Dr. Robi Sonderegger shares with City Harvest Church members how to deal with difficult people and turn away from temptations.
“If we just pursue God, we will have less an appetite for the things of the flesh. It doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war between spirit and flesh.” said Dr. Robi Sonderegger as he spoke to the congregants at City Harvest Church. The renowned Australian clinical psychologist was back in CHC, over the weekend Aug. 10 and 11, teaching the congregants to be mindful of Christ when it comes to dealing with difficult people and the temptations of the flesh.
10 DIFFICULT PEOPLE
In the service on Saturday, Sonderegger shared a list of 10 difficult people and the ways to deal with them.
1) Mr. Negative
He is the person who loves to complain and criticize; nothing is ever good enough for him.
“I recognize that there is value is wise counsel, but it comes from people who are typically not negative and not critical. Unfortunately, Mr. Negative thinks he is that wise counsel who should always point out the negative to show his superiority.”
Being criticized does not mean that one is at fault–even Jesus was criticized but He has done nothing wrong, people just disliked what He said and who He spoke to.
Proverb 26:4 teaches Christians not to “answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him”. Instead, “answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes”. To answer a negative person so that he will not see that he is wise, one has to do it the gentle way.
“We can do it by asking strategic questions, and we need to do it out of love. Ask them: ‘Can I help you, because you seem to be under so much stress and criticizing everybody?'”
“When we extend our love and show our generosity, we have the capacity to change their disposition.”
2. Mrs. Pleaser
This person seeks to please everyone; but she is not doing it out of the goodness of her heart, rather she comes with an agenda: she is looking for praise and recognition. Once she fails to receive the praises she seeks, her attitude changes and the recipient of her favors find themselves stuck.
“As leaders, it is important to check the motivation of the people we are working with. The way to deal with her is actually early intervention and prevention, recognizing the signs at an early stage; if we find that the relationship is toxic we need to cut it off early.”
3. Mr. Opinionated
He has an opinion about everything. “What’s more is that he wants us to agree with him. In the church context, the person’s opinion is often super-spiritual.”
The Bible, however, says in Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them”. It is thus important to check the opinions of others by their fruits before accepting them.
4. Mrs. Gossip
The main motive of their gossip is to build themselves up by pushing others down. The gossiper would often share embarrassing information about others without their approval or knowledge.
It is not just the gossiper. The receiver of gossip is also responsible for the gossip. Gossiping is equivalent to placing a curse on somebody, similar to witchcraft; whether or not harm is intended, harm will be done to the person.
“If we recognize that we are the gossiper, stop it!” Sonderegger said.
Proverb 25:9-10 tells Christians to go to their brothers to iron out the issue. “Not to Facebook,” Sonderegger emphasized. “When we bring the matter to any social media sites, we are basically revealing the content and character of your heart. The Bible says we are ultimately the one being shamed.”
And if one finds himself to be the receiver of the gossip, he needs to stand up to it and say it is not ok. Proverb 20:19 advised Christians to stay away from gossipers.
5. Mr. Smooth and Slippery
Like Mrs. Pleaser, Mr. Smooth and Slippery is nice to everyone, but he often has an ulterior motive. In the corporate world, he would be the one who is friendly to others but would betray others in order to climb up the corporate ladder.
“Only those who are close to you can betray you,” says Sonderegger.
So what do we do when we face betrayal? Sonderegger advised the congregants to pick themselves up and keep on going–winners are made that way.
“Forgive them and move on,” he said.
6. Mrs. Drama
Mrs. Drama is constantly in crisis.
“Even small issues become major crises to her and if you are her home cell group leader, she’ll make you her answer.
“We need to be understanding, but it is not our responsibility to take over their problem.”
Instead of taking over their problem, the better way to deal with them is to ask them SWAYGDAI, which is the acronym of “So What Are You Gonna Do About It?”
7. Mr. Antagonist
Mr. Antagonist often pushes people’s sensitive spot and waits for them to react. They like to take things out of context to pick a fight.
Proverbs 15:33 says, “before honor is humility”, thus the psychologist advised the congregants to be humble and use a soft answer to deal with the antagonist.
“When the aggressor comes (forward with a punch), the Kungfu Master in the Proverbs take his arm, instead of punching him back, leads him on a certain direction that ultimately disarm them.
“Find an element in what they have said that is indeed truthful and agree with them. It is hard to argue with someone that agrees with you.”
9. Mr/Mrs Unpredictable
Employees tiptoe around the unpredictable boss, trying not to irritate them in case they are in the wrong mood. Mr and Mrs Unpredictable use their erratic behavior as a powerful weapon to control those around them.
“With unpredictable people, you need to put predictive boundaries around and simply walk away. It’s a toxic environment to be in and it’s not worth the stress.”
10. You and me
“You are part of the problem,” Sonderegger says. “But don’t worry, so am I. We may not be the full-blown version of each of the difficult persons but we can still be part of the problem if we are not careful.”
When leaders and counselors listen to the complaints of their members, it is easy to sway towards what the person says. Once they align themselves with the difficult people, they become one of them.
“As cell group leaders and members, we have responsibility towards one another. Sometimes it requires tough love to love the difficult people and say: it’s not ok. We can validate the person, but we don’t have to agree,” he says.
“We must be careful to ensure that the things we say represent the body of Christ well.”
With an enticing title “Sugar Baby”, Sonderegger started his Sunday sermon eating egg tarts.
“Based on decades of empirical scientific investigation, we know that when consumed in the wrong way, in the wrong proportion, or at the wrong time, sugar is poisonous,” Sonderegger said. “But the egg tarts just taste so good!”
He was using the egg tarts to demonstrate the temptation of sugar, which he later relates it to other things of the flesh.
Drawing references to Matthew 26:41 and Romans 7:8, Sonderegger says, “Every time you have the sugar you crave, you will want more of it. And the moment you tell me ‘I can’t’ is the moment I say ‘watch me’, because the rebel inside you wants to prove it otherwise.”
What is true in the natural is also true in the spiritual. In Romans 7:14-24, Paul writes about his struggle with sin despite his best intentions and willpower. Sonderegger added a scientific perspective to it: “If my body becomes too accustomed to sugar, I will crave it more because sugar is an appetite stimulator. Sex, like sugar, releases the chemical dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. They can be consumed so much that we become partially dependent on it–even though they only give us temporary relief without any fulfillment.”
Sonderegger also shared that there was a way that God intended certain things to be consumed, along with a warning that these things do not become the forbidden fruit.
“If we just pursue God (Galatians 6:7-8), we will have less of an appetite for the things of the flesh. It doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war between spirit and flesh.”
One needs to move from acceptance into surrender, because making “I will never do that” statements simply reinforces the lusts of the flesh. Sonderegger emphasized, “We need to trust in God when we can’t do it in our own strength.”
Sonderegger ended the service with an altar call for those who wished to be renewed daily by the Spirit, and not be led by the flesh. “Reach for the Living Water, not the sugar. God is willing to meet us any level we are at, as long as we are willing to meet Him.”
Alexandra Teng, 19, School of Theology student, said, “What Dr. Robi shared really helped us identify and acknowledge our human weaknesses, and I truly believe we need to commit ourselves into God’s hands even more in order to look beyond and overcome these weaknesses.”
Ng Gek Shan, 24, a teaching associate, echoed the sentiments of many in the congregation. “Dr. Robi gave very pragmatic pointers to manage the ‘sugars’ in our lives, and helped rewire my perspective in dealing with my weaknesses–which I believe will help me develop a Christ-centered life!”