Full Circle Relationships~
I hate conflict. I’ve always hated conflict. In fact, I believe I spent many of my “young adult” years avoiding conflict as much as possible, especially in my college years, and early in my role as a Pastor’s wife. Yet conflict is often inevitable. For me, the problem with being IN a conflict was that I felt I needed to fix the relationship as quickly as possible. My nature is to want to be friends and friendly with others to the best of my ability; conflict simply makes me anxious and sad.
Making peace, however, is not always resolving the conflict. Sweeping challenges under a rug is not helpful in sustaining long-term quality relationships. Nevertheless, I have been learning over the past 10 years that if I do what I can to bring resolve, even letting the relationship go for a season, it often comes around “full circle” where resolve and understanding are uniquely applied anew. I have been surprised by this many, many times. Watching this take place in my life both takes me by surprise and, frankly, makes me very happy.
I’ve gained a few insights as I’ve pondered all of this and I want to share just a few with you.
- In a conflict, especially in the heat of it, don’t say everything you are thinking. Emotions are interesting and can cause us to respond so defensively or angrily that what we say, in the moment, can cause greater harm than the conflict itself. The example of opening a feather pillow, letting the feathers fly out, and then trying to put them all back inside the pillow is a good picture of how the things we say can be impossible to retract. In a conflict it is better to cautious of what we say if we desire the relationship to have resolve one day.
- Be willing to let things go. In many of the full circle relationships I have experienced I have not been “justified” nor have the other parties necessarily apologized. When I look over all the goodness that has surrounded my life, all the blessings…it just doesn’t seem right for me to hang on to disagreements, necessary endings, or misunderstandings. I want to move on, beyond the conflict and be ready to forgive. Life is too short to harbor anger and resentment. Anger changes me; it doesn’t make me the best version of myself!
- Learn from the conflict. What was my part? What could I have done better? What should I have avoided? How can I grow from this challenge? My dad used to use the statement about finding a “pony in the poop”! J There is always something to gain from our challenges if we are willing to really dig for it! And, there are always two sides to a relational challenge.
- Use the conflict to grow in grace. Conflicts are real, and sometimes, relational challenges can cause really deep hurts; real scars. And yet as I look at the grace I have been given over and over and over again; unmerited favor, I am challenged to practice grace with those around me. Some situations require more time on my knees but at the end of the day bitterness never wins.
- It’s okay to have boundaries in a challenging relationship. There are times when a relationship comes full circle and there is peace where there has been conflict. But~ the relationship may require more caution, even good boundaries in the days forward. Boundaries can be wise if they are applied with kindness and understanding. I have relationships that I know can be toxic; in those instances I will limit the amount of time I spend in connection with them.
- Last of all~ never slam the door shut on a relationship. Honestly, life can be surprising. People Change. Time changes people. Challenges bring fresh understanding. We NEVER know what can and will happen in a relationship; keep the possibilities in front of you.
Reconciliation is at the very heart of God; starting with our reconciliation with Him. His heart is that His people would walk together in peace and understanding. However, this can prove to be a real challenge as we do life with others. In families, in the workplace, in the church, even in the community; conflict can happen. Hopefully you will see relational challenges in your life come full circle in the days ahead as you practice caution with your words, grace and forgiveness, and are willing to own your part! Dr. Phil always says “This situation needs a hero; will it be you?”