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Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at

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Adoring the Hard-to-Adores

By Tom Petersen

CBNMoney.comIn every job, in every family, in every community, there are those people who are not easy to like. In some cases, it isn’t even easy to be in the same room with them. They rub you the wrong way, kind of like a porcupine rubs you the wrong way when you drag it across your tongue. (There are some things you just need to trust me on.)

I’m guessing you can think of at least one of these people at work. It might be the co-worker who complains constantly about the boss, about another colleague, or even about you, whether you’re in the room or not. It might be the customer who is never happy with the products you sell, the hours you’re open or the size of your parking lot. And this unhappy customer returns again and again, just so you know the depth of his or her unhappiness!

Labeling the Species

I read a book that used a rather endearing term to describe these contentious souls. The author called these disagreeable people, “Hard-to-adores.”

I like that phrase, because it doesn’t assume that no one could appreciate these characters. But it also gives me a bit of an out that if I don’t adore them, well, that’s certainly understandable. After all, they are “hard to adore.”

The phrase also sets the expectation that we should at least try to adore them. After all, how would we know they are hard to adore if we don’t at least try to like them? Jesus met many interesting characters that were hard to adore. (The Pharisees, the Romans and the demon-possessed guys in the tombs in Matthew 8 come to mind). And even though Jesus knew some people would never accept His message, He certainly found plenty of time for lots of Hard-to-adores.

Making a List

The amount of interaction you have with the public, the day of the week, and the phase of the moon may determine how many Hard-to-adores you encounter on a given day. For me, almost everyone fits into the Hard-to-adore category at some point. Maybe I have unreasonably high standards. (I happen to think perfection is achievable for most people if they would only put their hearts into it.) Even my loving wife and charming children fit into this category on some days (and the fact that, when they do, they always show up there as a group, probably says more about me than about them).

Some types of people are on a universal Hard-to-adore list. People who are self-centered, mean-spirited, greedy, ruthless and bad drivers are almost always Hard-to-adores. And if they press it, they could easily cross into the “Impossible-to-adores” category. Those people frustrate me so much that I have to let Jesus take the lead on them. If He can love them through me, great. But I’m not going to make it easy.

Responding to the Hard-to-Adores

When you come upon a Hard-to-adore (and you generally will if you step outside the house), how should you react? From personal experience I know that scowling and complaining about them to others, although somewhat cathartic at the time, isn’t very effective at building a relationship with them.

Paul (himself quite a renown Hard-to-adore while he was in that Saul-persecuting-Christians-to-death phase) gives us an interesting model in his letter to the church at Rome.

“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 12:20-21 NASB)

So the formula seems to be a corresponding relationship between how hard a person is to adore and how hard I should try to adore him or her. The harder they are to adore, the more they need to hear the good news that I’m supposed to share.

If the care and feeding of your Hard-to-adore seems too daunting, I suggest starting small. Some of my favorite transformations from Hard-to-adore to Easy-to-adore happened when I simply spent time with that person. Once I can see that person’s perspective, and realize we share a common concern or even laugh together, my attitude changes. I see that perhaps this Hard-to-adore really is a child of God, like me. I still may be challenged by this person’s idiosyncrasies or frustrating habits, but I start seeing him or her in a new light.

Finally, if that fails, I remind myself to be compassionate, because I might be on someone else’s Hard-to-adore list. It’s hard to believe, I realize. But you know, some people are so judgmental.


Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at


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