You have to take lessons wherever you can get them. That goes for life, and it goes for seminary as well. Even though a good seminary will have a thorough education set up for you covering all the essentials of theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, practical ministry, and whatever else, it will not (and cannot) cover every little detail that ministry will throw at you.
One of those little details is how to deal with people, especially people who are different than you. Certainly, no two people are the same, but there are some with personalities that mesh better with you than others. It is those others that can give you some of the bigger challenges you will face in life.
Depending on who you are, certain personality traits will get under your skin more than others. You may get frustrated with that guy who asks endless questions in your class that you find to be completely irrelevant. You may be bothered by the person sitting there playing solitaire looking extremely bored and uninterested. Maybe there is someone who incessantly tries to become the professor’s best friend. While the diversity of God’s creation is a wonderful thing, sometimes it can be a little difficult for us imperfect humans to deal with.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you the recipe for how to get along great with everyone. I am a unique person myself, and you may not even like me if you ever meet me (though I sincerely doubt it). But there are a few simple things to keep in mind.
First, remember that everyone is dealing with something, whether it is big or small. We all have our burdens and our struggles, and they all impact who we are in some way or another. Maybe that person who asks the endless questions is filled with so much joy to be able to study in a seminary environment that he just wants to soak up every little thing he possibly can. Try not to be annoyed with him, but be encouraged and challenged by his desire to grow.
Second, if there is someone out there who is particularly bent on getting under your skin, be the bigger person. Be humble about it. Paul admonishes us at numerous points in his writings to be at peace with one another, to seek mutual edification, and to build up the body of Christ (cf. Romans 14:19, Ephesians 4:1-16).
Third, just love everyone. It is a pretty simple command, and one which Scripture emphasizes a great deal. That is probably because it is also one of the toughest commands to put into practice. Loving people may take on a different form depending on who they are. Maybe loving that person you just cannot get along with means keeping a little more distance from them. A lot of seminary’s are big enough that you do not have to interact with each and every person. And that is okay. But accepting everyone in love is a key element to creating harmony and unity. It will have to happen later on in your ministry, and seminary is a great place to start practicing it.
Again, I do not have all the answers of how to deal with people of all different stripes, but I think there are some key things that we can do to work toward preserving our love and unity in Christ. What are your thoughts?