Let's face it. To all relationships there comes the inevitable crisis. Someone is offended, and a painful process of alienation begins. Attitudes quickly change. Inappropriate words and actions soon follow. The relationship is strained and at times even ended. Is this your experience? Then, read on.
Unless you live by yourself on a remote island, you know all too well the pain of broken relationships. Even the best of friendships can go sour. Marriages have their bad days. Co-workers can turn the office into a battlefield. Churches split over personality conflicts. Families explode because of unkind words. Neighbors argue about barking dogs. The problem is of epidemic proportions. It is a greater threat to our well-being than influenza, cancer, or heart disease.
As with physical disorders, there are telltale signs that point to the problem. Like flashing red lights, these symptoms warn that something is seriously wrong. You can probably recognize the following symptoms from your own experience.
Avoidance. Longtime friends suddenly avoid each other after a conflict. Although they used to enjoy one another's company, now when they see each other they keep their distance.
Irritability. "What did you say?" "Leave me alone!" "She makes me sick!" "Mind your own business!" "So what?" "I said no and I mean no!" "I've had it!" "Get off my back, will you!"
Do you recognize any of these fiery phrases? I'm sure you do. We've all heard them. And most of us will have to admit that we've said some of them.
Silence. A common response to a wounded relationship is "the silent treatment." We simply refuse to talk with the other person. It's a nonverbal signal that says, "I don't want to have anything to do with you, so leave me alone." For some, it is a way to insulate themselves from any further pain. For others, it is a way to get even. By refusing to talk, they hope to make the other person suffer.
Enlisting allies. It's unfortunate, but some people respond to broken relationships like nations that have just declared war. They immediately recruit allies by giving only their view of the issue. And this one-sided account is the ammunition used in the battle. Such behavior reveals insecurity and weakness. It uncovers a person's lack of confidence to handle the problem adequately on his own.
Terrorism. Like its counterpart in our world of bombings and hijackings, this form of personal agression is subtle and comes without warning. With methods that are indirect and underhanded, it often destroys the innocent along with the supposed enemy. There are angry looks and words, and even physical abuse. At times it may involve slanderous attacks, causing the destruction of someone's influence or character.
If you see any of these symptoms, your relationship may be deteriorating. Now's the time to resolve the problem.
Broken relationships can make life miserable too. But, like dealing with poison ivy, our natural response may only make matters worse. Many times our attempted solutions just don't work. The necessary repair work can be accomplished when we are willing to follow the pattern given by God.
Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet the Bible says that trying to win back the friendship of an offended person is like trying to capture a fortified city. It says that anger is as difficult to overcome as barred gates.
A brother offended is harder tow in than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle (Proverbs 18:19).
Repairing a broken relationship is extremely hard, but it's not impossible. Like the lone soldier facing a fortified city, you need to know what to do. In the Bible, we can find a plan of action modeled by God Himself.
In the person of Jesus Christ, we see the steps that God took to repair the broken relationship between Him and mankind. The activity of Christ was in reality the activity of God restoring an alienated world to Himself. Paul wrote:
...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2Corinthians 5:19).
In His example, we see the steps we must take in order to make peace with others.
What did God do? What were the steps He took to reunite us with Himself? The Bible gives us the answer: He loved, He humbled Himself, He suffered, He invited, and He forgave.
Yes, God has modeled the steps necessary to repair bruised and broken relationships. His example should be the basis for our method of breaking down the barriers between people.
Letter # 22 (6. 6. 2010)