People can make or break you. One key relationship may decide whether you experience success or failure, happiness or misery. Get the “people” thing wrong, and nothing else in your life will go right.

But not everybody is your friend. And sometimes even your friends can be difficult. That’s why understanding the three primary kinds of people you will encounter during your life can make all other decisions much easier.

Here are those three kinds of people, and how you should relate to them:

1. People you can trust. These people are not perfect, but you know they’re on your side. They care about your best interests. They aren’t bent on hiding things from you, and when they cause pain they are willing to do the necessary work to repair things. They may criticize you, but it’s clear they do so only in order to help you become better.

Treasure your relationship with anyone you can trust. You’re blessed indeed if you have a few of these people in your life. Be willing to give of yourself to invest deeply in these relationships.

2. People who cause harm unintentionally. These people may cause lots of problems, but they do so by default. They may not have the characteristics of courage, loyalty, truthfulness, or wisdom. They may blame anyone else but themselves for their problems, and don’t seem to learn from either advice or their own mistakes.

Protect yourself as necessary from these people. Forgive them generously, but set appropriate boundaries to limit your exposure to the damage they might be able to cause you.

3. People who are evil. Some people truly are out to get you. They honestly hate you either because of something in themselves or because the enemy is using them for his purposes. They rejoice when you hurt. They actively look for ways to make your life miserable, thwart what you are trying to accomplish, or cause you pain.

You definitely must protect yourself from such people. Pray actively for God’s protection. Don’t fight back, but stand firm. Limit your interaction, and separate yourself from them.

Even Jesus didn’t get along with everyone. He actively chose who He would spend His time with. And you can choose also. Some people won’t like you, and that’s OK.

And how do you know which of these 3 kinds of people a certain difficult person may be?

Don’t rely on their words. Instead, look at their behavior. Here are a few questions to ask that will help you discern which category someone is in:

  • Do they care about your best interest? How do they respond to your success or failure?
  • If they hurt you, how do they respond? Do they truly own their own behavior?
  • What effect does their life as a whole have on you?
  • How do they respond to truth? Are they actively willing to change in response to truth?
  • What would you tell your child, or best friend, if they were facing the same situation?

Not everyone is your friend. Consciously choose the level of connection you choose to have or not have with any difficult person.

Your Turn: Who is a challenging person in your life? Which of the three categories listed do you believe they fall into? Leave a comment below.

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