Other people can be hard work. Whether it’s friends or family, work colleagues or schoolmates, husbands, wives or children, one thing is a constant—other people can, on occasion, be royal pains in the posterior.

Other people are capable of wronging us in a marvelously inventive variety of ways. They can lie to us, cheat us, manipulate us and use us for their own purposes. They can berate us for no good reason; blame us for their own weaknesses and inadequacies. And when you call them out on their bad behavior, they can be so rude! Deliberately mean-spirited, lashing out in anger. Hurtful. Cruel. That’s assuming they’ve considered your feelings at all, because other people can be thoughtless, too.

I guarantee you recognize more than a few friends and acquaintances in that description. It’s a fact of life that, the older we get, the more ‘other people’ we’re going to meet—and the greater the chance that one of them will do something (or fail to do something) that really boils our potato. Of course, we always frame them as ‘other’ people. When a relationship begins to break down and we feel resentment and anger towards another, it’s always the other person’s fault. It’s the other person’s personality. It’s the other person’s problem.

Because we attribute blame to them, we tend to surrender responsibility for restoring the deteriorating relationship to them as well. We push it all away—make it ‘other’. It’s all ‘other people’, someone else. And they indeed may have caused the problem that led to the schism between you—but you cannot reasonably make someone else accept sole responsibility for fixing a relationship. Responsibility is something that is accepted, that someone agrees to take on. It’s not about cause and effect, who did what to who and why. Blame is responsibility gone toxic.

So what’s our solution? You might ask how you’re expected to relate to, to love, someone that’s wronged you, someone that appears intractable, where a relationship appears irrecoverable. You might ask how you’re supposed to pretend that everything’s all right. Well, Christ never has and never will ask you to pretend. After all, He doesn’t, when it comes to us. We don’t have the monopoly on being let down…far from it! Yet time, and time, and time again, Christ demonstrates what’s in His heart for us as we fall short. Christ doesn’t ask us to pretend. He asks us to practice to live in His Spirit. Not to search within our own hearts for a way to deal with people, but to search within His, because He took on responsibility for us a long time ago, with a glad and happy heart.

A London newspaper once posed the serious question “What’s Wrong With The World?” to a select group of writers and thinkers. The celebrated author G.K Chesterton reputedly wrote back to the newspaper simply saying, “I am.” Not out of a sense of shame, or to assume the blame for all of the problems of the world, but because he recognised that it was his responsibility to take on, along with everyone else that had to live in it. The need to love is a first requirement in all things. It’s the example Christ set for us, and as we strive to become more like Him, it should be self-evident that behavior that runs counter to His heart and His example should be the last thing, the very last thing that we evidence in our own lives. You cannot be responsible for the shortcomings of others. But we should always be responsible for who we are and how we show up.

This isn’t easy—but it’s also something that should be welcomed. Difficult people aren’t a burden, they’re an opportunity…a brilliant opportunity to practice love in our own lives. They’re almost a shortcut, an opportunity to skip a grade and live in the Spirit with the big boys and girls.

Think about this example in your own lives. Identify the people you know that you find hard to love, for whatever reason. Think about how you can exemplify the goodness and kindness of God in their lives. What do they need to see of Him in you? Find that within your spirit, and give it to them, with a glad and happy heart.

It’s been said so often that, ironically, we tend to forget it: love your enemy. Bless those who persecute you. Pray for those who abuse you. It’s who we’re supposed to be. The problem with people is us, and we, in Christ, are the solution.