Lost a loved one? Received a dreaded diagnosis? Been betrayed?
I feel your pain. 2015 was challenging for me in many ways.
One of my most painful experiences last year was interpersonal. You know something isn’t right when you begin thinking in terms of that person or those people. Or when you find yourself obsessing about what you should have said or will say the next time you meet, talk, or communicate with that person or those people in cyberspace.
You know what I’m talking about. It happens at work. In churches. In families. In friendships.
Misunderstanding. Differing opinions. Well-intentioned (or not) advice. Hurt. Division. Separation.
In short, everything God hates and Jesus came to obliterate through his death. He came so we could be reconciled both to God and one another.
And this is the life God requires of us: that we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light and have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).
God doesn’t suggest that we love and forgive those we disagree with and even our enemies. He expects it of us. He even tells us that He forgives us to the same measure that we forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). He also tells us that if we claim to love Him and don’t love others in word and actions, we’re liars (1 John 4:20). I don’t know about you, but this concept tends to annoy my highly refined sense of self-righteousness. You see, over the years, I’ve been able to convince myself that I can “love” others and still be ticked off at them and mutter about them to myself or a few select friends.
You see, I tend to justify my actions. I try to live a life pleasing to God, but I’m so good at justifying self-talk that I can easily deceive myself.
But conflict between people really boils down to one central point: everyone involved needs to take responsibility for the hurt they caused. This takes honest self-examination. Bottom line: I discovered that long-time close friends were frustrated (and perhaps even angry) with me. The details are irrelevant.
My actions/words hurt my friends. Taking responsibility for my part is the only thing that counts.
I’m responsible for making that right as best I can. My instincts are to protect my image. To defend my “side”. I know God is on my side. But I know He is on the side of reconciliation, peace, and unity. He for “us,” not “me.”
You’ve been hurt, too. How can you respond in a way that will promote healing and unity?
- Pray for God to show you how to love those who have hurt you (James 2:8). You may want to start by praying selected Scripture verses, such as Psalms 139:23-24. Ask God to give you insight about how your actions and words may have wounded others. For instance, try to place yourself in their shoes and image what they would say if they were asked why they were upset with you. What would a loving response from you looks like to them? How could you take a step in that direction?
- Ask God to shine a light on your heart. Come to God in a spirit of humility, confession, and repentance. Ask Him to expose your secrets, your agendas, your hidden motives. Write down what He reveals to you. They pray and ask Him to show you what you need to do to change.
- Deconstruct your defenses. Conflict isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. The most important thing in the kingdom of God is relationships. Deal with your compulsion to be “right” and to blame other people. Let it go and shift your focus back to the relationship.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you God’s love for this person/s. We can’t muster up true love for people when we feel violated or hurt. This kind of love comes from God. Ask Him to fill you with compassion, insight, and love for the person who wounded you. What wounds have they experienced in life that have shaped their perspective? Ask for special insight that will motivate your heart.
- Refuse to treat reconciliation lightly. Don’t try to slip by with a quick phone call or note to get you off the hook. Take responsibility for your sin. Dig deep, Examine it. Own it. Repent. Face the broken you. I don’t know about you, but I hate doing this. I don’t like looking at my ugly. I’d rather pretend it’s not there–the mucky, messed up part of me. But the only way to reconciliation is to own my brokenness and love others in spite of theirs because we’re all sinners saved by grace. Refuse superficiality and putting on a mask. Do it right–from the heart
- Refuse to think/talk disrespectfully of those who’ve wronged you. Reject the us/them mentality.”If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie (1 John 1:6). God esteems relationships so highly that He became one of us (Thaddeus Barnum). Don’t fall into the popular trap of trash talking people behind their backs that’s as common in churches as on a TV reality show.
Our goal, as imperfect as we may be: “And by this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” — 1 John 2:5-6
Have you ever tried the steps given above? What was your experience?