Category Archives: Relationships

Some of my thoughts on how to play well with others.

Saying “I’m Sorry”

Those three little words can be tough . . . OK, so it’s two words if you use the contraction, but you get my point. I’ve had a really hard time with them over the years, especially if I wasn’t to blame. 

Now, you’re thinking . . . “What, you say you’re sorry even if you’re not to blame?” 

Well, not every time.  There are those exceptional occasions when another person caused the whole offense, and I had no part in it. Unfortunately, they’re rare. If I’m honest, I can take responsibility for some part of every disagreement, misunderstanding and event that requires an apology.

But the most frustrating part of the “I’m Sorry” saga is watching people who never take responsibility for anything. You’ve met them, the perfect ones. They don’t need to change a thing, they have it all figured out. It’s frustrating for me as a leader in a church because those folks are stuck.

All my life I’ve lived with men who can fix anything. First my Dad, then my husband and Father-in-law. Yep, if it’s broke they can fix it. The problem is they can’t fix it if they can’t tell it’s broke. When I was young, I remember my mom having some car problems, but when Daddy took it for a drive, the car ran perfectly. There was nothing he could do because he couldn’t see or hear any problems. After I married, I discovered it wasn’t just my dad! My husband and Father-in-law had the same difficulty. I’ve come to believe that a car knows whose driving it, and will not make the noises when the mechanically inclined are behind the wheel. 

Whatever the reason for the car running soundly for the men in my life, the fact they couldn’t diagnose the problem didn’t mean there wasn’t one. It just meant the car couldn’t get better. 

It’s the same for us humans. Just because we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes doesn’t mean we didn’t make any. Coming across as perfect doesn’t make me respect a person more, it makes me suspicious. When a person has an answer for everything and never has a story that includes how they messed it up, I start looking for the place in their life journey where they got stuck. 

Let me give you a few examples:

Divorce . . . it takes two people to make a marriage strong. If you’re on the road to divorce and you didn’t do a thing to damage the marriage, you’re stuck. (Unless, of course, you’ve been beaten, physically or emotionally. You should never take responsibility for someone attacking you, with their fists or their words.)

Parenting . . . that’s one of the toughest jobs out there. Even if your kids have turned out better than anyone could have possibly hoped, if you’ve never taken stock of things you wish you’d done different, you’re stuck.

Friendship . . . (or the end of one) If you have a friendship that ended and it’s all the other person’s fault, you’re stuck.

In every relationship, every situation, you could probably do something different to make it smoother. Perhaps what you did was your best, you didn’t know any better. That’s OK. Take responsibility for the fact you could have done better and move on. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Don’t even relive it until you think you figured out a better way to have done it. 

But DO admit it. DO embrace every bit of your responsibility in something gone wrong, whether it’s an automobile accident or a relationship mishap. (Yes, your insurance agent would prefer you don’t take responsibility until after the police report is filed) In order to grow and become the best person I can be, at some point admit I have to admit that even if it was for the most part the other person’s fault there may have been something I could have done differently to avoid the damage.

Relationships – Part three – Restoration

You can read part one of this article HERE

Another misnomer about forgiveness is the restoration of the relationship. Some folks won’t forgive because they think the relationship must be restored to its original status, and they are afraid of being betrayed again.

This is tricky. Because it’s easy in our humanness to decide we’ve been hurt beyond repair. We won’t allow the relationship to be healed. But the truth is oftentimes relationships are able to be healed if both parties are willing. Unless the offender has betrayed or abused you, and you know the betrayal and abuse will not stop, there’s a good chance restoration is an option.

Especially if you are being abused, the relationship does not have to be restored until the abuser has taken all the steps necessary to get help and you know you are safe. Forgiveness is still important for your health, but restoration can’t come until the abuser is willing to admit his or her problem and get lots of help and healing. Not even the promise of counseling is enough to walk back into an abusive relationship.

Even God has standards for restoration. In order for us to be restored to the relationship humans had with our Creator in the Garden of Eden, we first have to be made new by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. God forgives long before we ask, but the restoration occurs when we meet his conditions. Human relationships can be the same.

