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How to Hug a Porcupine – 3 Steps to Loving Difficult People

Difficult people are all around us. Whether it’s an abrasive coworker, narcissistic boss, or toxic mother, all you need do is throw a stone and you will likely encounter someone difficult.

These types of people remind me of porcupines.

For some of these individuals, “difficult” can be a generous description. A brief encounter with some leave you feeling down right aggravated. You can purpose in your heart to love like Jesus but the minute you get near this person, everything in you recoils.

But Jesus said in Luke 6:32: “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!”

So how do you follow the Biblical mandate to love your enemies without getting pricked?

Loving Difficult People Step 1: Turn upward.

The only way you will be able to sustain any amount of interaction with a difficult person is through prayer. This may seem like a Christian copout but prayer is essential if you are to know how to handle this devil-sent individual and find peace in the midst of the irritation.


When you pray, you release the burden to God (He’s got bigger shoulders than you) and you also begin to soften your heart towards the other person. Don’t believe me? I once had a woman in my life whom I honestly believed was sent by Satan to try my patience. She would lie to my face, spread rumors, and manipulate others into thinking I was the one tormenting her. The last thing I wanted to do was to pray for her (unless of course it was for vengeance—just being honest).


But instead of giving in to my frustration to vent about her, I prayed for her. And one day I heard that she wasn’t doing well and a little part of me wanted to rejoice but a bigger part of me actually had compassion for her. Believe me, my friend, that compassion didn’t come from any part of my heart, it came from the love of Jesus.

Sometimes God allows these people in our lives because of what He’s looking to do through us.

Loving Difficult People Step 2: Turn inward.

What is Jesus looking to do IN you? We often look at a difficult person as an external problem that needs to be eradicated. But what if God is using those people as a form of sandpaper, to refine YOU?


Jesus asks us the hard question in Matt 7:3-5: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

I’ve found that when you want to see what a person is made of, put them in hot water. The same is true for our encounters with toxic people; they reveal what’s in our heart.

So, what is God showing you about yourself through your dealings with this impossible individual? Whatever it is, allow Him to have His way in your life and you’ll be better for it.


Loving Difficult People Step 3: Turn outward.

Everyone has a story. Sometimes difficult people are not difficult because they’re bad, some are difficult because they’ve had challenges in their lives that they have not been equipped to grow from. Who knows, God may be placing you there for such a time and task.


(Just remember, this person is not your pet project or responsibility. Your job is to stay connected with God through prayer and follow His leading.)


Difficult people can leave you feeling drained and defeated. Will you chose to look at these people as individuals sent by God to help make you more and more like his Son, Jesus?

Are you struggling with toxic people in your life? I get it. That’s why I created Toxic People Survival Guide – Keys Dealing With Difficult People, God’s Way. You can grab it here.

Need more help? My course “How to Deal with Toxic People” can help you say goodbye to guilt and hello to healthy boundaries in a God honoring way. Click here for more info:

12 replies
  1. Alexis H
    Alexis H says:

    Yes! It can be hard to hug a difficult person or love on them but we are called to love them anyway, so useful and a handy reminder! Thank you

  2. Tara
    Tara says:

    Kris…. thank you so much for your ministry! I can’t wait to read keys to dealing with difficult people. Bless you!

  3. Deb Wolf
    Deb Wolf says:

    Really great tips, Kris. I like the way you made it easy to remember and so very helpful. Whenever I had a disagreement with a childhood friend my mother always invited me to think about what they might be going through and how I might have handled it differently. That simple question (which I hated at the time) taught to me look beyond the porcupine spines to see the person inside. Blessings

  4. Jana
    Jana says:

    This is practical and easy to remember – upward, inward, outward. I, too, have experienced the supernatural ability to love the unlovable – by God’s grace and His Spirit. His Word tells us our love for others is how the world will know we are His, so practicing this is of utmost importance!

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