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Can We Love And Accept A Difficult Person?

Updated: Feb 17

by Jananie Chandrarao. |

I’ve always asked myself at the lowest points of my life if I was too difficult to be loved. But when the emotional breakdown passes and my thoughts aren’t clouded by feelings anymore, I see life for its true delights. I come to realise, I am indeed loved despite how difficult I am. There aren’t any “difficult people” you come across once in a while as you pass through life. The truth is, we’re all difficult people in our own ways. And if you find yourself still being loved and accepted despite a broken heart or a traumatic past, it is evident that difficult people can be loved and accepted. Probably, the most difficult ones might be the ones who need it the most. And it might take a whole lot of strength and effort sometimes, but here are a few ways for you to start.

1. Understand where they are coming from

We always have reasons for why we do what we do or why we behave the way we behave. From an outside perspective, some of the behaviours of the people closest to us can be incomprehensible. Being conditioned by the world with what’s right and wrong constantly has made us forget the truth: The world we live in is rarely black and white (cannot be accurately labelled with right and wrong), and there is so much grey. Maybe the key here is to understand what made them make certain decisions or commit such mistakes, or develop attitudes and personality that is labelled to be ‘difficult’.

Trying to understand why they’re difficult can even bring you way back into their childhood. In psychology, childhood and how someone was raised has a major impact on how they turned out to be later on in their lives. Trauma experienced in the past can alter the person in ways that cannot be understood sometimes. Maybe being in an abusive household has caused them to build walls around them to prevent any form of physical or emotional hurt. Or maybe, having divorced or separated parents instilled fear about romantic relationships during their adulthood. When you understand the pain behind their difficult personality, it’s easier to love someone.

2. Remind yourself of all the good

In a way, gratitude for past events can help us see things in a more balanced manner. Dealing with difficult people who are the closest to us can be hard. We’re calling them ‘difficult people’ for a reason. However, when such a hard moment presents itself, it's easy to let it define our whole view of the person. Our human mind just loves to focus on the negatives (thanks, evolution) because it helped us to survive in the past and hasn’t let go of its old ways yet.

It is at this point where we need to take a step back and reflect. Is it fair to judge them while we turn a blind eye on all the times they have been wonderful humans? Gratitude invites a more balanced view that helps us evaluate them better and show more empathy in figuring out how to solve the dispute with them or any sort of problems that might have initiated their difficult behaviour.

3. Your reaction, your responsibility

My dad keeps saying this when I complain about how something or someone angered me so much. “Don’t give your remote control to others”. What a wise thing to say. Regardless of anything that happens around you, how you react to these events is within your control. Similarly, as you deal with a difficult person who is close to you, remember that you decide how you react to their traits that cause negative emotions in you. You can either blow up, pick a fight and let it all go to hell, or show empathy and compassion towards them.

Choosing to react in the latter manner doesn’t make them right or make you wrong, but rather it is a choice to deal with the matter in a more mature and most importantly, in a more loving way. When you approach such instances oppositely and reactively, chances are that you will cause them to be more defensive. A more empathetic approach partnered with efficient communication skills might help them better understand and realise your perspective and initiate their progress towards a better version of themselves. In a way, you’re helping them to love and accept themselves while they work on themselves as you love and accept them.

4. Reflect on your own shortcomings and build humility

As you go through life learning to love and accept those difficult people close to you, remember that sometimes, you can be a difficult person too. Look into your childhood and past traumas to understand the person you are now and why it’s difficult for you to deal with yourself sometimes. In other words, you may need to take your time to first reflect back on your own shortcomings.

Maybe you need to listen to understand why you made such decisions or mistakes without denying the human in us who is capable of those mistakes. This will help you build the humility to not only accept your shortcomings but learn from them. Remind yourself of your good traits and acts when your mind is finding and criticising all your flaws. It is your responsibility to respond to yourself with empathy and compassion when things don’t go the way you expect and try to be a better version of yourself. The love and acceptance you give to difficult people begins with the unconditional love and acceptance you show to yourself. You can only give what is already within you.

We are all difficult people in someone else’s lives. As much as we need love and acceptance, those difficult people in your life require the same. However, be diligent to differentiate between those who need to be loved and accepted and certain toxic relationships in your life that leaves you drained. With the latter relationship, sometimes it isn’t just love and acceptance. It’s love and acceptance to finally let them go.

You can find out more about the author on Instagram.

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