Not that it gives us permission to set up unrealistic conditions and expectations. We don’t get to be dictators or give ultimatums on what has to happen for a relationship to be restored, but in the case of abuse or betrayal, we are allowed to protect ourselves and those around us before a relationship is restored.

There are offenses which are less drastic, though. In fact, most relationship busters are not abusive, most don’t include betrayal. Most are caused by misunderstanding and human error. Many are set off by difference of opinions or judgement. In each of these cases, full restoration is possible if both parties are willing to admit their part in the problem and then offer full and unconditional forgiveness.  But both of those things are hard.

Relationships aren’t easy. But they’re worth it if you’re willing to work on it a bit.

Relationships – Part Two

If you stumbled upon this post and haven’t read part one, you can read it HERE.

Another thing I’ve discovered about relationships is that they require us to understand we are in community with other human beings. There are going to be problems. I am not going to like every thing every single person in my circle does every single day.  Even the most well meaning human being will let us down from time to time. We’ll get our feelings hurt or be offended. It’s gonna happen! The thing that makes for a successful or unsuccessful relationship is how it’s handled. Once a person comes to that realization, they’ll have a much better time making relationships work.

The last time I talked about each person taking responsibility for his or her part in the schism. But what’s next? And by next, I mean first . . .

Even before the other person takes responsibility for his or her actions, I have to forgive, just let it go, don’t take offense. It’s easier when I remember I’ve probably offended someone else in a similar way, and I hope they’ve forgiven me. And it’s one hundred times easier since I’ve come to the realization that all my faults caused Christ to be crucified, and He forgave me, loves me and wants a fully restored relationship with me.

But forgiveness is hard. I know.

One of the main things people need to understand is that forgiveness does not excuse the offense, it merely removes it’s hold on YOU. You forgiving is NOT the same as saying, “It’s OK, do it again.” It’s simply saying, “I don’t want this to cause me anymore pain, so I’m releasing it. I’m no longer going to hold it against you.” I think that makes some forgiveness a little easier. So many people believe that forgiveness excuses a person or gives them permission to cause the offense again. It doesn’t. Even Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more.” She was forgiven, but He didn’t want her to returning to the life that caused her need for forgiveness.

Holding on to unforgiveness is like grasping the end of chains that are anchored to a wall and refusing to let go. Those chains hold you, but by your choice. You are bound, just like a prisoner, except you could let go. Sin is much the same, except sin puts us in shackles, and Jesus’ death on the cross holds the key to loose them. But either way, you’re stuck. You may as well be the one who committed the offense because whether you are the offender or the one offended, without forgiveness, both are bound by chains that keep them from the true peace and freedom Christ came to bring.

This article is continued HERE

 

Relationships

The topic of relationships has come up a lot lately. So I thought I’d share my views on what it takes to have a healthy relationship here.

The most difficult thing about relationships is they require two individuals who might have different views and ideas to get along. In nearly every growing relationship, there will come a time when there’s a disagreement, someone’s hurt or misunderstood and division happens. But there is one major thing I’ve discovered about reconciliation in a relationship:

If you want true relationship, you have to take responsibility for your part in any disagreement.
Matthew 5:23-24 says:
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

It doesn’t tell us, “If you did something wrong on purpose.” It says, “If your brother or sister has something against you.”  And if that’s the case, we’re supposed to make the first move. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Don’t assume it will blow over, and most especially, don’t tell yourself you’ve nothing to apologize for.

Whether it’s real or perceived, if your friend feels wronged, you need to take responsibility. Just apologize . . . sincerely. I’ve decided even if the problem is someone took my words wrong or out of context, I need to admit that I probably wasn’t paying attention to God or to their feelings. Not only do I need to apologize to my friend, I also need to talk to my heavenly Father, because if I’d been paying attention, He’d have kept me from saying the wrong thing or helped me form my sentences in such a way they wouldn’t offend.

The major problem with this part of the reconciliation is that in order for the relationship to be wholly restored, both parties have to be willing to admit they’re part of the problem. It takes two to fight.

