So you’ve just had a fuss with a close friend or family member. A conversation that starts as a calm discussion turns into an angry quarrel. A phone call that begins like an easy chat quickly spirals out of control. Maybe what you said seemed right in the moment, even necessary, but what can you do when the disagreement has put a wedge in your relationship? How can you tear down the newly built walls and begin to mend the fences?
Relationships can be hard sometimes. And the longer we are in a relationship with someone, the more potential there is for the occasional misunderstanding. If you are like me, you don’t like to be at odds with anyone, especially someone you love like a family member or close friend. But unfortunately we won’t always be on the same page with those we care about.
One would hope that as we know each other better (family or friend), that we would begin to recognize each other’s unique perspectives and the underlying reasons for the things we say or do. In any dispute that arises, even though we may not agree with each other’s position, hopefully an effort is made to understand the other individual’s point of view.
Even the closest relationships (i.e. husband and wife, adult siblings, parent and adult child) will have differing perspectives from time to time. We each want grace to be extended to us and the benefit of the doubt to be given. We want the person we have a disagreement with to believe that any offense was unintended, and not to make assumptions about ulterior motives or inappropriate reasons for doing/saying what we did.
The idiom “mend the fences” actually means “rebuilding of previously good relationships.” How can we best resolve our differences in a way that will reopen the door to positive communication?
1. Recognize that it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong.
Conflicts are not a game to win or lose. If relationships are damaged, everyone loses. And if we’re “in it to win it” then we are operating from a selfish and prideful heart. We need to examine our part in the conflict and ask God to humble our hearts.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:2,23
2. Make every effort to see things from their perspective.
Listen to what they say, without becoming defensive. We don’t have to see things the same way in order to get along. We can ask God to show us where we need to adjust our own thinking.
How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Matthew 7:4
3. Go to the person and offer a sincere apology.
Acknowledge how we offended the other person. Say, “I’m sorry for…”, instead of “I’m sorry if…”. If we aren’t sure of our part in the conflict, ask the person. I’m sure they are more than willing to let us know! No one else can make us say something hurtful or behave a certain way. That is a choice we make. We should take full responsibility for our own behavior.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
4. Forgive them for their part in the conflict.
The individual may not apologize in return or they may even deny that they share in the cause of the dispute. It doesn’t matter, we are called to forgive them anyway.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13
5. Work together to resolve any unsettled issues that remain.
By doing this, we begin to feel that we are on the same side again and we will be able to navigate future conflicts better when they arise.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
If your connection with a loved one has been lost, keep trying to mend that fence. If your relationship is restored, you both will have learned valuable lessons about yourselves and each other. Whatever happens, keep praying for your relationship. I think you will see God’s blessings for your efforts.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:1,6