Every parent has difficulty with their children from time to time. We have all had those moments when we wondered (however briefly) if our children would grow up to be adults no one would want to be around. A recent study from UGA has shed light on the character traits that make someone a difficult person. It’s interesting how their findings paint a picture of someone who is not obeying God’s commands about our character.
So what are the traits they found made someone difficult and what are any corresponding commands God has given us in regards to those traits?
- Callousness. According to the authors of the study, callousness indicated a total lack of caring and concern for what happened to others or how one’s behavior was impacting people in negative ways. The Bible is full of commands about how we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 7:12) and looking out not just for our interests, but the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-7).
- Grandiosity. Grandiosity is an attitude of pompous superiority or pretentiousness. The Bible would probably call this pride. In the Philippians passage above, it also says we should in humility consider others better than ourselves. There are dozens of other verses commanding us to be humble or meek (often used as a synonym for humble).
- Domination. Domination is not the same as being good stewards or having dominion over creation. Rather it is the tendency to control others in an oppressive manner. I think one could make a strong argument that the example Jesus set and commanded us to follow of serving others would be the opposite of someone who wanted to dominate others.
- Suspicious. The authors of the study equated suspiciousness with the inability to trust others and the tendency to assume the worst motives are behind another’s words and actions. This one is a little more complicated. The Bible teaches us to trust God above people. Our kids need to know that when someone says something in opposition to what God has commanded or has revealed as truth, God is always to be trusted and believed (Psalm 118:8). On the other hand, the commands for us to forgive others should create in us a healthy wariness, balanced with forgiveness, that should encourage us to give people the benefit of the doubt in our personal interactions (1 Corinthians 13:7).
- Aggressive. This aggressiveness is not the same as setting healthy boundaries or standing up for what is right in the face of evil. Rather, it is the tendency to lash out at others, cut into lines and other behaviors that could be considered bullying or selfishness. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus also commanded his followers to be as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).
- Manipulativeness. Manipulation is the attempt to control others by a type of trickery. Often it involves choosing words that encourage the person to do what we want them to do – even though we know they don’t want to do it. Manipulation often involves telling lies. Sin entered the world because Eve believed a lie. I haven’t counted, but my guess is that the command to not lie is probably one of the most frequently repeated in the Bible.
- Risk Takers. This is a tricky one also. What type of risks do they mean? God doesn’t want us to risk disobeying Him our entire lives in hopes that we can do whatever we want and still get to Heaven with a deathbed conversion. I also think scripture supports the idea that God doesn’t want us to take unnecessary risks with our health or the health of others. On the other hand, I think all of the early Christians were risk takers. They risked prison, beatings and even death for spreading the Gospel. To be an active, productive Christian, we will need to be willing to take some risks. Hopefully, we won’t need to go through everything the Apostle Paul and the others did, but if necessary, we need to be willing to take those risks.
Are you raising a difficult child? Teaching your child to obey God and helping them model their attitudes and behaviors to those of Christ means they will not be considered a difficult person.