Whenever and wherever we face relational conflict, someone is always to blame. But it is unlikely that someone is you or me. It is usually someone else. It is the other person. How could it be you? How could it be me? But someone is responsible for the conflict, and that is our focus for today.
Last week we talked about the first of Four Decisions That Pave the Way Toward Reconciliation. Do you remember what it was?
I must decide to get back to, not get back at the other person
Decision #1 – I must decide to get back to, not get back at the other person. If your goal is to get back to that other person, rather than get back at them, one of the best ways to do that is…
I accept my personal RESPONSIBILITY for the relationship
Decision #2 – I accept my personal RESPONSIBILITY for the relationship. You must accept your personal responsibility for the condition of the relationship now.
As we have said, all of us are better at starting or maintaining relationships than we are a fixing them when they are broken. When the relationship is fractured, ruptured, or broken, we typically employ ineffective methods to fix, heal, or repair the relationship.
We have talked about the four…Tactics we use to get people to see things our way:
Convince – is where we share a lot of information in an attempt to win them over.
Convict – is where we implement a little shame, guilt, and manipulation.
Coerce – is where we try to force the issue.
Control – is what happens when we attempt to leverage our power.
None of these tactics work, on us, or anybody else, at least not for long. Even though these approaches are very different, they are similar, in that they usually make things worse. Anybody want to testify? 😊 We wanted to make things better. We gave it our best shot. But that just backfired and made things even worse. Which just heightens the level of our frustration. That is when we realize that what we’re doing isn’t working and we start making excuses.
Excuse #1 – I don’t CARE. When you hear yourself say or think, “I don’t care”, you need to pay attention to that. This can be so dangerous and destructive to the future of the relationship. That’s because we often say, “I don’t care” about things we care about deeply. What we may be saying, when we say, “I don’t care”, is that “I do care, but I am powerless to do anything about what I care about.” I wish I could do something to make things better, but I know how, or I can’t.
That is why we say, “I don’t care.”
I have heard that excuse most often regarding father/son relationships. You may try to convince yourself or others that you don’t care. You may even believe you don’t care, but the truth is you do care. It is your dad, or your mom, or your sibling, or whoever.
But you feel powerless to do anything about the situation. Nothing you have tried in the past has worked. So, instead of admitting you can’t fix it, you find yourself making excuses and saying things like, “I just don’t care.”
This is such an unhealthy approach because when we turn our back on any relationship that we really do care about, and try to convince ourselves, or others, that we don’t care, then we end up carrying all the baggage, frustration, anger, and emotion from that relationship into other relationships. And that causes relational conflict in other relationships that you can’t seem to resolve because you really don’t understand what is fueling that conflict.
You really don’t leave it behind. You just drag it along into the future and it is left unresolved. You can sweep it under the rug for a while, but that won’t work for long.
It has a way of bubbling to the surface someplace. To try to turn your back and say, “I don’t care” is often a way to set yourself up for history to repeat itself. Excuse #1 – I don’t care.
Excuse #2 – I already TRIED. This excuse implies I am done. I have tried. I have done my part. I am out. It is up to them now. We are waiting on someone else to fix it.
Remember, the goal in reassembling a relationship is no regrets. You can’t be responsible to reconcile a relationship on your own because you don’t have all the parts.
That is why we have said that the goal is to be able to come to the end of the day and know that you have no regrets for how you have handled your part of the relationship. Or taken to the extreme, to get to the end of your life (or their life) and have no regrets about your part in the relationship. Maybe it never worked out, or it never got to where you would have hoped it would get to, but you did your part, and you have no regrets.
Folding your arms and saying, “I already tried”, is just another form of saying, “I quit.” It is not leaning into the relationship. At its best, it is standing still. And at its worst, it is pulling away. The goal is to keep the door open, which is both an attitude and an action. It is also a process.
The first of four decisions you must make to reconcile with another person is to get back to the other person, not get back at them. No matter whose fault it was, and no matter how bad it is, I will do everything I can to get back to them, not get back at them. I am not punishing. I am pursing. That eliminates Excuse #1, which says, “I don’t care”, and Excuse #2, which says, “I already tried.”
