Can we all agree that it’s pretty easy to love people who love us back? But what about people that are “not so lovable”? We all know that life is full of them.
Whether it’s people from our family, our workplace, our community, or even our church, we’ve all encountered them in one shape or form. Those who have caused us pain, anger, disappointment, annoyance, or frustration.
As Christians, how are we supposed to cope with these people, let alone show love to them? Are forced smiles and fake laughter the answer when we are really cringing inside? How can we possibly be genuine with all these negative emotions brewing in our hearts?
In this post we will look at what the bible says about loving everyone, why we are to love them, and how to put Scripture into practice even to love the “unlovable”!
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
- 8 Types of “Not So Lovable” People
- What Does the Bible Say About Loving Everyone?
- How to Show Love to “Not So Lovable” People
- Loving Others Should Be a Lifelong Pursuit
8 Types of “Not So Lovable” People
Before we look to Scripture, let’s identify 8 types of “not so lovable” people. I’m sure you could add to the list, but these eight types should be more than enough to bring some people to mind.
- People that Annoy or Irritate You – they have annoying or irritable habits that get on your nerves for one reason or another. It’s your cousin with the sly sarcasm, the co-worker that continuously invades your personal space, or the nosy neighbor with the high-pitched voice.
- People that are Purposely Difficult – they like to be difficult just because they can, and often try to push your buttons. It’s the sibling who purposely never agrees with you, the child who questions everything you tell them to do, or the lady at bible study who constantly asks unrelated questions.
- People that Disappoint You – they have either done something or neglected to do something that has disappointed you. It’s the child that gets suspended from school, the spouse who gambles away your rent money, the alcoholic parent who won’t get help, or the friend who is never there when you need them.
- People that Hurt You – these are people that may have betrayed you, neglected you, or wronged you in some traumatic way. It could be a parent who left you behind when you were young, a close friend who betrayed a trust, someone who spread a false rumor about you, or someone who physically or sexually assaulted you.
- Bad Superiors/Leaders – these people hold positions of authority and misuse, abuse, or overexert their power in some way. It could be your micro-managing boss, your landlord who ignores maintenance issues, your child’s school counselor who has ignored your parental concerns, or a church leader who harasses a church member.
- The Critics – they always feel the need to express their opinion of something, especially when its unfavorable. It’s the co-worker who critiques every dish at the potluck, the follower who negatively comments on all your social media posts, or your business partner who only ever tells you what you’re doing wrong.
- Negative People – they are predominantly pessimistic about life in general. They look for flaws, failures, reasons not to do things, reflect on the worst-case scenarios, and are often in a bad mood. It’s the negative aunt that no one visits, or the doom and gloom co-worker everyone disassociates from.
- The “Nasties” – they are extremely mean, unapologetically rude, or blatantly discriminatory. Their attitudes are just nasty! It’s the cashier who is rude to every customer, the co-worker that thinks it’s okay to make racist jokes every day, or the uncle that is so mad at the world that he is mean to everyone he comes in contact with.
Now, I want you to keep every person that you thought of as you read through the list in mind as we go through the remainder of this post.
What Does the Bible Say About Loving Everyone?
Before we dive into how to love the “unlovable”, we must first begin with what God has called us to do regarding love. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the verses we will look at, but it’s important to remind ourselves of what the Bible says about showing love to everyone.
God is Love
When it comes to loving people, we must first define the word love, as that will be the foundation of learning how to love. And like everything else, the secular world has its own definition of love. However, as Christians we should ALWAYS look to Scripture, as our authority, to define what love truly is:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:7-10 NIV
In this passage we learn that God Himself is love. He is the definition and epitome of love, the creator and source of love, and the ultimate demonstrator of love!
The Holy Spirit Empowers Christians to Love
According to the passage above, ONLY those who have been born of God and know Him (Christians) can love others the way God commands in His Word.
Our ability to love others on our own is limited. It’s circumstantial at best, based on how we feel about others and the way they treat us. Which is why God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to love the way He commands us to:
- We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV
- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
We Are to Love Others as God Loved Us
We know the verse below all too well, but what does it mean?
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.John 15:12 NIV
Does God want us to die on a cross for the sins of others? Of course not, because only Jesus could do that.
What we often forget is that, as Christians, we are the recipients of a love from God that we absolutely didn’t deserve! And that is the mindset that we must maintain when it comes to loving others. To love others as God loved us, means showing love – caring for the souls of others, and doing good to and for them – whether they deserve it or not! That’s what the bible says about loving the “unlovable”!
We Are to Love Others as We Love Ourselves
And of course, we are familiar with these verses as well:
- For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Galatians 5:14 NIV
- “So then, in everything treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this is [the essence of] the Law and the [writings of the] Prophets. Matthew 7:12 AMP
Simply put, we should show love to others in the same way we want to be loved.
