“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”
These words, spoken by Jesus and recorded in the gospel of Matthew, were in the heart of my decision, as I recently chose to confront someone close to me. I had spent the weekend wallowing in sadness and confusion, trying to understand the rudeness and anger that had come out of the mouth of someone I love like family. As I prayed about it, I felt God pressing me to do the easiest, however hardest thing to do: Simply ask what the problem was.
As I climbed the steps to reach the room where we would speak in private, I could feel my stomach turning and cold sweat forming in the palms of my hands. Going against my non-confrontational nature and knowing the person’s typically volatile personality, I wasn’t sure of the outcome. But I knew that talking about the negative behavior was the only chance of saving our friendship.
Instead of starting with small talk, I took a deep breath and went right to the point. We both knew there was a problem, and there was no point in lingering on the weather or politics. I took a non-accusatory tone and spoke in love, calmly asking for the reason for the outburst. As our conversation progressed, I found out that the anger was not directed at me at all. This person was going through a hard time that day and allowed worries and concerns to take over as we spoke earlier that week. There was no intention of hurting me.
After a long conversation, our relationship was restored as I extended the same forgiveness and grace that I hope to receive when I fail, but not before I made it clear that boundaries were crossed and that it shouldn’t happen again. After this incident, I have a feeling, in fact, I know our relationship will be better than it’s ever been. All because, instead of sweeping the issue under the rug, I chose to face it and establish much needed boundaries that should make our relationship stronger and healthier.
“Perception is reality.”
This quote, commonly attributed to late American political consultant and adviser Lee Atwater, together with my recent experience, were strongly in my mind when I was asked for advice regarding a strained relationship recently. After talking to both sides, I was able to clearly see how one’s perception had become the other person’s reality, driving a deep wedge between two people who dearly love each other, but chose to part ways, other than facing the elephant in the room. I can’t help but wonder how many relationships end every day, simply because people chose the seemingly easy road, closing doors and shutting people out of their lives, instead of choosing to openly hear the other side.
Our perception is our reality, indeed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is someone else’s reality. There’s no question that certain relationships are toxic and need to end. But I also believe that, in many instances, family relations would be stronger and friendships would be more lasting, if only we would take our time to listen to the other side, setting our hurts aside for a minute, and putting ourselves in their shoes.
Indeed, it takes bravery and strength to hear those who hurt us with empathy, forgive them, set our boundaries, and give them another chance. But I believe it is not only the right thing to do, I believe it’s the only way to have peace, joy and relationships that last a lifetime.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and International speaker. Her Book Twelve Inches is on sale at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon and retailers worldwide. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. Email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com