Excuse #3 – It wasn’t my FAULT. This is where we always want to take it.
It is never my fault. It is always someone else’s fault. How could it be my fault? Whether it was or wasn’t your fault, is really beside the point. For Christ followers, we must be willing to acknowledge the fact that reassembly always begins with us.
If I asked, who is the healthiest and most mature person in the relationship, we would all say, “that’s me!” So, if you really are the healthiest, and most mature person in the relationship, shouldn’t you make the first move? Or another way to say it…If you are the adult…If you are the parent…If you are a Christian…
God made the first move toward us. For God so love the world…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not so that He could get back at us, but so that, He could get back to us, or better said, so that He could get us back to Him. He invites us to do the same for the people around us. Don’t use the other person’s behavior as an excuse to cross your arms and check out.
One day Jesus asked an unusual question. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3 (NIV) We’re all so good at seeing the speck in someone else’s eye. Why do you think we are so focused on what they did? We can’t do anything about what they did anyway. Why don’t we pay any attention to what we did, which we can do something about?
Jesus knows what you did, and He knows what they did, and He knows all the circumstances surrounding what happened. Still, He said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
In our minds…1) What THEY DID is not a speck of sawdust. He walked out. She said this. He did that. That is not a speck. This is a big deal. What they did is not a speck of sawdust, Jesus.
2) I don’t have a PLANK in my own eye. I am not perfect. But this isn’t my fault. We tend to act like Jesus got it backwards. Jesus, I think they are the ones with the plank, and I am the one with the speck. I was there when it happened. I get it. I have the right perspective. In fact, I may be the only one with the proper perspective. It wasn’t my fault. It is never my fault.
How could it be my fault? I am the one who is emotionally healthy and the most mature. If they ever begin to see it as clearly as I do, I’ll be right here. I am waiting. I am ready. I am listening. It wasn’t my fault.
Jesus went on to ask another question…“How can you say to your brother, ‘Permit me to get the speck out of your eye…’” – Matthew 7:4a (NIV) Jesus is saying, how can you say to someone else, “let me fix you” when you are just as broken?
How can we be sure we are seeing clearly to fix somebody else? Every time we tell the story about what happened, it always comes out the same way. I was there. I know what happened. I was the victim. I was the offended. They are the ones with the problem. It can’t be me. Take my word for it.
Honestly, isn’t that how we all think? Unfortunately, we often don’t see as clearly as we think we do. And truth be told, we have not arrived. We may have more work to do personally. Or better said, God may have more work to do in us, and on us, as He seeks to refine in us, the image of His Son. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Permit me to get the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plan in your own eye?’” – Matthew 7:4 (NIV)
Then Jesus said something that sounds very harsh. I am sure it must have been a little awkward and uncomfortable to hear if you were there in person. “You hypocrite…” – Matthew 7:5a (NIV) Why would Jesus say something that seems so harsh? He said it because it is hypocritical to talk about all their issues, while I still have so many issues of my own to work out. It is like Jesus is saying, maybe you should focus on your issues and let them focus on their issues.
Some might say it is about minding your own business. To be honest, this isn’t about minding your own business as much as it is about starting with your own business. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye…” – Matthew 7:5a (NIV) Sometimes, we get things out of order, don’t we? FIRST – get the plank out of your own eye. Do that before you try to fix the other person. Start with the plank not the speck, and understand it is mine not theirs. Before you get to them, Jesus says, you need to start with you.
Throughout this series, I have been asking you to allow the Lord to examine your heart. Are you willing to ask the Lord where you may be at fault? This isn’t easy. It takes a higher level of spiritual maturity to be able to sense what the Lord may be saying to you when it comes to matters like these.
Be willing to consider what you could have said or done that contributed to the problem. Think about how you could have handled things differently. Again, the only one I can do anything about is me. Ask the Lord to turn His searchlight on your soul and then be open to what the Spirit of God may reveal about your part in things.
That may not do anything to improve your relationships with the other person, but I believe it will have a positive impact on your relationship with your Heavenly Father. And if you are humble enough, and open enough, and willing enough to listen to what Jesus has to say, He makes us this promise…“…then you will see clearly…” – Matthew 7:5b (NIV) That just makes sense. Whenever you get whatever it is that is in your eye out, you will be able to see clearly.