We Are to Love Even Our Enemies
And lastly there is the passage we may have heard before, but that we are not so fond of:
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”Matthew 5:43-47 NLT
In this passage Jesus was speaking directly to his followers and clarifying that loving our neighbor includes loving even those that are our enemies. But why does God tell us to love our enemies? And why is it so hard to love our enemies?
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word enemy as follows:
- one that is antagonistic toward another, especially one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent
- something harmful or deadly
- a military adversary; a hostile unit or force
I don’t know about you, but there is absolutely nothing in that definition that makes me even want to consider loving an enemy of mine.
At least not until I go back to what we looked at already – loving others the way God loved us. Remember that Jesus died for us – people that didn’t deserve His love at all. But not only that, before we came to know Christ, we were considered enemies of God:
- And through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Colossians 1:20-21 NLT
- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:8-10 NIV
So what does the bible say about loving those who are hard to love?
To summarize the five biblical concepts we’ve looked at: because God (who is love), demonstrated His love to us (former enemies of God) by sending His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, as recipients of that love, we as Christians have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the same love by loving others who don’t deserve it (including our enemies), as we would love ourselves.
This is the foundation on which we will address other bible verses about loving the “unlovable”, and how to put Scripture into practice towards those types of people.
How to Show Love to “Not So Lovable” People
I want to start this section by referencing another familiar passage from Scripture that shows us exactly what loving others should look like:
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. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV
You might want to read that again, but slowly.
With that being said, let’s look at some practical biblical tips on how God wants us to love the “unlovable”.
1. Always Reflect on God’s Love for You
Whenever I find myself having feelings of resentment, rage, disappointment, frustration and even hatred towards someone, I have learned to always take a step back and to reflect on what I know from Scripture about God’s love for me.
Doing this always keeps me humble, because it reminds me that I am as human as everyone else is. It reminds me that at some point in my life, I too annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, criticized, and even hurt people. That just like I used to be an enemy of God, others may have considered me an enemy of theirs.
And then I realize that despite everything I’ve done (or may still be doing), that God loves me.
See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.1 John 3:1 AMP
Constantly reflecting on God’s love for you, will motivate, encourage, and strengthen you to show the same love to others.
2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to Help You Show Love
This is a big one. We must remember that we absolutely CANNOT love anyone (good or bad) on our own. At least not the way God wants us to love. Once we really let that sink in, that will eliminate a lot of the stress we put our minds through trying to do it on our own.
We need every bit of the Holy Spirit’s help, especially when it comes to loving “not so lovable” people!
So first and foremost, pray, pray again, and then pray some more – for the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to show love to these people as you encounter them. If you already know they are going to be waiting for you at home, work, school, church, or wherever – pray ahead of time!
In instances where the “hard to love” person is someone who hurt you, you may need to ask God to help you forgive them. Letting go of any type of hurt or pain is never an easy thing to do. The topic of forgiveness could definitely be its own blog post. However, from a biblical perspective, the principal remains the same as it is with love:
- Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 NLT
- Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
3. Pray for the “Not So Lovable” People in Your Life
The same verse that tells us to love our enemies, also tells us how we can love them – by praying for them!
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!Matthew 5:44 NLT
At first glance, praying for our enemies probably sounds just as ridiculous as loving them. But I will tell you, that praying for people you don’t like, that have annoyed, frustrated, or even hurt you in some way is one of the most humbling things you could ever do.
What exactly do you pray for them? Pray for God to work on their hearts for change. If they are a non-Christian, pray for their salvation, because ultimately that is what they need the most.
But also, if there is a need you know they have, pray for them. If they are sick, pray for them. They may even come to you asking for prayer – pray for them. Why? Because that is what God wants us to do!
Not only does doing this help our attitude towards them, but it also ultimately puts the entire situation into God’s hands and shows that we trust Him to work on both them and us in the process.
When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.Proverbs 16:7 ESV
And yes, there will be times where we need actual deliverance from our enemies, depending on what the situation is – and even then, we are to turn to God in prayer:
- Lord, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death. Psalm 9:13 NIV
- Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Psalm 59:1 NIV
4. Aim to Be the Light in the Room
Sometimes God literally puts us in situations where we must interact with “hard to love” people. Sometimes it may be to test us or teach us a lesson. Other times it may be that God has sent us to be a light in the room and we are called to create an atmosphere of love.
We may be the person God wants to use to settle a dispute, calm down a hostile workplace, bring some laughter into the conversation, or help people find common ground and converse with each other.
- You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
- “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 MSG
Instead of rolling our eyes, muttering under our breath, staying silent, or even walking out of the room to avoid the “not so lovable” person, we can change up the conversation with a joke, a word of encouragement, a compliment, or by simply asking about their day.
5. Be Sympathetic
I think we can all agree that everyone can have a bad or “off” day. Those days where maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, have a situation going on at home that is weighing on your mind, when you just don’t feel good physically, or are simply upset about something.
