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.
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