In today’s More Than Small Talk podcast, Holley, Jennifer, and I get real about what it looks like to deal with difficult people. But can we be honest? That’s tough when it’s family. Today I want to share four R’s that help when God has done a work in your heart, but your extended family hasn’t healed.

Before I begin this post I want you to know something. . . 

I haven’t walked in your shoes. Our circumstances are different. This is not a formula because formulas rarely work the same when the ingredients are different.

Instead, I’m just sitting with you as a friend saying, “I’ve been there.”

I’ve watched my family heal and it’s been an amazing gift, but long before that took place God asked me to begin the healing process. These aren’t steps near as much as they are a shift in what we’ve been doing. 

In today’s More Than Small Talk podcast, Holley Gerth, Jennifer Watson, and I talked about dealing with difficult people. As we talked, it was with the understanding that I haven’t done everything well. Yet I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way. These are four things that helped me.


One of the most powerful steps we can take is to redefine our identity separate from our past or the actions of others. You are not defined by their mistakes. You are not defined by their words. It is a chapter in your story, but there are hundreds of chapters written as you live life as you!

Let that new chapter begin today. Hold up the pen. Let the Lord spill the ink on your heart and life. 

As we do this, we separate who we are from what someone else did (or does). This releases a ton of resentment and defensiveness. We know what the past held, but we also know who we are today. That’s freeing!

Be Realistic

As a family heals, they’ll still make mistakes. You’ll make mistakes. Even normal families have conflict. Giving grace as you all grow is a beautiful gift. 

If a family member is harmful, they refuse to heal, or their words or actions inflict damage on you, your marriage, or your children, be realistic about that too. Those relationships need boundaries. 

In either case, you still get to choose community. That might be family. That might not. We don’t get to choose our birth family, but we can choose community. Choose to surround yourself with people who have the characteristics of family that you desire. They too won’t be perfect (no one is and perfection is daunting), but you can build a community that is real, and strong, and healing. 

[ctt template=”11″ link=”eaqyS” via=”yes” ]We may not get to choose family, but we can choose community. #livingfreetogether #MoreThanSmallTalk [/ctt]


Just as we desire that others change, there is transformation as we forgive, as we heal, and as we move beyond labels, resentment, and unrealistic expectations. If we are rehashing old stories, long after a person has apologized or is changing, then that’s an area where we need to heal.


Sometimes a person’s amends may be awkward and not what you think they should be. True grace is receiving a gesture with the same spirit with which it is offered.

But if they aren’t willing to make amends, will you receive the healing God has for your heart anyway? Long before a person is willing to say they are sorry (or maybe they never will), you can break that generational pattern and start a new branch of your family tree. 

That’s powerful, friend! Regardless of whether anyone else is willing to heal or not, you are receiving every good thing God has for you so you can pass it down to the next generation, and the next after that. 


Q: What new chapter is God writing inside of you? 

If you don’t know the answer to this question, share it with God. Let the answer begin to unfold in you. It may take time, and that’s okay. 

More Than Small Talk Podcast, Episode #6 – Dealing with Difficult people 

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Related Resources

Sometimes we long to take a topic deeper. Let me walk with you with these resources I’ve written. 

Do you long to heal? The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places is a gentle resource.

Walking with Jesus daily helps us as we heal. Check out my daily devotional, Come With Me Devotional: A Year-Long Adventure in Following Jesus

And finally, The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness will powerfully show you how to forgive, what that looks like, and what it doesn’t mean.