Perhaps you feel like you were the one wronged. Maybe it’s the other person who said all of those offensive words. Is there a chance you misunderstood? Were you hurt by something that was said when other pressures were the real issue? Did you forget to stop and see the situation from the other person’s perspective? Each and every one of those things (and more) are reasons to take responsibility for part of the problem. Too many times we’re quick to take offense when no offense was intended. Not everyone says exactly what they mean, and even if they always do, sometimes our ears don’t hear it the way it was meant. If you are quick to take offense, take responsibility for that! When someone comes to apologize, and even if they don’t, reciprocate the apology. Take responsibility for your part of the schism and begin the healing process.

So often I see wonderful relationships thrown away because one person chose to hold on to the offense or put all the blame on the other person.  Time and time again I’ve witnessed one person apologizing for everything, even things that weren’t their fault, while the second person allows them to take all the blame. And you’d think that might work, you’d think as long as one person was willing to accept all the blame and apologize for it, the other could just maintain their innocence and move forward.

But it doesn’t work! I’ve never, ever seen it mend relationship.

Until both people are willing to admit they made a mistake, even if it was innocent and unintentional, the relationship will never be truly whole. It may have a bandage for a while, but the gangrene will grow, and eventually any kind of connection you had with the other person will disintegrate.

The only time there’s any chance of that working is in the case of abuse. If you are being abused or have been abused, please don’t look for your part in the abuse. You will never do anything to deserve to be beaten or verbally attacked. Yes, there may be other things you’ll need to take responsibility for to be whole yourself, but there is nothing anyone can ever do or say that constitutes or excuses abuse. And if you are a person who has to belittle someone with words, explodes when you’re angry or causes someone else pain to make your point, get help! You are an abuser, take responsibility so you can restore your relationships.

So, step number one in keeping a healthy relationship – recognize you aren’t perfect. Take responsibility for those times when your words or actions have caused a rift in the relationship. Acknowledge those occasions you’ve taken offense when no offense was intended. Apologize and forgive, and remember the one you’re in relationship with is just as human as you.

This article continues HERE

Teen to Parent and Back at ya’

One of my young Facebook friends posted the following list:

WHAT I WITH MY PARENTS COULD UNDERSTAND
– When I hang out with a boy/girl it doesn’t mean he/she is my boyfriend/girlfriend

– School is hard and I’m trying my best

– I’m a teenager, I don’t always have the best attitude

– I try to make the best decisions for myself

– I’m young and want to have fun

– If I’m out all night it doesn’t mean I’m drinking or doing drugs.

– Not all my friends can be a bad influence.

– I feel useless whenever they compare me to other people

I posted a reply:
WHAT PARENTS WISH TEENS COULD UNDERSTAND

– If the boy/girl you’re hanging out with doesn’t make you a better person, we don’t care if it’s your official “squeeze”or not – we’re trying to help you become the person Christ created you to be

– Sometimes when you think it’s your best, we see more potential in you than you see in yourself. We don’t mean to push you too hard, but if you could see what we see . . .

– You haven’t lived long enough to make the best decision. That’s why God gave us parents. And believe me, I remember thinking I was making a good decision . . . time and experience will reveal what the “best” really is

– I want you to have fun while you’re young too! I just don’t want that fun to ruin the rest of your life.

– Most really bad things happen after dark. Most of them were never planned. Most of them are complete accidents. I believe that you don’t plan to do anything stupid. Almost no one ever does. But again . . . I have more experience . . . I’ve done my share of stupid. . . you will too. Being in early just keeps you from doing someone else’s share too!

– Of course not all of your friends are bad influences! But most of the good influences have parents who have a tight rein and they have a curfew. (hence the last explanation)

– Please forgive me when I compare you to another person. I don’t mean to. I hate it when people do it to me. Please know that it’s just frustration because I don’t know how else to help you see how wonderful and precious you are! I don’t want to see you be hurt, and I only want the best for you. Please act in such a way that I can loosen the reins and trust you more. It’s what I want to do, but until you realize my experience with life gives me an edge, it’s going to seem like I’m against you. I’m not!!! I love you!!! I only want the most wonderful, blessed life for you!!!!