4 Ways to Respond to Sandpaper People When They Rub You Wrong

Conflict happens. When your ideas or plans or perspective bumps into someone else’s ideas or plans or perspective, crash… conflict. Right? The result is often hurt feelings, resentment and stress. We all experience conflict; it’s just part of being a human.


But, can we be honest?  There really are some dear souls in our lives who seem to create conflict. They just plain rub us the wrong way! I call those dear souls sandpaper people! So, what do you do when that sandpaper person rubs you the wrong way?

Run?  Explode? Ignore?

You can’t always eliminate conflict, but you can keep from elevating conflict in your life. You can shrink it down to size and not let it ruin your day or your relationships by the way you deal with it.

Here are 4 practical, biblical ways to deal with conflict when the sandpaper people rub you the wrong way:

1. Remove your plank: Matthew 7:3-5

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

Why is it so easy to see someone else’s fault while totally overlooking our own? Well, I think it’s because we are often focused on the sandpaper person — what they did, what they said, and how they were wrong! When we are staring into their life with angry eyes of justice, we nitpick every little thing that is wrong with them.

The more that is wrong with them, the more that is right about us. That’s why Scripture tells us to look into our own life first before we do a total life analysis on the person we are in conflict with. In fact, chances are, when we look into our own hearts, we will find Mt. Everest-sized bitterness, pride, resentment, or unforgiveness. Jesus tells us to deal with our own mountain before we go deal with someone else’s molehill, so get real with yourself and get real before God and then get right with Him about your own stuff.

We need to deal with our own mountain before we nitpick someone else’s molehill. [Click to Tweet]
The result isn’t just that you are then qualified to deal with someone else’s wrongs, the greater result is that you are humble and compassionate toward the one who wronged you. (Because, let’s face it – we’re all wrong on some level most of the time!)

2. Clothe yourself in love: Colossians 3:12-15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

Give the love and patience to others that you want to receive. [Click to Tweet]
Don’t you want others to be patient with you when you blow it?  I sure do.

When we choose to bear with one another, it doesn’t mean we ignore sin and avoid conflict, it just means we infuse it with some patience and forbearance. We don’t stomp into a confrontation with an agenda of the ways that person needs to change or apologize (even if they do really need to); rather, we clothe ourselves in love, we choose to be kind and show the same kind of patience with them that we want others to show to us. We don’t clothe ourselves in the armor of anger when we approach our sandpaper person; we clothe ourselves in the love of Christ. (Because even if you don’t feel an ounce of love for them because you’re so hurt or mad, Jesus loves them and you can ask Him to love them through you.)

3. Listen well: James 1:19-20

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

Be quick to listen and slow to preach! If you go into conflict with the intention to hear the sandpaper person’s point of view, you will lay the foundation for a healthy discussion. Acknowledge something good about the sandpaper person; tell them what is good about them and your relationship. Let them know you understand – as much as you can – how they may feel. And, then listen to their heart.

The goal in conflict isn’t to be right but to behave righteously. [Click to Tweet]
As you listen, don’t interrupt; instead, be slow to talk. If you need to, take notes so you can address what they brought up. And, as you listen, resist the urge to start creating your defense in your brain! That will only lead to some angry sparks and then, when you respond, it will be more like an explosion!

When you show the grace to acknowledge them and listen, then you will have a more willing audience to listen to you when you share your point of view. Remember, the goal is not to be right; your goal is to behave righteously.

4. Resist fear: 2 Timothy 1:7

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Now, if you have removed your plank, put on love, chosen to approach your sandpaper person as a listener, then it’s time to just flat-out tell the truth! But, here’s the thing – we can get so timid when it comes to sharing truth.  My spiritual gift is prophecy and exhortation so it should be natural for me to spout truth when there is conflict.  Nope.  It is super-natural!

God did not give us the spirit of fear. [Click to Tweet]
Confrontation is hard for me. I don’t ever want to hurt anybody. Even if they’ve hurt me, when it comes right down to it, I just don’t want to confront them and correct them. I want to run from them and hide in my own hurt or resentment. But, God has not given us that spirit that runs and hides — He did not give us the spirit of timidity.  Instead, He gives us love, power and self-control. That means we can speak the truth in a loving, kind way. We can trust that God will empower us to represent the truth in a situation and represent Him well also. We will have the self-control we need in the situation to not explode or hide or say things we will regret — all because His Holy Spirit’s control in our lives gives us self-control.

So, these are just 4 scriptures I go to when I am in a messy situation with somebody. Every time I follow the truth of Scripture rather than my own hurt-fueled agenda, the sandpaper person is far less abrasive and the result may not be perfect, but it is always better than it was!

What is the point of sandpaper anyway? It’s to rub the bumps and splinters away, right? Once you wipe away the dust the friction of sand-paper creates, everything is a lot smoother!

Lord, thank you for teaching us everything we need to know to live life abundantly! Thank you for caring about every detail of our lives, even showing us how to handle difficult people. Teach us to love them through You, God, and we’ll give you all the glory. Amen!

What do you do when confronted with a sandpaper person? Share in the comments below.

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