Months ago I came across this video (ends at 3:53) that made me change the way I think about relationships with people.
Let me preface that I know there are people who take issue with Lysa TerKeurst’s associations with certain well known religious figures. This isn’t an endorsement of her or them on a broad theological level. I genuinely don’t know enough about her or her personal beliefs to have an opinion one way or another, and my personal opinion about her associations are irrelevant to this topic.
WIth that said, no matter what you know or believe about her, this video speaks truth that we need to pay attention to. Relationships are fragile. Tiny unintended offenses can completely destroy what seemed like solid relationships. One gash after another can wear down the strength of longtime bonds, without people even knowing they were involved in a war.
Strangers become enemies without a word ever being spoken. How does this happen? We assign motive to people’s actions and have full blown disagreements with them without opening our mouths to get clarification and fact.
I know I have done this countless times with my husband and children. I remember once getting mad at my husband and I carried it to bed. He laid next to me completely unaware of the argument I was having in my head with him. He was dead to the world and by 4am I was planning our divorce.
I’ve also trained my children to do this with one another. I hate hearing them express an offense and following up with why the person did it, with no proof. Unfortunately, they do it because they’ve heard me do it time and again. I’ve tried to be more intentionally aware of engaging in this bad habit, but the damage has been done. I have to focus on retraining my children to critically think through their emotional responses and interactions.
I’ve had people assume I hate them, not because I’ve said anything to them indicating so, or even said anything to them at all, sometimes. I’m known for having acute RBF flare ups. (If you don’t know what RBF is, Google it.) I tend to need to be a hyper focused person, because my brain will squirrel quickly and I will forget what path I’m supposed to be on. Unfortunately, as a result of that, I often ignore people and make mean faces. I don’t do this on purpose; it’s just a symptom of my circumstance. My sole thought is staying on task, typically unaware of others even being around me. People have told me or my kids that they thought I hated them, they thought I was mean, or that I seemed unapproachable. Others who’ve taken the time to get to know me can attest that’s not the case. Unintended moments create a perception in people’s minds and can destroy relationships that haven’t even started or tear down ones that would be otherwise fine.
It’s okay to ask questions. A simple “Are you okay?” would likely result in finding out that someone’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s okay to go to someone to express your concerns or get clarification. Be willing to say “Hey, I wasn’t comfortable with you doing…” or “Can you explain why you…”
Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMP)
Rather than having mental arguments let’s try having actual discussions. I’m currently in the process of repairing a longtime friendship because of years of letting issues chip away at the relationship. She identified what some of her issues have been with me and I identified what some of my issues have been with her, but the real issue is that we never talked about it. We’ve both had a series of disagreements with one another mentally and by the time it came to the surface verbally it was too late. The damage was explosive and not something easily mended over coffee. I know for a fact she assigned motives to my actions that were not my actual motives and If I had to bet, I would say I haven’t exactly nailed it on assessing her true motives either.
Unfortunately this has also been applied in our cultural framework. We assign motive to actions simply based on skin, religion, political affiliation, and gender. We don’t allow people to be individuals. We automatically assume that someone’s difference makes them a threat. Does this mean we don’t challenge or discuss? Absolutely not!
Great blessings belong to those who work to bring peace. God will call them his sons and daughters. (Matthew 5:9 ERV)
We have to understand the difference between being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. Peacemakers tell the truth and make an attempt to resolve and restore relationships in a healthy way that honors Christ if you are a believer, and honors the other person no matter what you believe. It takes effort, work, and a level of uncomfortability. Peacekeepers are unintentional liars who avoid conflict by suppressing their feelings, needs, and desires, in an effort to maintain the relationship, even if it isn’t a healthy one.
How do we avoid the sinful habit of being a peacekeeper?
Don’t assume you know someone’s heart & motives and when possible:
- Ask clarifying questions
- Define your understanding of terms being used and ask if they are using the same meaning
- Be willing to discuss the hard things
- Attack the issue, not the person
- Be willing to accept responsibility for your role in the misunderstanding and be willing to work on how you can handle it better in the future (even if it’s just the faces you make).
Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8 (The Voice)
Is this a struggle for you? Share some ways you combat this or how this conversation sparked something in you.