Your life is filled with jerks. They’re unavoidable. In fact, you’ll probably encounter difficult people several times today:

  • The driver who cuts you off on the expressway
  • A coworker who takes credit for your success
  • A friends who exploits your relationship
  • Telemarketers
  • The neighbor who lets his dog drop a #2 on your front lawn
  • An able-bodied person who parks in a handicapped space
  • Telemarketers (they’re persistent)

The list of possibilities goes on and on. The question isn’t whether or not you’ll encounter abrasive people (because you will). It’s how you’ll react to the jerks that cross your path.

You could fight fire with fire or look for ways to get even. But the best revenge (and the spiritually mature approach) is to kill them with kindness.

5 Ways to Kill Them with Kindness

The concept of responding to jerks with kindness isn’t new. It’s been around for thousands of years. In Proverbs 25, it says:

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
    and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
    and the Lord will reward you.

Coals of fire on their heads? The language sounds medieval, but the principle is solid. By making the choice to kill them with kindness, you force the jerks of the world to confront their own behavior as you model a saner and more spiritually grounded way of being.

In the gospels, Jesus’ advice to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” essentially says the same thing. Don’t meet anger with anger — look for ways to bless them instead.

#1: Speak Generously

Words are powerful things. Earlier in Proverbs, we’re told that the tongue holds the power of life and death. Mean or angry words tear people down; kind and generous words lift people up. When you speak generously to jerks, you speak life to them, to the world and even to yourself.

#2: Act Graciously

Grace is the giving of an undeserved gift — and there’s no better time to practice it than when someone is wronging you. Whether it’s giving a jerk your parking space or cleaning up the neighbor dog’s poop, kind acts release grace into the world. And God knows the world needs more of those.

#3: Meet a Need

In some cases, people do mean things because they have an urgent need in their lives. For example, maybe the coworker who tries to take credit for your success needs a workplace victory because their job is in jeopardy. A tentative job situation doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it explains it. By looking for ways to meet the other person’s need, you live like Jesus and create an opportunity to make a new friend.

#4: Be a Good Listener

Sometimes people act badly because they desperately want someone to listen to them. I get it — it’s frustrating when you feel like your voice isn’t be heard. Rather than arguing with difficult people, make an effort to be a good listener. It’s not easy, but you might be surprised by the things you learn about the person as well as yourself.

#5: Smile

A simple smile can be disarming. When you’re confronted by a jerk, flash a big smile before you speak or act. Often, a smile can change the tone of the conversation and lay the groundwork for a more productive and civil interaction with people who are caught up in their own little world.

When you kill them with kindness, you have the element of surprise on your side. Mean, irritating people expect you to respond to their actions with anger and bitterness because that’s how they would respond to you.

When you treat jerks with kindness and generosity, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to continue their mean streak. It’s a little victory, but that’s how Jesus taught us to change the world. One little victory at a time.