COLUMN: Live peaceably with everyone if you can

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By John Lapp

Well, what kind of subject is this week’s column about? Well, this is actually the essence of a teaching from the Bible found in Romans 12:18, and in its complete form is: “If it is possible, live peaceably with all men.”
Note: the word men does not necessarily mean only males, but also includes females.
So, columnist, why is this topic so important? And what do the words “if possible” and “peaceably” really mean? Well, while I don’t claim to be a theologian or a Bible scholar, I remain a student, and yet still a teacher. So let’s start with some of the beginning of this verse, namely “if it is possible.” I’m glad that God, in his wonderful mercy which he shows to us, has allowed what we can interpret to be some “wiggle room” with our world of the engagement with some people who may come into our lives that may render that the word “impossible” may have given us some welcome relief. Haven’t I, and haven’t you, known some people with whom we have extended a lot of energy to be “peaceable,” yet it has not seemed to be worth continuing with the same measure of effort?
So, maybe we should stop wasting time in this endeavor.
No, that’s not the ultimate answer to the dilemma. Maybe it will cause me to make it easier, maybe not expect more than is possible, and that may, in and of itself, make it well worth it to keep trying a little harder.
By the way, I know that there are some people in our families, whether close or distant in our relationships with them, that are not very easy to be around. Of course it’s probably because of them, not us. How could it be us?
At times, we wonder “why is she/he so difficult to be around, to be nice to?” You may not have the answer, but since you have already made up your mind that this is true about that person, it may not be just you who has a struggle with that person, but it may also be the case with many others.
It does not relieve me of the overall responsibility to not be obstinate, hateful, or unpleasant to that person, but compassionate in the sense that he/she may not even be aware of the personality pattern you witness.
To make an even stronger point, an anonymous author has penned “just as we need the right key to unlock any door, so are there keys to understanding and getting along with people.”
If anything worthwhile can be done, let’s try. Let’s consider that while employers are in need of hiring new employees, who they believe are qualified to handle the responsibilities of the position for which they are being hired, there also are evaluations available to do some screenings of the types of people needed. But I don’t know of any fool-proof tests that will indicate whether this employee can get along with that employee and vice-versa.
Only in time when some conflicts develop can the employer know that something needs to be done to improve the atmosphere of the working environment.
I must always attempt to hold myself “in check” and not let too many things get me irritated about these other people with whom I struggle.
A good prayer would probably include: “God teach me patience and help me to always be kindhearted in spite of my gut-level feelings about this person. Help me not to react to some things that can be irritants, especially if I make small things into more than they really are.”
Although there are millions of people who not only don’t understand one another, but don’t even get along with them, there are also the same number of people who seem to get along with everybody, well almost everybody. How do they do that?
Maybe they have leamed to just accept people for who they are and not be in a position to always be the self-appointed judge who indulges in qualifying people to be either likable or not.
Some people don’t just suddenly become more talented, for example as a concert pianist or a well-known, expert doctor or pastor. The one man considered to be the “wisest” man was the man Solomon whose writings in the book of the Proverbs included the word “understanding” (or a derivative of it) more that 50 times.
Maybe that’s why he is considered to be the wisest man who ever lived.
When Paul the apostle wrote those previous stated words in Romans, he was aware, even in his own life, that some people were more than just difficult to get along with, maybe in his estimation, were almost impossible. We know that with some people, things usually go along smoothly, but there will always be some people with whom there will be the seemingly unreachable goal to live in harmony and at peace with them.
Maybe it would be well for each of us to refine and continue to develop our own interpersonal skills when it comes to some of the difficult people in our lives. Maybe we need to view that person as someone we will keep trying to get along with, although we might expect it will take a while and may never get to where we would like.
But, more importantly we can each say to ourselves: “I tried, really tried, and will still attempt to be pleasant and nice, even though it may not be received as I intend it to be received.”
Well, thanks for letting me address a totally different topic than presented in the past issues. I hope and pray that this will help you in your individual endeavors with some of these ‘difficult’ people. Warning: don’t let yourself become one of those people with whom you struggle.
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