Let’s start off with a short story that could have a long ending.
The other day, Nancy and I got into a petty argument. I say it was petty. Nancy would say it was Armageddon. As is our nature, neither of us would admit the possibility that we might be in error. To her credit, Nancy finally said, “Look, I’ll tell you what. I’ll admit I’m wrong if you admit I was right.” “Fine,” I said. She took a deep breath, looked at me in the eye and said, “I’m wrong.” I grinned and replied, “You’re right.”
Nancy, breathe slowly and count to ten…one, two, three…..! Nancy, remember, love is grand; divorce is a hundred grand.
Many wonderful people are suffering from unresolved conflicts in once meaningful relationships. Unresolved conflict is like clogged arteries. It greatly reduces our energy and quality of life. It affects our heart. An offense with one person generally leads to other bigger offenses with other people. Our society has gotten to the point where some people would kill to get the Nobel Peace Prize! Let’s move from pieces to peace by learning how to potentially overcome ‘bad blood’ in once strong relationships. It’s easier to get into forgiveness than to get out of un-forgiveness.
Pastor Dan Steffen at Pure Heart Christian Fellowship in Glendale recently spoke on what we can do when there is ‘bad blood’ in our relationships. He quoted a verse in the Bible in Romans 12:18. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” See that? The first move in resolving a ‘bad blood’ relationship is for ‘me, myself and I’ to make the first move.
I understand that it takes two to resolve a broken relationship. However one party needs to make the first step if there is to be peace. One party needs to embrace the mess and move toward, not away, from the other party. How do we do that? How does one move from conflict to communication and even compassion?
Allow me to share what Pastor Dan shared. He used the illustration of a professional golfer getting ready to make a hard putt in a game of golf. Amateurs like me just walk up to the putt, putt and usually miss. Have you watched a professional golfer? A pro surveys the putt from all directions. A pro gets behind the ball and looks at the cup. Then he or she walks around to the other side of the cup and sees the hole from that perspective. Then they walk all the way around the putt and see the hole from all directions. They get a full perspective. Then they make the putt based on looking at the hole from all sides. Their results are much better than my results.
Get the message? We all see the issue which caused the conflict from our side. But, do we see the issue from their side? Have we considered why they did what they did? Have we looked at the putt from the other side? If we do, it gives us their perspective. We can have empathy, not just sympathy. Empathy is seeing what they saw, feeling what they felt, and understanding their side of the issue. It’s getting an ‘aha’ into their world.
We can play lawyer and point out where they broke our laws. We can lock them up in our mental and emotional jails. But that tactic hurts us more than them. That tactic clogs our arteries and breaks our heart. It’s a ‘lose-lose,’ not a ‘win-win.’
Empathy does not mean that they were right and we were wrong. Empathy allows us to understand a bit and softens our approach. Empathy is intelligent, not emotional. Empathy gives us a framework to agree to disagree but not make it personal. Even if we were one percent wrong, we embrace our one percent, one hundred percent.
How do we start? William Faulkner said, “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Turning ‘bad blood’ into blood again is not an event, it’s a process. It’s a journey with pit stops along the way. Our differing perspectives may not go away, but our hostilities can.
Church-Community Connection is published weekly in 10 newspapers all over the world. Most of these newspapers are local paid subscription newspapers. The goal of these 450 word articles is to build a bridge to the community through humor, wisdom and changing mental perceptions that the community has of the church.