Even the best of friendships can break. But, broken relationships need not stay that way. They can be mended. If one has car trouble they don’t junk the car. Or if one’s roof leaks they don’t abandon the house. Likewise, if one experiences cracks in a relationship they don’t toss it aside. Relationships are valuable. Here are five steps to restoring and reconciling broken relationships.
1. Take the initiative in repairing the damage. Cracked relationships are never mended accidentally. They require purposeful and intentional action. The relationship is easier to mend when the offender apologizes to the offended. But, what if the offender does not admit their wrong? What then? Even the offended is to take the initiative in seeking reconciliation (see Matthew 18:15). Mathematics teaches us that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Likewise, in reconciling relationships the shortest distance between two people is a straight line. A straight line like “I was wrong;” or “I haven’t been honest with you;” or “Your actions hurt me;” or “I love you too much to allow our relationship to crumble.”
2. Practice humility. Humility puts one in a position for the reconciliation process to occur. A price has to be paid for reconciliation and that price is commonly called “Swallowing your pride,” “burying the hatchet,” or “humbling yourself.” Every action of reconciliation requires that someone in the hurting relationship, preferably both parties, admit their fault and their desire to repair the damage. A haughty spirit that takes the form of pride or stubbornness, or bitterness, or jealousy keeps relationships from being mended. These destructive emotions keep our necks stiff and our backs straight, a posture that has trouble bending to reach out to the hurting and wounded. To make matters worse this haughty spirit is like a dandelion. Its root goes deep; only a little left behind sprouts again. Its seed lodge in the tiniest cracks. Its danger is that it feeds on goodness. To restore broken relationships, keep pride from sprouting in your heart. Instead, practice humility.
3. Be vulnerable. Restoring broken relationships requires vulnerability. And whenever we are vulnerable we stand the chance of having our hearts broken, again. People will let us down, disappoint us, trample our emotions. It would be easier to crawl into a shell and live in isolation. We would be safe from the pain and hurt of relationships, but shut out from all humanity. To reconcile relationships a stripping away the veneer of superficiality needs to occur. We must open up ourselves. Yes, we will be hurt. Yes, at times it will be painful. But, vulnerability is neither passive nor indifferent. It goes the second mile and even the third and fourth if needed. It’s essential for mending broken relationships.
4. Forgive. Forgiveness is not optional in reconciling a broken relationship. Forgiveness involves letting go. It is not just a probation, but a pardon. Forgiveness means that we do not require any money, words, or actions as payment. It means that there will be no continuing resentment or bitterness.
5. Commit to the process. Reconciliation is more of a process than an event. To truly regain the relationship, we must understand that a commitment to time and continued repair work is a must. While it would be nice to believe that one action would erase all memories of past hurt, we know that it just does not happen that way. Most offenses did not happen as a solo event, so most reconciliations will not occur through a one-time meeting.
In the end, remember that we have invested too heavily in relationships to simply abandon them or toss them aside like an old piece of furniture when they break. These relationships are valuable. They can be mended. They are worth the effort. By taking these steps we can begin the process of reconciliation.
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