Shauna Niequist calls it a “rhythm of reconciliation.” And, as much as I wish it weren’t true, this practice of forgiveness for the loved ones in our lives who wound us (whether intentionally or unintentionally) is necessary for any true, intimate relationships to exist.
But, dang, it’s hard. And, unfortunately, I had the “lovely,” growth-provoking opportunity to dabble into it a bit this past week. (To tell you the truth, I had one of the hardest conversations of my adult life on Friday afternoon. I literally almost vomited before it began because I was so anxious about how it would go .)
Although most of us would prefer a smooth, never bumpy, never anxiety-inducing road in friendship, the fact of the matter is that we are all real live people with real live imperfections and real live issues and real live differences and differing ways of looking at the world. And sometimes those differences make us unintentionally (or intentionally) butt heads with the ones we care about. It tends not to surprise us in the realm of the marital or extended family relationships, but somehow we get shocked when this reality visits us in our friendships.
Sometimes we accidentally hurt our loved ones and we need to go apologize. Sometimes our favorite people hurt us and we need to be honest and let them know how we feel. Sometimes we recognize something amiss in a friend’s life and we need to point it out to them— in love, of course. Sometimes we get to be on the receiving end of these hard but necessary conversations. And sometimes those interactions don’t go as smoothly as we wished they would.
Sometimes there is friction amongst even the dearest of friends.
These are difficult, sometimes even torturous moments.
Yet, as I was reading through the second chapter of Philippians this week, I felt God speak to me through the first 4 verses on this very issue. This is what I discovered:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~Philippians 2:1-4
-1- Our intimacy with God must come first.
The first thing God pointed out to me was found in verse 1— in the phrases “united with Christ” and “from His love.” As the popular worship song says, He must be the center of our lives, the place we fix our eyes. God and His love are the starting place. First and foremost, we must lean on Him to be our guide, our source of wisdom, and the One who bestows on us our true value.
-2- He wants His kids to be unified.
In verse 2, we are encouraged to be “like-minded… one in spirit and of one mind.” Verse 3 urges us to not do things out of “selfish ambition… rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” This is tough. Because we aren’t the same and we don’t see things the same. Thus, we desperately need to revisit point #1 and tune into God and ask Him for wisdom in how to handle the sticky situations we often find ourselves in.
The biggest thing I am learning on this topic lately is that communication is key. Sitting down face to face with the one who has hurt me, being honest with myself and with them, and really truly listening to what they have to say— this matters. And it is absolutely necessary.
-3- “Looking to the interests of others” won’t always be easy.
Verse 4 ends with urging us to value others, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This sounds great— and it is great— but in real life sometimes “looking to the interests of others” means lovingly telling them something they don’t want to hear. Or having that experience yourself— where you are the one receiving input you don’t necessarily want to hear but you know it’s actually good for you. Sometimes looking to the interests of others means approaching them with a listening ear, genuinely eager to hear their story. Sometimes it means giving up your own preferences. Or admitting you are wrong. Or asking them for their real, honest feedback in an area in which you struggle.
All of the above requires brave honesty and a willingness to be your real, true, flawed, broken, incomplete, work-in-process self with the folks you choose to surround yourself with. “Courageous Confrontation” like what we are taking about here also requires grace. Lots and lots of grace. Both for others and for ourselves.
Because you guys? We will get it wrong. And our loved ones will get it wrong too. And we’ll have to try again and practice compassion and empathy all over again.
But also: As much as we get it wrong, God will never let us down or leave us alone in any of it. He is in the business of redemption, after all. It’s kind of His thing.
So. If you have someone in your life that you know in your heart you need to make peace with, or admit to them that they have wounded you, or that you need to set aside time with to really truly connect again: I encourage you to pray about it and ask God what your next step might be.
[This is Day 9 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. This year my focus is on the role of STORY in our lives. Click here to get to the landing page with links to each post for this series.]
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What about you?
Is there anyone in your life that you feel the Lord leading you to make peace with or to have a hard conversation with? In what ways have you seen the “rhythm of reconciliation” at work in your own life and relationships?
Please share your story in the comment section below.
- Perhaps We Can Change the World…?
- Rising Up, Covered in Grace
- There is No Victory Without the Struggle
- A great sermon on this topic of the importance of communication and a willingness to even participate in hard conversations: Why We Gather, Part 5
- A great story by author Annie Downs about having a hard conversation with a dear friend: When You Have to Say the Hard Thing