Well, that was hurtful.
Those words, and how she said them. Didn't she think how they would sound coming out? Didn't she care that they could cause me to feel pain? Have I caused her pain too? How do we move beyond this? Can there be a "beyond" this?
Do these words, these questions, sound familiar? Have you experienced an offense coming from the most surprising of sources and need some help to navigate through? Because I have been there and it's taken quite some time to understand the next step.
To really grasp that when offenses come, we should decide the outcome before ever confronting the issue.
Think of that, if you will, for a moment. Because it is the most important part of it all. It is within our power to decide to what end we will take an issue, before taking any steps further in battling that issue. Our decision. This may be new territory for you, but I am praying that you will take this adventure with me. This uncomfortable, long-suffering, fight against everything you want to do, adventure.
It isn't a new fight, but it will be a new strategy. One you will either need right now, or in the near future.
So choose this. Please, choose this. Because if you don't it will take so much more from you than you ever though possible. Your futures, your friendships, your peace of mind is worth more than this. Don't let whatever happened to you, change you. Instead, confront the issue how Christ requires of us- which I will be honest, is way harder to do than read.
I am sure you already know that, because I already know that, but here it is... three steps to resolving (not repeating) offenses...
Step One: Identify your Offense
Notice that I didn't say, identify the source. If I had mentioned the source then many of us would have written down the name of our offender and made the entire thing about them. But it isn't about them. It is about the offense (whether words or actions) that have caused you great pain. And I am not going to pretend this part is easy, because the Lord knows I have put a name in the spot time and time again. I have attached all of my hurt to a person and it has caused a great division within my relationships, one that has lasted many years in some cases, because it isn't a natural response to separate the two.
But we aren't talking about what's natural for us, because what's natural has caused even more hurt and pain.
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So write it down. I'll go first... Offense: Gossip
Hearing "through the grape vine" that someone is upset with you, or doesn't believe in you, is one of the most painful things I have had to walk through. I would rather hear it one on one so that way I would have the opportunity to apologize or acknowledge their words. When it comes from a different source, regurgitated through their interpretation of what was said, it feels like an act of betrayal.
Step Two: Identify your Outcome
This is the step that many overlook, purposefully or naively, and head straight for Step Three. Don't do that. You will sabotage yourself if you skip this part. Deciding your outcome ahead of time will make all the difference.
A few things to note in this step is that feelings have no bearing here. Yes, your feelings are real. Yes, they are nine times out of ten justified.
But our feelings should never have a say in our decisions.
Why? Because feelings change! Feelings are terribly unstable, they are not something we can rely upon. They are as fickle as are toddlers deciding on what they want to eat for breakfast (at least in this house). So put feelings aside and look for truth to determine your outcome.
Romans 12:17-18 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Matthew 6:11-15 Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Determine to do what is right, ahead of time. Your outcome should be my outcome: Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
The outcome should be healing in your relationship so that you can walk away from this situation with greater peace and a renewed oneness. The outcome should be restoration. Choose this outcome, friends.
Step Three: Stay Focused on your Outcome... not your Offense
Once you have identified the offense and determined your outcome, it is time to confront the issue at hand. I HATE THIS PART. Written in all caps to confirm just how much this is the absolute worst thing to ever happen to an introverted, sometimes people-pleasing, person such as myself. But, it has to happen.
If my outcome is reconciliation and unity (which I once again assure you it should be) then there has to be a moment of uncomfortable, sometimes emotional, confrontation regarding the offense. As much as I wish things could be solved without facing them and talking about them - they don't. *Take a deep breath, you can do this.*
So how do you confront the offense? By keeping the outcome in mind! Your outcome is to be restored so anything that comes from your mouth should be words seeking restoration. Your heart should be one ready to offer forgiveness and accept any personal responsibility in the matter.
Focus on being "restored" not "right".
Because being "right" means that you will do whatever is necessary to whatever end to make your point. And because being "right" means that you have already decided that this is a win-lose conversation and confrontation should never be win-lose. Confrontation should be win-win.
Speak to the person through which the offense came and measure your conversation with these guidelines found in scripture...
Proverbs 17:9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Be patient, kind, humble, respectful, understanding, calm, forgiving, and hopeful.
I wish that I could say that who you are confronting will have the same goal, but they might not. In fact, they probably won't. They haven't read great blogs talking about offense and confrontation like you have (sarcasm noted) but we don't base our responses off of someone else's reactions. If they say something hurtful, love them. If they wish to never see you again, forgive them. If they refuse to accept responsibility, pray for them.
We are just as fallible as those we find fault in.
Hard conversations need to happen in order for peace and unity to thrive. So set your eyes on the goal and then set yourself up for success with how you confront the issue... Pick a safe place to talk, determine if how you want to respond is based on emotion or desired outcome, judge all of your words through the lens of if it benefits or hinders healing, and remind yourself often that the end result will be worth all of the uncomfortable frustration you are feeling (like ripping off a bandaid - getting it over with is better than dragging it out for years to come).
You may hate me now for asking you to do this, but you will thank me later. Trust me, and go have that hard talk.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons [and daughters] of God.