4 Keys to Loving Those Who Rub Us the Wrong Way

4 Keys to Loving Those Who Rub Us the Wrong Way

God’s Word teaches us to love one another.  But that is extremely difficult when they rub us the wrong way!  If you’re like me, you find it tempting to judge people who push your buttons.  We can justify our attitude towards these people by seeing ourselves as better or superior to them – after all I would never behave that way.  We are in dangerous territory when we go there.  We stop listening to their perspective.  We change our posture towards them.  We forget what the Holy Spirit of God instructs us through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

We are most vulnerable to not loving others when we are triggered by people who see the world differently than we do.  Whether this happens in a theological debate or simply through a decision being made which conflicts with your preference, we are in danger of breaking the greatest commandment – to love.  This is tragic.  Our spiritual maturity is measured by our persistent love of others, especially when we disagree.  Too often we dishonor others, are easily angered, and we don’t trust or believe the best of others.

I have learned four things that has helped me process my inner thoughts when people rub me the wrong way.  These are four keys that can help you live out the challenge to love well.  I can’t say that I have mastered them, but they have been helpful to me on my journey, and I hope they are helpful to you.

KEY 1:  Know what triggers you.  Everyone is triggered by different things.  What I mean by “triggered” is that we feel conflicted inside about someone’s words, actions, or demeanor.  What is interesting is that we are not all triggered by the same things.  I am triggered by those who come across dogmatic and authoritative.  I feel like there is no room for other options or perspectives.  I value different viewpoints and recognize that things can be seen differently when you look at things from different angles.  Other people are triggered simply because someone is not orderly in the way they present through viewpoint.  Still others are triggered because the tone of voice that is used because it comes across to them like they are insensitive to others in the room.

Can you list the things that trigger you?  Are you familiar with them?  What is even more important is to know why you are triggered by them.  For instance, I am triggered by people who are dogmatic and authoritative because these kinds of people often keep me from pursuing a goal I have my mind set.  I don’t want to be blocked from that goal.  One of my highest values is movement and accomplishment.  I know this about myself.  I hate being slowed down or worse yet – stalled.  This kind of self-knowledge is critical to loving others.  My goal can be more important than the people around me.

What triggers you?  Is it when someone seems illogical?  Is it when a person appears to attack the integrity of others?  Is it when someone is inflexible? Can you connect what rubs you the wrong way with why it rubs you the wrong way?  A mature person who can persevere in loving others will be very familiar with their conflict triggers and know the reasons it triggers them.  We only get triggered by things that are important to the core of who we are.

Key 2:  Understand the positive intent behind each behavior.  Trusting and believing the best of others is essential to loving others.  Avoiding the temptation to judge someone’s heart is not easy and we quickly make assumptions about the motive behind people’s words and actions.  Corestrengths gives us a helpful construct to do this.  We learn that strengths can be overdone and can be interpreted as weakness.  For instance, the strength of Confidence when it is overdone (volume turned up), can look like Arrogance.  When someone who is Methodical in their approach to things over does it, it can look like being Rigid.  Forceful when overdone can feel like Domineering.  Every strength can be used for the glory of God.  But when a strength is overdone it can have a negative impact on others.

In order to believe the best of others, we can look to see what the positive intent is behind the behavior is that rubbing us the wrong way.  This takes some practice, but it is effective when we master it.  One of my triggers is when a person is Rigid.  Rigid is the overdone strength of being Principled.  When I see someone who is Rigid in their approach to things, I now ask myself why they are acting this way.  Are they highly Principled?  What is the Principle that they are so committed to and don’t want to break?  This helps me to empathize and understand their heart – the positive intent of their behavior.  It keeps me from going down the path of being the judge and jury of their motives.  Learning the strengths and what the overdone strengths look like are essential to mastering this process.

Key 3:  Recognize your own-colored glasses you wear that influence your interpretation of things. The reason we don’t all get triggered by the same people or behavior is that we all perceive the world through colored glasses.  Our perception is altered by our own set of values and what is most important to us.  If I am wearing BLUE glasses, the world around me will look very different to me than someone wearing RED glasses.  If BLUE glasses represent a person who values people more than anything else, they will be more sensitive to behavior that might be interpreted by others as offensive.  If someone is direct in correcting another person, they might get triggered more easily because they don’t want other people to be hurt in anyway.   A RED person might not be triggered at all!

Our perceptions are altered by what is most important to us at our core.  We are wired differently by our God and this is a good thing (different temperaments, giftings, callings, strengths).  Understanding our own colored glasses will help us to reinterpret other people’s behaviors more accurately.

Key 4: Choose to believe the positive intent of other people.  If we are to love other people, we will need to learn to choose to believe that they are intending not to hurt you.  There is a positive intent behind their actions.  Our nature is to assume the worse rather than the best of others.  This is harmful to our relationships.  This is not easy to do when we are being rubbed the wrong way.  But it is a choice we can make.  Looking for the positive intent of other people will enable you to get into what is in their heart – what is so important to them.  You will be able to speak to that issue more directly and connect with their soul.  We waste way too much time reacting to the behavior that is being displayed rather than looking for the positive intent behind what is being displayed.

As you go about your day today, see if you can apply these principles:

  1. Know your conflict triggers
  2. Understand the positive intent behind each behavior
  3. Recognize your own-colored glasses you wear that influence your interpretation of things
  4. Choose to believe the positive intent of other people

Let us live out the command to love one another.  That is never more challenging than when we are rubbed the wrong way.  May the Spirit of the Living God that dwells in you bring to your mind the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 when you find yourself in the temptation to dishonor others, be self-seeking rather than seeking the interest of others, and not persevering in love.




Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.