Having Difficult Conversations: How to Reason with Unreasonable People
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
I hear the Lord’s gentle rebuke as my urge to respond takes over my ability to reason. The better choice would be to stop talking and take a breath, but a compulsive need to offer my unsolicited advice to this difficult and unreasonable man-child of mine seems to control my frontal lobe.
Perhaps, convincing him I am right and he is wrong is my drug of choice. I feel better when I speak my mind, even if I am being tuned out. But, there is no reasoning with a fool and, let’s face it, he’s being foolish right now. Sadly, in my insatiable quest to make sense out of the senseless, I am behaving like the bigger fool.
“Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.” Proverbs 23:9 NLT
For the moms reading this, it’s natural to want to share our knowledge with our sons or daughters. Based on our personal experience, as well as countless hours of research (thanks, Dr. Google), we can say without a doubt, “Mother knows best.” For wives, we are more than willing to pass our opinions on to our husbands, even when they are unsolicited and unappreciated.
We scold our children, nag our husbands, lecture our co-workers, debate the national news commentators, and even chew out complete strangers, hoping that with enough convincing they will see things our way. With good intention, we desire to be the voice of reason in the middle of their mess. Some will listen and receive what we have to say; most will not. No one likes a nag.
The Bible describes a fool as senseless, lacking commonsense, unwise, without discernment, void of understanding, and without reason. (See Vine’s Expository Dictionary.)
When it comes to reasoning with our “unreasonables,” we might as well drop the conversation before it gets started. Our foolish prodigals despise wise counsel. Not only do they not want to hear it, they have made a conscious decision to reject our words no matter how right they are.
Why? Because a fool sees nothing wrong with his behavior; he would rather keep things light. “I think” or “In my opinion” tears at his ears like nails on a chalkboard. Relentlessly, we stress ourselves out trying to convince the fool he would be much happier taking our advice and getting his act together. But a fool won’t listen to reason, making a conversation with them difficult, if not impossible to have.
Wisdom for Difficult Conversations
In my frustration, I asked the Lord why something that seemed logical to me sounded off the deaf ears of my beloved offspring. Maybe it’s because my timing was off. Or maybe it’s because it’s not my job to do the persuading. The advice I am convinced will save my foolish prodigal is nothing more than puffed up words of knowledge if he is not ready to heed them. The Lord revealed to me what makes the difference between words with power and those without.
Words without wisdom = knowledge. And knowledge without wisdom is void of any real power.
This world is filled with knowledge. Actually it is filled with some experts and some so-called, self-ordained experts. Turn on the television or search any topic on the internet. Knowledge fills our screens and hijacks our minds. While there is nothing wrong with gaining worldly knowledge, it merely takes up brain cells if it isn’t accompanied by wisdom. Without godly wisdom, our words lack the power needed to bring genuine change into the life of our loved one.
“Search for them (wisdom, understanding, insight) as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:4-5 NLT
Wisdom is priceless. It’s worth cannot be measured. It is a rare treasure, a gift that is given to us by God and cultivated as we learn to lean not on our own understanding. Wisdom discerns the gentle nudging of the Spirit of God as He speaks to those who are listening. Wisdom brings to our remembrance Biblical truths that quiet our hearts and settle our minds when we feel overwhelmed and confused.
So, how do we talk to our loved ones when they are being difficult, head-strong, and unreasonable? What if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Perhaps they have been brain-washed by the lies that perpetuate our society today. It seems like the conversation either never gets started, ends in an argument, or is simply a waste of time and energy. The Bible has much to say about why people are bull-headed, resist the truth, and are easily swayed by falsities and deception.
2 Corinthians 4:4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”
Jeremiah 4:22 “My people are foolish and do not know know me,” says the Lord. “They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but have no idea how to do right!”
Ouch! Having a difficult conversation with someone who is a fool and quite possibly blinded by the enemy of their soul will require spiritual discernment, wisdom, and prayer prior to our voicing one word.
Pray Before You Speak
If we are going to see lasting transformation in the attitude and minds of our foolishly behaving loved ones, we will need to start with prayer. We can’t fight a forest fire with a garden hose. It’s time to stop debating them and start praying for them.
Ask the Lord to first show you any selfish motives on your own part. What are you reasons for wanting to see change in your family member? Are they on a path of self-destruction? Is their behavior life-threatening to themselves or others? These conversations may require an immediate intervention.
Perhaps, their career path is not to your liking. If so, maybe you need to let that one go. Before you take on topics like this, it’s imperative that you are certain the conversation you are about to have is God-ordained. You may find it best to take a wait-and-see approach to this difficult conversation.
I struggled with this. I have three children, and they are each unique. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. I often find that their life choices are not the ones I would make. In fact, some of their choices make my skin crawl. I cringe at the thought that they believe their choice is the right one. But what makes my choice for them any better? Perhaps, it would be the wrong decision for them. I don’t have a crystal ball to see into my future, much less theirs. Only the Lord knows what tomorrow holds.
What we can pray for with absolute authority is that they will learn to listen to the voice of God and live in obedience to his will for their lives.
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Colossians 1:9 NLT
Pray this same prayer for yourself. Ask the Lord to lead you and guide you as you pray for and speak to your prodigal. If Satan has blinded them, pray that the Lord will lead them to a place of brokenness and repentance so they will know the truth and find freedom. If they are under the influence of substances, the Lord’s power can reach into their tormented mind and bring them mental and spiritual clarity. It’s our responsibility to stand in the gap for them, and pray for their deliverance from the lies of the enemy and the influences of this world.
For those in bondage to addiction’s grip, it is also tempting to believe that we need to clean them up first before the Lord can speak to them. Absolutely not! Be humble, pray, and get out of God’s way. He can bring them to their senses and, most likely, doesn’t need our help. That being said, this doesn’t give us permission to be asleep at the wheel either. Keep seeking wisdom, and share as the Lord leads you. Love them, and trust the Lord. He will give you the right words at the right time.
One word of warning. If your conversation will probably lead to an argument, this is a sign that you should possibly refrain from having it until a more suitable time.
“Let you conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NLT
Finally, pray for the right people to be in the right place at the right time to speak the right words to your foolish loved one. It may not be who or what you would expect, but the Lord works through unexpected people in unexpected ways. In doing so, he shows us that he is at work, and we can let go to trust him to complete the work he has started in their lives. If you truly feel a conversation is in order, consider asking a trusted, wise advisor to join you to mediate and help keep the conversation bent towards the positive.
In closing, remember that trying to manipulate someone’s behavior by lecturing them almost never works in the long run. True transformation starts from the inside and later shows on the outside. May these words encourage you as you seek to have a wise conversation with your difficult and unreasonable loved one.
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are only discerned through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NIV
Dear Lord Jesus,
We confess that it’s not always easy to keep our opinions to ourselves when we see someone we love flailing. For those of us whose children are under addiction’s bondage, we are in a constant battle to save them from themselves. Father, we pray our words will be seasoned with grace as we speak to those who are not open to wisdom. Help us to pray and wait when we feel the urgency to rush in and have difficult conversations. May we wait on you and trust in your Spirit to lead us and guide us when speaking with those who more often than not will reject the words we speak. Help us to wait for your perfect timing with patience and prayer.
Beautiful Blessings, Dawn