It’s easy to be annoyed, frustrated, or mad at someone else’s attitude, words, or behavior, especially when they are already on our “hard to love” list. But we must remember that we too have “off” days in which we may exhibit the same things.
As Christians we must be mindful and be sympathetic realizing that other outside factors may be contributing to how a person is interacting with you, that has nothing to do with you. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does help us to understand it.
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers and overwhelms all transgressions [forgiving and overlooking another’s faults].Proverbs 10:12 AMP
6. Think Before You Speak
When dealing with hard to love people, oftentimes we may have feelings of anger or even rage. However, as our passage from Corinthians tells us, “love is not easily angered”. Letting people push our buttons to the point that we fly off the handle and say or do things we will later regret is exactly how the devil wants us to react.
Instead, we must learn to not allow those feelings to overcome us or determine our actions. The key is to be aware of these feelings when they arise.
If we are unable to give an appropriate response in the heat of the moment, sometimes the best thing to do is to take a deep breath, keep silent, and even walk away if necessary.
- An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22 NIV
- Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9 NIV
- My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20 NIV
Yes, there will be instances where we do get angry, and even times where we should get angry. But, even then, Scripture is clear about what our response should be:
In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.Ephesians 4:26 NIV
Pray about whether you should confront an issue or let it go. And if you do have to revisit the conversation, be sure to communicate your feelings in a gentle, considerate manner.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1 NIV
7. Kill Them With Kindness
Our Corinthians passage told us that “love is patient and love is kind”. Sometimes it’s just a matter of “killing them with kindness” that will do the trick. This is one of the best methods of how to love your enemies:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food! If he is thirsty, give him something to drink! This will make him feel ashamed of himself, and God will reward you.Proverbs 25:21-22 TLB
Trust me, nothing gets to a person more than having someone they don’t like be super kind to them over and over again. Not only will it irritate them, but eventually they will feel ridiculous and ashamed about how they are treating you and they will leave you alone.
And the good news is that even if they don’t change, God will still see and reward your obedience in one way or another! See, there are even benefits of loving your enemy.
8. Never Plot or Gloat Over Their Downfall
There is nothing more tempting than blowing off steam with understanding friends after an encounter with a “hard to love” person. We want to vent, and we need feedback, sympathy, or encouragement. This is often natural and helpful for our own sanity or peace of mind. However, we must be careful not to indulge in slander, malicious gossip, or even conspiracy talk about revenge.
Plotting against people we find “hard to love” for whatever reason is the opposite of what God has called us to do. In fact, when Paul addressed this with the church in Rome, he quotes the verse we looked at earlier from Proverbs as a reminder of what our response should be:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:17-21 NIV
We are to pray and show love to them. That is how we overcome evil with good. Then we leave the rest in God’s hands.
And, if and when God does deal with them, Scripture also teaches us that it’s not our place to gloat about it:
Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.Proverbs 24:17-18 NIV
Whether God avenges or turns their heart or the situation around for our good, in everything we are to remain humble and prayerful, remembering God’s love, forgiveness, grace and mercy towards us. It is in this light that we must always learn to see others.
Loving Others Should Be a Lifelong Pursuit
My prayer is that this post has at least helped to provide some biblical clarity and encouragement regarding God’s command to love one another.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, people can be annoying, purposely difficult, critical, mean, rude, negative, and discriminatory. Yes, people will disappoint us and even hurt us. But guess what? We have done the same to others as well – even as Christians!
But the same way God continues to love us every day, we are called to love others just the same. And it should be a lifelong pursuit for all of us:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8 NIV
Also keep in mind that people in general are like circumstances, in that they may NOT change. It’s all about how we will deal with the people and circumstances that God sends our way. Many times, those “hard to love” people are placed in our paths to test and change us, to get us to rely more on God.
The Apostle Paul said it best when he was given a “thorn in his flesh” to torment him:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:6-10 NIV
Although there is much speculation regarding what exactly Paul’s thorn was (a sickness, a circumstance, a person, etc.), the principal remains the same. Oftentimes we will want God to simply remove the “thorn” from our lives because it would make things so much easier for us.
But God has given us everything we need by the power of the Holy Spirit to deal with any situation or person. And like Paul, we must learn to embrace insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficult people when they arise. Because we know that when we are weak (annoyed, frustrated, disappointed, hurt), we are never alone. We just need to learn to lean on God more for strength.
Who are the “not so lovable” people in your life that came to mind as you read this post? Start now to commit yourself and them to prayer.
May God increase our love for others, not only to outwardly treat them with kindness and respect, but to also be sympathetic, with understanding and compassion. With God’s example and transforming power in our lives we truly are fully equipped to go out and love everyone as He loved us.
BE SURE TO ALSO READ: Loving Others as a Christian in Today’s Secular World
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