In Bronnie Ware’s book, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, regret #3 was “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” She said many people suppressed their feelings to keep peace with others. As a result, several had developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried.
Many of us shy away from expressing our feelings and try to avoid difficult conversations, at all cost. I don’t like it any more than you, but I try to take advantage of any opportunity to solve a problem or clarify a misunderstanding. I have learned the hard way that the cost of dodging those conversations is far too high. In the end, everyone ends up miserable.
God gave us the ministry of restoring relationships, so it makes perfect sense to talk with Him first. Ask for His help to let down our guard and open our hearts to reconciliation. With His help we can graciously accept or extend an apology.
Having The Talk….
Begin with the end in mind. When going on a road trip, we carefully map out our trip. When preparing for an difficult conversation, we should do the same in hopes of keeping the discussion on track to achieve our goal of reconciliation.
A wise, mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is. ~ Proverbs 16:21 TEV
Don’t allow the problem to fester. The saying, “time heals all wounds” is a bunch of nonsense! Nothing makes the problem grow faster than ignoring it! Before we know it, our molehill has turned into Mount Everest. Scripture challenges us to make things right, right now!
Jesus said, “If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” ~Matthew 5:23-24 MSG
What assumptions are we bringing to the table? Do we have all the facts? Are unanswered questions causing us to assume too much? Believing we know what the problem is could create more problems!
What part of this conflict do we own? There’s no such thing as a one-sided battle. We need to own our stuff. During our discussion, we need to be vulnerable enough to disclose our role in the issue.
Listen. Communication is tricky. In most conversations, we aren’t listening to gain understanding; we are listening to react to what was said. During difficult conversations, it is vital to be fully present. Listening is our opportunity to get to the crux of the problem
A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. ~Proverbs 15:1
Have the conversation in private. Out of respect for the other person and the issue at hand, we shouldn’t subject either one of us to the possibility of public humiliation. If it is in the workplace, find an office or conference room and close the door. If it is a friend or family member, I find it is best to choose a neutral location.
Forgive others quickly. When an offender offers a sincere apology, try to accept it. Even if we need some time to think through all that has been said, we should ask God to give us a spirit of forgiveness. In some cases, this has required divine intervention before I could accept the apology and forgive!
A Christian counselor once said to me, “Forgiving someone does not mean they get a “hall pass” back into your daily life. Redefining the relationship to protect yourself from similar problems in the future is entirely justified.” Wow! Who knew?
Forgiving others is a gift I give myself, and my Lord. It is what I am called to do. And obedience offers a sense of peace and contentment unlike any other. No one’s sin – even our own – has the right to hold us captive.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~Matthew 18:21-22 NIV
If an old wound still tortures you, why not start the process of forgiving today? Or if you see a conflict brewing on the horizon, step into the role of a peacemaker. Map out the conversation carefully and invite God to come along and bless you and the others as you seek to find reconciliation.