Reconciling With People That We Have Hurt
Reconciliation is an integral part of the Christian faith. Jesus sacrificed His Life so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus told us that if we feel that someone has something against us, we should go and be reconciled to them before making an offering to God (Matthew 5:23-24). This is so important that we need to be reconciled before we come before the Lord. We are supposed to try to restore damaged relationships, when possible. So why are many of us Christians so reluctant to make the effort to reconcile?
The fact is that reconciliation takes determination, effort, and hard work. We may risk someone giving us a tongue lashing or rejecting us, so we may drag our feet and avoid the people involved. Reconciliation can serve a number of purposes, such as restoring relationships or helping everyone finding closure.
Signs that we are ready for reconciliation
We are ready to try reconciliation if we:
- are willing to accept responsibility for the offence we committed
- put our pride and blaming behaviors aside and practice humility
- are willing to provide restitution, if needed
- are willing to be accountable for the things that we have done
- can show that we are not going to continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it
- do not downplay or dismiss our hurtful behavior
- do not resent the fact that the people may doubt our sincerity, especially if we have offended before
- accept that they may not be ready for a reconciliation and need time to heal
Reasons that reconciliation does not happen
Ignorance: We may not realize that we have hurt and estranged someone. We need to be mindful by to observe others to determine the health of our relationships. We cannot always expect that people will tell us when we have offended them. Some questions to ask are: Is something wrong in this relationship? Do they seem cold and distant when they are around us? Are they avoiding us?
Fear: We may feel afraid of negative repercussions and ask these questions:
What if I was mistaken and they either don’t remember the incident or weren’t offended by what I said (or did)?
Will they laugh at me for bringing it up?
Will they tell me off because they are angry with me?
Will they say hurtful things to me?
Will they reject me?
Will my bringing the possible offence up damage the relationship?
Pride: It is very difficult to admit that we have hurt someone else. We tend to blame others for the estrangement. It takes true humility to admit that we have done something wrong and ask the person we have hurt for forgiveness. Pride may be holding us back and make us use excuses to justify our actions.
Laziness: We just keeping putting reconciliation off and let opportunities go by. We think that if we ignore the situation, it will just go away. Reconciliation takes work. We have to think carefully about what we are going to say to the offended person. We need to be prepared for a variety of responses and mentally ready ourselves for what might happen. Relationships can enrich our lives, and are worth the extra effort needed towards reconciliation.
Sometimes people will approach us and let us know that we have offended them in any way. Our reaction will determine where our head space is at. We will probably be shocked and taken aback. We may experience guilt and same.
If we respond to the person we have offended with denial, anger, and righteous indignation, we have pride that we need to deal with. Pride should be rooted out as it can get in the way of an attempt at a reconciliation.
Reasons to reconcile
- It is the Christian thing to do, as Christ instructed.
- When we open the door to communication with those we have hurt, we can find closure. It also helps the other person to have the opportunity to express their feelings and helps them to find closure as well.
- We can take this time to apologize. Telling people that we are sorry helps us to get rid of the guilt we feel for hurting others and helps us to forgive ourselves. We can stop dwelling on the past and move on.
- An apology makes it easier for the offended person to forgive us and may make them more open to restoring the relationship
- It restores a relationship that can enrich our lives and theirs.
Reconciliation takes time
We need to be patient and understanding with those we have hurt. They may need time to heal from the offence before reconciliation can take place. The people we hurt may impose certain conditions to the restored relationship, or want to be left alone for a while so that they can recover from the wounds that we caused. The offended person may be as unyielding as a fortified city (Proverbs 18:19).
We also need to accept that our offense may have negative consequences and impact other relationships around us. In time, though we can either find the closure we need to put the past behind us, and hopefully, can enjoy the benefits of a healthy relationship.