How to Respond Graciously when a Neighbor Isn’t Neighborly

How to deal with a rude neighbor | Kitchen FellowshipIf you’ve been in this world long enough you’ve bumped into a neighbor who behaves non-neighborly.

And I’ve heard from many of you, personally: you’ve experienced punch-to-the-gut interactions with neighbors and awkward ramifications that follow.

You are not alone.

This week we received an odd note on our door about the condition of our lawn. Said note included firm directives. I’ll admit, our yard is unruly and long. But there’s a good reason. Several weeks ago I injured my back and have been recovering, mostly in bed. Healing doesn’t leave much time for lawn mowing and I’m okay with that. The queen anne’s lace is about 3 feet tall in the yard but in the vase above it’s pretty, right?

So what do you do when a neighbor isn’t happy with you? When they treat you unkindly or wrongly assume something about you? When they have major or minor beef with you? When they’re passive-aggressively rude — or aggressive-agressively rude?

How to handle a terrible neighbor | Kitchen Fellowship

We’ve all experienced rudeness at the hands of others, it’s a condition of our broken world, but I believe gracious responses are within reach.

How to respond graciously when a neighbor isn’t neighborly.

Initially I texted a trusted friend and ate an oreo or two. Then I began working it out.

1) Give yourself time to process.
Defensiveness, disbelief, and frustration is what I felt when I first read the note because this neighbor had traditionally been nice. It’s good to give yourself time to experience your emotions and cool down before responding.

2) Pray.
My friend Merritt posted this prayer on Instagram this week: “I pray that we would be empowered by God’s perfect love to love others around us. Let us be quick to love and slow to anger. Help us not get caught up in the things of this broken earth, and guide our minds and hearts to focus on things above.”

Ask God for specific steps to take to usher in restoration of your relationships with your neighbors.

3) Take it as a chance to refine your personality and thought processes.
What’s your knee jerk response when you run into rudeness?
Is it anger? Aggression? Retaliation? Slander? Despair? Self-doubt?

I’m a people pleaser and often find myself trying to live up to other’s expectations even when they’re unrealistic. I’m going to look at the interaction with the neighbor as a chance to focus on self-care. To let go of what people expect me to do and continue to heal my back. I sent the neighbor a nice note and thanked them for the grace I know they’ll extend as I recover.

I love the questions a friend is wrestling with about her neighbor. Not because she’s in a place of struggle, but because the struggle can produce a season of learning, growth of character, and a peace. Have you ever had similar thoughts?

    • ‘What does it say to me if I can’t please someone?’
    • ‘Am I going to be okay if they reject not only my efforts and actions but…me?’
    • ‘What if I can’t live at peace with my neighbor?’
    • ‘Can my soul still be at peace?’

4) Don’t assume the worst.
Yes, some neighbors are down right monstrous but choosing to assume the best about your neighbors is a good place to start. Give them and their lives an extra measure of grace, especially if you want to build a bridge towards mutual understanding.

Maybe they’ve had a rough week and are lashing out? Maybe they’re feeling useless and picking at you, oddly, makes them feel some a sense of purpose? Maybe they didn’t mean any harm by their actions and are simply poor communicators.

*eat another oreo*

5) Respond in love.
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9

When the poor behavior of others comes your way — behave differently and unexpectedly. If your initial reaction is to respond with anger and retaliation what’s the exact opposite response for your specific situation? Do that instead. If neighborhood teens egg your house, ask them if they’d like to bake cookies over the weekend. Respond in love. This honors God.

Sometimes the most loving response is to ignore the offense. Other times it’s talking it through and seeking common ground, discovering a solution that works for all. Maybe it’s mailing out a kind note in response or delivering baked goods to the offended neighbor.

Here’s how my friend Julia used baking to continue being a loving neighbor after a weird run in.

6) Fill your heart with truth.
Romans 12:9-21 is one of my favorite sections of scripture. It’s all about love in action, practicing neighborly hospitality, and responding graciously. Meditate on it.

7) Let it go.
Choose not to let poor interactions negatively color your view of your neighbor. Breathe deeply, let it go. Carrying around that frustration won’t serve you, it’ll only foster resentment and bitterness.

Closing thoughts: What to remember when a neighbor is unkind.

1) It’s not about you. (Unless you’re blasting music at 3am and your new-mom neighbor is trying to get her infant to sleep.)

2) Asking good questions of yourself and of your neighbors goes a long way.

3) You’re doing the best you can.

4) If you can’t please a neighbor it doesn’t speak to who you are. It often speaks to them being unable to receive your attempts at unity.

5) If they reject you and your gracious response — I promise you’ll be okay. You are loved by so many other neighbors and friends. You did the best you could in the situation at hand. Tomorrow is a new day and it’s okay to focus your loving attention in other areas.

6) Your soul can still be at peace because peace comes from God. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

7) You’re not alone in the pain and frustration. Other people are facing similar situations.

8) Make each day count by infusing love everywhere you can.

Working it Out

Where are you at with your neighbors? Feeling the love or facing the frustration? Walking toward restoration? Share your ideas for gracious responses to rude neighbors with other Kitchen Fellowshipers in the comments below.

If you need a listening ear for a specific neighborly problem, email me at I’m here to help. <3

2 comments… add one

  • Merritt July 21, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Oh, dear friend, I’m so sorry someone came at you with this. And I’m so blessed by your response. We sadly don’t have a lot of neighborly interactions so I haven’t had anything like this happen lately (but our weeds ARE totally out of control!). Your post is a great reminder that my response is the only thing I have control over. I just started reading Psalm 37 this week on my Periscope daily bible reading and my interpretation is that it’s really none of my business when someone else prospers for doing wrong. Thank you for the reminder that I get to respond to others with love, grace and mercy no matter what they do to me. Love you!
    And yes, I love your ideas for your next workshop. We need more empathy in the world!

  • Lauri July 21, 2016, 10:40 pm

    We had neighbor issues this week too, and have also been working out how to deal with them… What does it look like to love these people well?? The neighbors grandsons were taking apart our (albiet decaying) retaining wall. Not sure how this is supposed to work to have it repaired… Or how to walk in grace and fairness… So we’re still praying! Thanks for your post!!

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