Haven’t we all had those moments where we thought we were seeing clearly. We thought we knew everything there was to know. Then more information becomes available, and we realize we weren’t seeing as clearly as we thought. But we can be so confident and so convinced at times.
We can be reasonably certain that we never see things as clearly as we think when our primary concern is about what is in somebody else’s eye. That is what keeps them from seeing clearly. And according to Jesus, that is clearly not our concern. Do what you can to remove the plank from your own eye, then you will see clearly.
But notice there is no period here. Because following Jesus is never about me, and it is never about you. Following Jesus never stops with me being a better person for me. What Jesus wants to do in you and in me is always a means to an end, and the end is always about relationships.
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5 (NIV)
Seeing clearly has a purpose. When you see clearly you are in a much better position to be able to help remove the speck from someone else’s eye. Recognizing and removing the plank or the log in my own eye, puts me in a better position, not to get back at you, but to get back to you.
If there is something about me, that is an obstacle to us, I want to identify and own it, don’t you? This is not easy, but it is right. Who can argue with it? But we do argue with it, because all of us have a little thread of self-righteousness running through us.
Do you know how much Jesus hates self-righteousness? Do you remember how he interacted with the Pharisees and religious leaders, and teacher of the law? They were so self-righteous. They were so sure of themselves. They were focused on the speck in everybody else’s eyes, that they couldn’t begin to see the plank in their own eye. It is like they had logs in both eyes.
SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS stands in the way of reconciliation
SELF-AWARENESS paves the way to reconciliation
Restoring broken relationships requires an incredible amount of self-awareness. That is why we pray…”Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) Lord, I am not aware of anything that is wrong in me, but if there is anything, I am open, I am willing, I want you to reveal it to me.
For the spiritually mature, I not only want to identify the problem in me, I want to own it, and I want to deal with it. Or better said, I will allow Him to deal with it, so that, I can become a little more like Jesus, and a little less like me. Fixing broken relationships requires four decisions…1) I will get back to, not get back at. 2) I will take responsibility for me.
Owning my part of the blame clearly depends on me. Few people seem to do it.
Reconciliation really starts when I LOOK IN THE MIRROR
The uglier it was, the harder it is to take your eyes off them to look in the mirror. Would you be willing to PRAY – Lord, is there something I need to OWN? That question, and that prayer, may be the beginning of freedom for you. And it begins with doing something we hope and pray the other person will do.
I suspect many of us are thinking of someone else who needs to hear this message.
We know someone else who needs to do what I am talking about. Let’s be honest. What is that? It is often self-righteousness. If we aren’t willing to do what we are convinced they should do, then that make us hypocrites. Jesus was right!
When you discover your part of the problem, you may need to write a letter, or send an email, or set up a meeting, or whatever. But, as a follower of Jesus, as someone who is spiritually mature, you have to go first. And if you go first, your humility may unlock something in that other person that they have not been able to figure out how to unlock on their own.
HUMILITY draws people, but SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS pushes them away
Your humility may be the thing that gives them just enough emotional margin to acknowledge and confess their part of the problem. I am convinced that this is what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Am I saying I have always gotten it right? Absolutely not! But I have been, and I am working on it right now. As I get older, the more aware I am of all that God has yet to do in me, the less aware I am, and the less consumed I am, with what I think He still has left to do in the people around me. That is not up to me. It is not my problem. And I am finding is can also allow me to have a deeper level of grace for the people around me.
If we are really open to allowing the Lord to speak to us, I have a feeling that many of us might discover that the speck in our own eye was quite a bit bigger than we could have ever imagined. And that plank that you were sure was in their eye, might not have been quite as big as you thought. Imagine what could happen in your family, in that relationship, at your work, in our nation, and even in our world, if we could learn to do this.
What if we stopped all our finger pointing and took an honest look in the mirror? That person in the mirror is the only person I can do anything about anyway. This can be so awkward, so emotional, so complicated, and yet, it is so important Reconciling relationships. We think it depends more on them, but WHAT IF it depends more on us than we ever wanted to admit?
Let’s ask God to help us.