heart
When Another Offends
Anger in the Heart