Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get Over It

John Donne said that "no man is an island." We all live in community; our lives brush up against others on a daily basis. Even the most introverted among us impacts a group of people, however small. For that reason alone, maintaining healthy relationships is a life skill that none can do without. And perhaps the greatest enemy of relationship is a little thing called offense.

An offense is that thing, be it large or small, that somehow finds its way between people and, unless dealt with, severs whatever bond once existed. I've seen it happen so often that, at times, it becomes almost nauseating. I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. So, how can we avoid being a casualty to this thing called offense? 

Be Honest With Yourself 
One of the best ways to keep relationships intact is to give up on the illusion of your own perfection. You and I have made mistakes - plenty of them. That fact in itself should help us to extend a little more grace to others. There are days when I have not felt well and have said things I shouldn't have. Without the grace of others, I could have, and likely have, done damage to relationships. There are other times when I, in my stress or fatigue, have taken someone else's words or behavior and willfully took offense, when I knew that was not their intention. These actions are my responsibility; the fault lies with no-one else.

Remember That People Are Just People 
We tend to expect a lot more from others than we do from ourselves. We tend to judge others quickly for what they do or say yet we judge ourselves by our intentions. There is a lot of wisdom in Jesus' words when He said to "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Take a moment and think about what that person may have gone through already, what battle they may be facing. We are all human, subject to illness, fatigue, financial problems, work issues, family challenges, etc... You are not the only one with a sad story.

Practice Good Will
This is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. It has saved me a mountain of grief and kept me from walking away from people I love. Good will is very simply believing the best about a person until being proven otherwise. This works in marriage and family life, workplace relationships and friendships. It's a conscious choice. Here's how it works in real life. Let's say I'm speaking with someone and they say something that could very easily be taken the wrong way.

When I have good will, I assume that either I've heard them wrong or they've said something in a way they didn't intend. (And you know we've all done this). I then give them an opportunity to restate that thought. This usually results in a good result because they never intended to hurt me in the first place. If it's still offensive, I can tell them so and ask them what is going on that they would say that. I have found this almost always leads to an apology or a necessary conversation to resolve an issue.

On rare occasions, the person has real issues and is willfully causing damage. Notice what Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."The implication here is that sometimes it's just not possible. It's hard to hug a porcupine, you get hurt every time. Sometimes avoidance is necessary.

Admit When You Are Wrong
When we admit our mistakes it gives others permission and courage to admit theirs. I know people who make it a policy never to admit they are wrong. I don't know who they are trying to fool. They don't even look like Jesus! When we admit our mistakes we become more likeable and more approachable, especially as leaders. Far from being a sign of weakness, I believe it's a sign of strength. Shock your wife and children, apologize! It will do you all a world of good.

Submit Your Relationships To God
This may be a new idea to some of you but it sure has worked for me. Jesus spoke so much about relationships that we know that it matters to God. His desire is that we love each other, in fact, the New Testament is full of the "one anothers" - love one another, forgive one another, be kind to one another, encourage one another, etc... It also says to pray one for another. I have found that it is very difficult to stay angry with someone when I'm praying for them. As a Christian, if you can't pray for someone, you have major issues. Deal with them.

Build Bridges Instead of Walls
We are always responsible for our own behavior. We might be dealing with a difficult person, but that doesn't give us permission to act childishly in response. Another Biblical truth is this: "a soft answer turns away wrath." While, obviously proverbial, I have found this to be true in most cases. It takes two to fight, and if you don't take offense you may actually win a friend. Who has offended you? Extend a hand. Bake a pie. Buy a coffee or simply say "hello." One final piece of advice: when you're having relationship issues with someone, don't post it on Facebook!

Related Articles:  
Made For Relationship
Book Review: "The Me I Want To Be"
Are You a People Person?
Repacking the baggage of our lives
How to Choose to Not Be Offended


No comments: