I’ve learned a lot about myself as I have matured in both age and in demeanor. One of the things I have learned is that I have grown to be more protective of myself when it comes to interpersonal relationships. There is no one closer to me than my lovely wife, Lynn, and I have often called her my best friend. Outside of our marriage, I can honestly count on one hand the number of close friends that I have, and it’s all because of my life experience with friendships and close relationships. I have always proceeded with caution in these types of relationships because of a latent fear of my friendships dissolving instead of evolving.
My concern about friendships or close relationships is probably not justifiable, but everyone will acknowledge that it is very tough when good friendships come to an end. The end can be abrupt because of a blowout argument, or they can be very agonizing and painful as they deteriorate over time. Some are blessed to have friendships last a lifetime; however, many of us know all too well of relationships when they go bad. The memories of both good and bad relationships impact our lives, and they can have a lasting effect.
Interpersonal relationships come and go, and they sometimes change because we move, our environment changes, or we change as people. We learn to adapt even during relationships, and we sometimes make choices to compromise or acquiesce in order to make situations or circumstances work out. When this happens, we learn from experience that healthy relationships can evolve into unhealthy relationships, which can lead to ongoing misunderstandings, disagreements and defensive behaviors. Friendships are more pressurized and marriages can be strained.
Instead of finding yourself gearing up for the next blowout or confrontation, or even making dire predictions that things are not going to work out, it is necessary for all of us to remember the importance of selflessness in these relationships instead of the practice of selfishness. Exercising forbearance instead of frustration—humility instead of hostility. Each of the positive traits that keep relationships strong and intact involve patience, persistence, and even practicing love for the other person when you don’t feel like loving them. In order to live in this way, consider the attributes that God provides for us to follow when we operate through the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
What I have learned from the good and bad relationships in my life is that I needed to grow personally and develop my communication skills—to be a better listener and to be patient, especially with my children. I didn’t start out as patient, but with God’s help, it became easier and easier over time to be patient with them and more attentive to them.
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.
The character traits in practicing effective communication with friends, family members, and close acquaintances require one to have a spirit of reconciliation. The spirit of reconciliation results from having a heart for reconciliation. It means you are always seeking ways to bring a relationship to an even keel—finding ways to resolve issues or problems. To be clear on the meaning of reconciliation, here is a definition of the word reconcile from The Free Dictionary by Farlex, © 2012 Farlex, Inc.
1. To reestablish a close relationship between.
2. To settle or resolve.
3. To bring (oneself) to accept
4. To make compatible or consistent; to adapt.
5. To reestablish a close relationship, as in marriage.
All of these meanings require some sort of effort or undertaking by one or more persons to come to an agreement that reconciliation is necessary or even possible. If one person makes the effort, there is always hope for progress within the reconciliation process. There is no promise that reconciliation is an easy process; in fact, it can be a very long, arduous, and painstaking endeavor. It can require a great deal of prayer, longsuffering and patience. The Spirit must often take the lead in this process because God must be the catalyst in the repair of a troubled relationship.
Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In order to have a spirit of reconciliation, you must make an effort to reach out to the other person and “forget” the things that brought about the conflict in the first place. You don’t really forget the past, but you find a way to move beyond the past. In fact, you may be the only person that talks about working things out or moving forward when the other person is not talking about it at all. It takes a concerted effort to do this (you and the Holy Spirit), for sure, and it starts with forgiveness. A sincere effort of reconciliation cannot begin without a sincere effort of forgiveness.
This is a very key part in the process of reconciliation. Forgiveness is a necessity. Forgiveness is a release. It releases you from the burden of the pains and hurts related to the conflict. You don’t forget the pain, but forgiveness relinquishes the burden from the pain. Think of the burden that sin carries. Without a release from sin, the burden is the guilt—the bondage that we experience. We are released from the bondage of sin because of the forgiveness of sin that comes from our acknowledgment of the transgression before the Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know that our old self was crucified with Him (Jesus Christ) in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.
The repentance is the first step. Without it, the burden of sin remains in place.
“For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
1 John 1:8-9
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God’s forgiveness is the beginning of the reconciliation process that we experience with Him when we seek Him in repentance. Our sin separated us from Him, for God hates sin and does not fellowship with sin, but, thankfully, it is our repentance and recognition of who Christ is brings about reconciliation.
For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.
Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than others are on us…in other words, we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for things we have done to others. This is also a major obstacle to reconciliation. If God says that we are forgiven, we need to believe in the forgiveness process and forgive ourselves, too, just as in the same way we are to forgive others.
“It is I who sweep away your transgressions
for My own sake
and remember your sins no more.
The words ”remember your sins no more” is best understood as “put aside” what we know and move forward. The positive relationship that you have with others, and even with God, is much more important than keeping score over issues from the past or any issues that come up. The world’s approach is to maintain conflict at every opportunity, and even get back at the other party with a spitefulness or even revenge. In stark contrast, a person who possesses a spirit of forgiveness opens the door for humility and a heart of reconciliation. How welcoming is it to have a person in your midst that is kind and considerate, and operates with a peace-loving nature to work through issues and solve problems!
A heart for reconciliation requires a child-like faith—not child-like as in immature (1 Corinthians 13:11), but in a faith that is much like that when you first believed in Jesus Christ. Jesus loved to see the children that were brought before Him. There is something to be said about the innocence of the children seeing Jesus for who He really was. Their desire was to be near Him because they knew that He had a genuine love for them and wanted them around, and they praised Him openly before everyone when they witnessed His healing powers.
The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple complex, and He healed them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that He did and the children shouting in the temple complex, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?”
“Yes,” Jesus told them. “Have you never read:
You have prepared praise
from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”
Jesus refers to His followers throughout Scripture, both young and old, as His children. He speaks lovingly of His children and desires to have a relationship with them, but He wants His children to seek Him with a childlike, sincere enthusiasm. To do anything other than this is a hindrance to the relationship with God, and it is certainly a hindrance to understanding the importance of reconciliation with others.
It is also important to point out that for those of us who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior, the Spirit that indwells us gives us the extra-special ability to understand the need for reconciliation. The Holy Spirit is the foundation of our desire to be obedient to God and His will. His desire for us is to have a heart for Him and a heart of reconciliation, for He has reconciled us to Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:16-19
From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
We don’t know anyone in a purely human way because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We no longer operate as the world does because we have the power of Jesus Christ within us that guides us through the steps that need to be taken in the reconciliation process. The presence of the Spirit leads to a heart for reconciliation. If we really want to please God, we will seek Him throughout the process of reconciling with someone or with others.
God desires for each of us to have a heart for reconciliation. It is this ability that makes a divine difference in a world of conflict, and our obedience to His Word as we work through issues and problems can truly change lives and win people over to Jesus Christ. What a powerful and wonderful testimony!
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.