By Dr. Harold Sala
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21
Conflicts don’t destroy relationships. It’s the refusal to resolve a conflict that eventually causes a relationship to become strained, then broken. Saying with sincerity and feeling, “I’m sorry; forgive me,” can turn a conflict into a learning experience and put a bad situation behind you as you find solid footing and move on, but those words are difficult at best and impossible at worst for many people.
Why should it be so difficult? Some individuals are the blame-fixers. No matter who is at fault, it is never that person. Instead of acknowledging that there was a misunderstanding and putting it behind, the blame-fixer has to exonerate himself and put the entire responsibility for the problem on the other person. So his time and energy is spent like a prosecuting attorney in building a case against the other person.
This becomes a “no-win” situation. Rarely is a misunderstanding entirely one-sided. Does it matter who said what, or who did what that caused the first volley to be fired? The reality is the longer you take verbal swipes at the other, the more damage is going to be done.
Other individuals have grown up in homes where never, under any set of circumstances, would an apology be rendered or forgiveness extended. When disagreements took place, after verbal sparring, the issue was pushed aside, but not dealt with, and not resolved. Then in the future when something happened, all of the details of previous encounters were summoned to be used as fuel for the fire. “I suppose you’re lying just like you did when….” goes the rhetoric, opening a new wound.
When an individual receives a wound, some bleeding allows the wound to be cleansed, but then the flow of blood has to be stanched, or else a wound can be fatal. For healing to take place, the wound needs to be disinfected, then covered so it isn’t irritated or bruised any further. So is it in allowing emotional healing. Once you have dealt with a situation, don’t keep opening your wound to re-examine the thing. Don’t take verbal jabs at the emotional wound your adversary has sustained, either.
Let healing take place. Remember, confession and forgiveness are God’s remedies to broken relationships. Confession cleanses a wound while forgiveness brings healing and restoration.
Eventually a wound heals, and when it does, you take off the bandage. It’s finished, right? But often individuals never “take off the bandage” when they are wounded emotionally. Women continue to tell their friends about a husband’s indiscretion or failure. People go from pastor to pastor, counselor to counselor, church to church bearing their grievances and past wounds, marching proudly with emotional bandages which they will never quite remove.
No matter the circumstances that surrounded you when you were growing up, you can learn to handle conflict and to resolve issues which threaten to destroy your marriage, your friendship, your relationship with another person. A first aid book says, “Only gentle pressure should be applied to stanch the flow of blood in an open wound.”
“I really wish that my brother and his family were coming to my son’s wedding,” a man told a friend. “Why aren’t they coming?” he asked. “Oh,” he explained, “we have not spoken to each other for years.” “How come?” followed the explanation. The man paused and said, “You know, it’s been so long, I don’t even know what the issue was. We stopped talking to each other and grew apart!”
What a price to pay for something that could be resolved by simply saying, “I value our relationship too much to have it affected by disagreement. I’m sorry; forgive me.” Indeed.
Resource reading: Matthew 18:15-19.