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Finding Joy in Difficult Patients

By Jennifer Wade, DDS | February 28, 2017

by Jennifer Perry, DDS

One of the joys of dentistry is meeting people from all walks of life. It’s fun getting to know so many different people and personalities and hearing about their lives. It can also be a challenge, however, when you have difficult patients. I regularly have to remind myself with these patients of the Bible’s command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, NIV 2011).

During a time recently when I was reminding myself of this command, I remembered it is part of the story of the Good Samaritan. I think it is easy for me to see how to be the loving Samaritan when I encounter a patient who has been beaten and broken by the world, either physically or emotionally. It’s easy to be kind and compassionate when single mothers who haven’t slept in a week walk in with a toothache and need to be free of pain so they can take care of their families, or when someone who was in an accident that fractured their front teeth needs our help. In these situations, we can easily see how to be the Good Samaritan. We can take out an infected tooth or restore a smile when something breaks. These moments are very fulfilling.

It’s less obvious how to be the Good Samaritan when we have a defiant or rude patient. It’s harder in these situations to show compassion or even try to understand where the person is coming from. Being in the fallen world means everyone is beaten and broken, separated from God. The tricky part is not all brokenness is visible. We have no idea what difficulties or trials may have shaped the difficult patients to cause them to react to us the way they do.

So how do we treat all people with this love? We have to remember we ourselves are broken and in need of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Good Samaritan. He heals and cares for us, even though we act in rebellion and sin. Reflecting on the cross and the price He paid for us to have the life and joy we have can give us the humility to love others as we love ourselves. That’s why the command just before in Mark 12:30 is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (NIV 2011). We love because He first loved us.

I challenge myself and all other dentists of faith to remember Christ’s love for us when we encounter the patients we dread seeing. May His love shine through us, regardless of how they act or what they say, so He may have the glory and so they may see Christ in us.

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