It’s exhausting trying to love a porcupine. You know who I’m talking about, right? Prickly people. People that for a myriad of reasons have their quills extended instead of a handshake or hug. No matter how hard you try, you find yourself on the receiving end of their sharp barbs. We all know someone who is difficult to love.
Dont’ Give up on your porcupine!
Well, if you have prayed to Jesus for extra grace, patience, and forgiveness, and if you have bitten your tongue almost in half trying hard not to retaliate, and if you have whispered your porcupine’s name in prayer- DON’T STOP!
Consider your prickly friend, co-worker, student, neighbor, or relative as your ministry today. If God has placed this person in your path, he’s got a plan for you both. Don’t give up and don’t try to do it on your own. It’s been my experience that only the love of Christ can change a porcupine into a teddy bear.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Praise God that he loved us while we were still a mess and promises to continue loving us, quills and all. Your porcupine needs love, whether he knows it or not. Love removes the quills- consistent, repetitive, unwavering love. The love of God.
Why the Quills?
Why do some people seem to almost repel affection and friendship? Have you watched as a prickly person sabotages relationships on purpose? Does your porcupine operate passive aggressively or push you away with sarcasm, shame, or insults? Maybe you’re trying to love someone who is covered in quills of anger, keeping you at a distance.
What do we all desire (besides coffee and Netflix)? We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to feel worthy and secure. Porcupines are no exception.
Somewhere along the way, most likely as a result of trauma or heartbreak, survival kicks in and we begin to protect ourselves. Hello quills. Porcupines in nature use their sharp barbs for protection from predators. I believe, after experiencing pain, loss, or betrayal, everyone could be perceived as a threatening predator.
How to Love a prickly person
So how can we best love someone who pushes us away? I would love to tell you that I am an expert in the field, but I am still pulling out quills and convincing myself not to shoot my porcupine. Don’t judge. It’s hard not to stick them back with your own quills, isn’t it? I am resolved, however, not to lose this battle because I believe my porcupine is worth fighting for, is worth loving.
Don’t take it personally.
I can honestly say that with my porcupine, the quills that have stuck me have rarely been meant for me. I just happened to be close. Not just in proximity, but relationally. Thought it seems to make no sense whatsoever and sounds oxymoronic, we hurt the ones we love the most. For some prickly people, you may be a safe place to let it all hang out- quills and all. I am blessed in that way daily. I am the safe place.
It seems helpful to just expect the quills instead being surprised by them. After all, you wouldn’t expect a porcupine to have feathers or fins, right? Until your prickly friend finds healing, the quills are their protection, so don’t be shocked and don’t take it personally.
I’ve been there, devastated by the barbs. I have made it about me and even viewed myself as the victim in the relationship. I have been angry and thought “I do this and this and this. I love this person over and over and I get nothing in return! I’m done!” It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus healing someone’s broken soul.
I will say this, we all can be the cause of someone’s prickliness. Take some time to pray and look honestly at the relationship. Have you pushed and pushed causing someone to be defensive? If you have caused injury with your words or withheld affection, forgiveness, or kindness, then go make it right. Today.
Don’t force it.
Loving someone does not demand love in return. It doesn’t nag or pester. Even if you believe your expression of love could be exactly what your porcupine needs to become a teddy bear, don’t force your love. I can speak from experience on this one as well.
I have lectured and nagged, begged and pleaded and only made a prickly person more defensive. I have loved on MY terms in MY time instead of simply being the safe person needed. Cornering a porcupines is a guaranteed way to get hurt and the worst possible way to earn trust.
Be a safe place. Consistently and patiently.
Discern the source of fear.
Don’t try to be a psychologist or diagnose but ask God to give you a glimpse into your porcupines’ heart, mind, and history. It’s possible for someone to simply be socially awkward or even painfully shy, but a true porcupine has a painful past. Just remembering that may help you have the grace you need to stay the course.
Fear of being rejected or hurt can come out as some downright ugly anger. Keep that in mind. Anger is, more often than not, rooted in fear. Fear causes us to tighten our grip of control.
If God has allowed you to see the source of their pain, remember to honor that as sacred. It’s not something to share with your prayer group or at the office. Be careful with what you know.
Don’t do it on your own.
On our own we give up, loose our temper, judge, and retaliate. But if you can begin to see your porcupine through the eyes of Christ, there is hope for both you and your prickly friend. If you can love out of the grace and forgiveness given to you, it becomes possible.
We are all prickly at times- grumpy, moody, and operating out of our past and lies we believe about ourselves. If we are not living in the identity given to us by Jesus- love, accepted, worthy, and secure, we all can be porcupines. Right?
Pray. Pray for discernment to know how this difficult person will best receive love. Pray for wisdom to know when it’s time to speak and when it’s best to just be quiet and listen. Pray for healing and wholeness, deliverance from their hurtful history. Wounds of the soul never just go away over time. Pray that you can earn the trust of this person and the right to be heard, so that you may speak words of truth that bring life and healing.
I love to recommend books, and this little gem is a must read. I loaned mine out and got another. It’s one little thing on each page that you could do to help you love your porcupine. That’s it. Great practical wisdom!
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