Restoring any relationship requires proper communication so don’t stop talking. When the time comes to reconnect try your best to minimize any distractions; turn the TV off, put phones away and include only those directly involved in the original disagreement. This is the first step Jesus tells us to take in being reconciled. Matthew 18:15. Matters can quickly become more complicated if we tell everyone else except the offender in an effort to garnish support for our own position. This can deteriorate into nothing more than gossip and can turn a difficult situation into an impossible one. There may come a time to involve others if all attempts to fix the issue yourselves fail. Matthew 18:16. I believe this also eludes to the importance of seeking counselling and someone to act as a mediator, but first, let’s talk about the one on one. Welcome to Making Peace (part 2).
It is always a good idea to start with prayer. Ask the Lord to join you and help you to understand each other. It is only through humility that we can admit our mistakes, confess our wrongs and ask for forgiveness. It takes two to tango so chances are, that during the original confrontation things were said by both that fell short of proper behaviour. Take the brave step of saying sorry. Apologize for anything that you said or did that hurt the other and aggravated the situation and always ask for forgiveness. This clearly demonstrates to the other that you recognize your own faults and are willing to take responsibility for them. They will usually follow suit and lower their defences making it much easier for them to grant forgiveness and apologize for their behaviour as well. This pleases God greatly.
Forgiveness is critical to our salvation and to our relationships here on earth. If a person apologizes and asks for forgiveness we are not to withhold it. Matthew 6:14-15. Once we forgive a wrong we forfeit the right to ever bring it up again. This is when you can truly leave the past behind, it has been dealt with. If the same thing happens again, then it must be addressed in the same manner. There is no limit as to how many times we are to forgive. Matthew 18:22
Please listen carefully; This does not mean that you should stay in a dangerously abusive situation of any kind. Forgiving someone does not automatically mean that trust is restored. That takes time. Physical abuse can crush your body, but psychological abuse can crush your spirit. If the offender apologizes but the behaviour continues repeatedly then you should consider ending the relationship. Being a Christian doesn’t make you a door mat. Ask God for His guidance as to when enough is enough and trust the answer when it comes. If you see honest attempts to get help and efforts are being made to change then pay attention to these things, change takes time. Patience is a godly quality and is commendable but even God’s patience runs out and it never ends well for the unrepentant. Your well being is very important to Him and He knows exactly what you’re going through.
Be honest and speak with gentleness and compassion. Address the issues without demeaning the person. Avoid saying things like, “you always do this” or “you never do that.” Try something like, “it would be helpful if you could…” So often it’s not what we say, but how we say it that makes the difference. If the conversation begins to heat up again lead by example and resist the urge to react in an ungodly manner. Proverbs 15:1. Try to be empathetic. The Oxford Dictionary describes empathy as: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This can only be accomplished by truly listening. If your mind is already busy formulating a comeback, then you’re not really paying attention. Proverbs 18:13.
If this is starting to sound like work, then good. It’s easy to become complacent and take our loved ones for granted. Worse than that, we may be wilfully negligent when it comes to bringing things up that bother us for fear of an argument. In a healthy relationship we should never be afraid to share our concerns or question poor behaviour. Speak up in a tactful, controlled manner and always start with a positive. Relationships are about building each other up, not tearing each other down, be supportive and encourage one another.
Some people think that you only need to create boundaries in an unhealthy relationship, this is not true. Healthy boundaries simply means knowing what you should or should not do out of respect for your loved ones wishes, just make sure you set them together. A good example of this is my wife’s insistence on having her own bank account. I would often joke that, “what was mine, is now hers and what was hers, is still hers.” Joking aside, it bothered me at first, but after thinking it through I decided that it wasn’t a big deal. She was always better at handling money than I was and given my track record, I really couldn’t blame her. Sometimes boundaries get broken. We think that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission, especially if permission is hard to get. Let’s face it, some things are so ingrained in us that change seems all but impossible, yet, with God, all things are possible. Matthew 19:26.
It’s okay to disagree on things. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We can agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable. This is when true Christian maturity shines bright and the level of commitment to the relationship becomes evident. The “my way or the highway” ultimatum is a control move designed to ignite fear that the relationship could fall apart if they don’t get their way. On the world stage this usually leads to war. Mutual respect and patience can go a long way toward getting some of what we want without the use of force that leads to resentment.
Try to maintain a sense of humour, even during difficult times. Humour lightens a situation, it doesn’t mean that you take the situation lightly. A good laugh is healthy for us, both physically and emotionally. It not only decreases stress hormones and increases infection fighting antibodies but it actually relieves physical tension and helps your muscles relax. Can you see how this could really help during a confrontation? I like to laugh a lot, especially at myself. Proverbs 17:22.
Counselling & Mediation
If all attempts to find a solution fail then make every effort to seek help early on, don’t give bitterness a chance to take root. Any pastor or councillor can testify to the failure rate of trying to bring healing into a situation where minds are already made up. Stiff necks and hard hearts lead to an unwillingness to compromise and the relationship ends. When heels are dug in, the ability to think clearly and rationally or even to hear what’s really being said becomes all but impossible.
As followers of Christ we accept the Bible as the ultimate source of truth and moral standard so we have always enlisted the help of true believers that we know and trust. This has included friends, pastors and professional councillors. If you don’t know of any Christian councillors then ask the pastor or elders of a Bible believing church for a recommendation or talk to people who have been helped by a particular one. Jesus understands our suffering and walks with us through our struggles. Hebrews 4:12-16 is a strong and compelling reason to include Him in the reconciliation process.
Some will seek guidance only from those who support their point of view or that can be manipulated into taking it. To a narcissist, a councillor becomes just another pawn to be used in the game. Through the telling of half truths and outright deception they can preprogram the councillor into telling them exactly what they want to hear. Of course they would never agree to you being in the room or even giving you the opportunity to speak with this councillor to set the record straight. It just a charade. Now they can run about saying, “I saw a councillor and they agreed that continual discord is not healthy for anyone.” While this is true, the continual discord may very well be caused by their inability and unwillingness to come to the table and deal with the issues. Getting back to the above verse in Hebrews, Jesus knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence that God commands us to go and be reconciled and that the very foundation of our faith is built on forgiveness, they may say, “…someday, but not right now.”
My friends, it has been my experience that the road of someday, usually leads to the land of never. So where is the victory if all efforts fail? If you have done everything that God would have you do to heal your relationship, then before Him your conscience is clear. He knows the thoughts and motivations of those who opposed the healing process. Trusting that God knows what’s best for you is the only path to true and lasting peace. May the God of all comfort, grace and mercy be with you as you move forward in all your relationships.
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Image – picspree
Oxford Dictionary – online
mayoclinic.org – The benefits of laughter