I’m in a season of working in reconciliation. Iâ€™ve done that for a long time, but it seems to be even more so right now. It’s in marriages, families, and churches. The work is really hard because the hurt and pain is very personal so the emotions are very high. Flight or fight, avoidance or anger are the responses in places of pain. Both ruin relationships. But while the avoidance and anger are present, there is hope. Itâ€™s when apathy comes that hope dies.
When there is sustained relational pain, Mary wants Bill (generic names) not just to know, but also to feel, how much she hurts. When Bill believes that Mary is intentional in hurting him, his anger gets savage. It can get overwhelming really fast.
The strategy I follow is to get each to speak their pain, preferably with full emotion, and the other to listen and reflect back. When people feel heard, a major goal is accomplished. The problem is that the second person often listens with denial or even disdain as the first is expressing pain. â€œIt wasnâ€™t like that at all,â€ is the internal response.
But things get to going well when Bill moves from whatâ€™s wrong with Mary to beginning to look at what he has done to damage the relationship. Then Mary feels safer to confess some of her own damaging things. When thereâ€™s no safety, Maryâ€™s confession becomes fodder for Billâ€™s accusations. Mary isnâ€™t about to make herself even more vulnerable in such a situation.
Things begin to go well when Mary begins to express concern for Billâ€™s pain and Bill can receive that comfort without going into self-protect mode. Then he can reciprocate, feeling safe that she wonâ€™t take advantage of his openness to demand more.
One thing Iâ€™ve discovered is that people donâ€™t recognize the terrific pain that disrespect or sarcasm cause. Our culture has lots of stories of the damage anger causes. But there are virtually none for the pain of disrespect. Iâ€™m trying to figure some out.
Of course all this is a strange task for me since I have my own failed relationships where there is nothing I can do to promote reconciliation. That is a great sadness, one where much prayer and doing nothing active is the best thing to do, hard as that is. So strange.
On a different note, I have been trying to evict squirrels from my Mt. Tabor house. I blogged my Thanksgiving fall. My still sore leg reminds me to be careful. Yesterday I surveyed the tiny niche beside the chimney where sparrows renew their annual nest. I love the sound of sparrow babies cheeping as parents come with food. Unfortunately, what I saw was the new squirrel chewed entrance to the attic. My ladder wasnâ€™t long enough for safe climbing, so I called my friend Will. He closed up the niche with metal flashing. So neither sparrows nor squirrels have a place. Evil ruins good things.
I am praying for lots of things: reconciliations, Davis house, Christians in Egypt, finances for non-profits, wisdom for leaders, . . .
I pray with you. Here are some perspectives shared by a Romanian Orthodox elder. I especially resonate with his words on willing sacrifice and suffering. If we were quicker to be quiet and willingly stay ourselves in the grace of God, as opposed to hitting someone who disagrees with us, we would be closer to ‘Thy Kingdom come’ when we pray.
Hope you don’t mind that I share this link containing a brief video of Michael Oh speaking on reconciliation. As a Korean he struggled with anger toward the Japanese because of past atrocities committed against Koreans. Just stumbled upon it today.
You are so right, Cheryl. I read the opening chapter of 1 Corinthinans and know this is not a new thing, but it so grieves the heart of Jesus. May His prayer in John 17 be true.
Thanks Dr. B…
My heart is heavy for the need of reconciliation among church leaders. It hurts deeply to know so many carry such deep anger and resentment and continue to share Jesus from the stage. Knowing God’s heart is for reconciliation, my prayer is that they are able to forgive, reconcile, and move forward in unity in God’s kingdom.
God bless you for praying.