Recently, I saw someone say something rather unkind to someone. The person being spoken to had every opportunity to get offended or defensive, but they just laughed and let it roll right off their back. The humility in that response was also played out in the next hours and days, never affecting the relationship.
Lord, I want to be like that.
How often do we allow harsh words, trivial disagreements, or gossip to destroy our relationships? How often do we let really big disagreements destroy them?
If we are a Christian, this just should not be.
We all know the scriptures, don’t we? We are to forgive others (Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 17:3; Colossians 3:13, etc) What we sometimes forget is that this isn’t just the big, ghastly things that are obvious.
This is about the sarcastic remark spoken to you by a family member.
This is about the harsh words lashed out after you made a mistake.
This is about the time that friend embarrassed you in front of everyone.
I believe grudge-holding is one of the worst and most accepted sins in the church today. For some reason, Christians seem to brush this sin aside.
Oh, many pretend they are okay but they start distancing themselves. Suddenly, they aren’t calling or texting that friend anymore. They are avoiding a family member. The relationship has changed, no matter what they say about forgiving that person with their mouth.
I think the current events have me thinking about this a bit more. There’s so much division. The opinions held by people are at extreme odds. Disagreements and ugly arguments are a regular part of social media these days. They may even be part of your own family or circle of friends.
And then there is the uncertainty. I mean we always knew way down deep inside that life can change in a second. If you’ve lost someone you love, you know this. But somehow, with everything up in the air and the future a deep, unsettled fog around us, it reminds us of what’s really important.
And our relationships rank pretty high up on the list of what’s important.
So what destroys them? Why do we let a thoughtless word or sarcastic comment get to us? Why do we struggle so to forgive?
I believe it can be summed up in one word: PRIDE.
Pride is deadly. The longer I live, the more deadly I realize it is. It makes us prickly and quick to defend ourselves. It is the root of all grudge-holding and of an unforgiving spirit.
The other evening, my family brought up something rather embarrassing about me in front of someone I didn’t know very well.
My normal reaction would be to defend myself and get a bit blustery about it. But at that moment, God gave me the strength to respond in the right way. I laughed with them and admitted my fault in what they were discussing.
A bit later, my husband commented on how well I had handled that moment.
You see, I don’t usually respond so well. It felt unnatural to do so. But, afterwards, I knew in my heart I had done the right thing.
Not only had I cast my pride aside, but I had set a good example for my family.
I don’t hold myself up as any icon of humility. This is abnormal for me. I am not saying “look at me”. I’m saying this is what happened one time and it was good. Why don’t I do it more often?? Why can’t I get over myself?
Look, we all have our good moments and bad moments, right? Our hope is that our good moments grow and our bad moments diminish. But sometimes we just need to examine our lives. Where are we at? How are we changing for the better? Are we looking more like Christ?
And one area that we often skip in our examinations is this area of relationships. Am I easily offended? Do I hold grudges? Do I get defensive? Can I laugh at myself?
So how do we build stronger relationships?
If being easily offended and pride and holding grudges and not forgiving destroys them then we can assume that the opposite builds them.
1. Let things roll. When someone says something hurtful, we must choose to just let it roll. Right off our backs and far away. We should ask the Lord to help us forget it and move on.
2. Be humble. A big part of humility is thinking of others. It is taking the focus off of ourselves (and our wounded pride) and thinking of others. We should offer lots of grace and cast that ugly pride aside. This is often much easier said than done!
3. Listen carefully to words spoken and then respond with love. Instead of letting ourselves get so defensive and offended, why not actually listen to see if there is a nugget of truth in the words being spoken? Perhaps God is using that person to show us an area in which we need to grow? We should listen instead of lash out. Listen and then respond with love.
4. Learn to laugh at ourselves. Life is just too short to get all uptight and offended about the small stuff. If someone tells an embarrassing story, we may as well just laugh along with them. After all, it was funny! I have so many of these. So does my mom. I’ve learned from her well. She just laughs along and sets the greatest example of not taking herself too seriously. I thank her for teaching me that.
5. Agree to disagree. We aren’t going to agree with everyone. We don’t have to prove we are right. Our job is to point people to the Word and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and convincing. When we remember this, it makes it so much easier to step back after we’ve made our argument and just walk away.
6. Pray for a humble and forgiving spirit. Ask the Lord to fill you with humility. Ask Him to help you forgive not only big things but the little things, too, that may eat at you. He is so faithful and He will help you!
If you are like me, you are still working on these. And may we be very intentional in our efforts. May this be something at the forefront of our minds so that we don’t allow grudges or a defensive spirit to worm their way into our lives.
Because I think we can all agree: Life is just too short and relationships are far too precious for this.