There are so many things to discuss when it comes to relationships, so I’ve extended our Creating Healthy Relationships blog to include a Part 2! In this article, we will discuss community and confrontation.
Take a few moments to consider who you are in a community or relationship with. Of course, there is your close family like spouse, children, parents, and siblings, but then there are others like people you attend church with, the lady at the post office, and your coworkers. Whether you realize it or not, you are in community with all of these people, though it’s at different levels.
Now I’d like you to do a short activity with me. Grab a piece of paper and draw a small circle. Then make a dot in the middle of the circle; this represents you and Jesus because you’re one with Him. Now draw 3 more circles around that circle to create a target-type shape. You should have a dot in the middle and 4 rings.
In the first ring (closest to the dot), write the names of your closest most intimate covenant relationships. In the next smallest ring write the names of your good friends and those you spend a good amount of time with. Write the names of acquaintances in the next ring. In the final ring, write “everyone else” or “world.”
Now take a closer look at what you’ve created. These are the people you’re called to reach, to shine the love of Jesus to every chance you get. The most precious thing to the Lord is people. Jesus told us to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30). And all the people on this “target” are your neighbors, and you’re called to really love them.
However, you can’t really love anyone else unless you love you, and you can’t really love you unless you know the Father’s love for you. Now put your pen on the dot in the middle and draw a line making an arrow all the way across the target. This symbolizes how love goes out from you (and God) toward others.
Forgiveness in Community
Community is a beautiful thing. It’s where we can connect with others and receive and give love. However, it’s also where we can experience hurt and disappointment. Sometimes the deepest wounds come from those who are closest to us (remember the target?).
This is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness must be a part of our community because we are all on a journey to living more like Jesus, and none of us has arrived. NONE of us!
We have to value community so much that we’re willing to not only forgive but work through things with each other. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
It’s important that we learn to confront people in healthy ways and move into forgiveness. Forgiveness is HUGE! We were forgiven, so we are supposed to forgive other people as well.
And let’s be honest – it’s often the little things that mess up relationships like how to squeeze the toothpaste, leaving clothes on the floor, or forgetting to do chores. As small as these things are, if we take offense, they can really annoy us because of the deeper meaning behind it. Then if we don’t let people know how we feel or what we think, and we allow it to fester over time, resentment results and builds. Every resentment is a brick that we put between us and the other person in the relationship. Resentment is something that we feel again like it just happened (even though it may have happened 10 years ago). And this is why forgiveness is so important to healthy relationships and community.
We want to pay attention to the things that cause us to feel offended. It’s important for us to tell one another (especially those closest to us) what we think and how we feel so a solution can happen and a wall isn’t built between us. We have to be vulnerable enough, to be honest with others.
Jesus commanded us to make amends if someone is offended with us. In fact, He said that “if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Did you catch that? It’s not even if YOU have an offense – it’s if you know someone else has something against YOU! That’s how important God thinks relationships and reconciliation are!
Many people don’t follow the guidelines of biblical confrontation found in Matthew 18:15-18. When you need to confront someone who’s hurt you, you go to them first. Go straight to them first. (This is often contrary to what the world says to do which is talk to others about what they did to you.) You’re saying, “I care enough about you to let you know how you affected me.”
Confrontation is usually a dirty word to most people because it usually means “fight.” But that’s not it at all. Healthy confrontation helps us accept responsibility for our own heart, walk-in forgiveness and protect our personal boundaries.
The people in our inner circle (the people we are most intimate with) have a little bit more power in our lives than those people in the outside circles. They affect us more. We love them well if we tell them what’s bothering or hurting us. But if we don’t tell them, then we’re not really loving them well and we cannot expect our relationship to be healthy and strong.
So if you need to confront someone, do it one-on-one first. Here is some helpful language:
“Listen, I love you, and you affect me, so when you _______(describe the event), then I think ________ (opinion) or feel _________ (emotion) or would like _________ (request). And I intend to _______ (your part of solution).”
And here’s a real-life example … maybe you can relate? I’ve said this to my children more than once! “When you leave your clothes in the middle of the floor, I think you’re being lazy and disrespectful [opinion], and I feel angry, frustrated, hurt and disrespected [emotion]. I would like for you to put your clothes in the hamper where they belong [request]. By the way, I intend to only do the laundry that makes it into the hamper [your part of solution].”
As you can see, HOW you approach confrontation is key. Using I-statements to express your feelings, thoughts, opinions, and solutions can help the confrontation to be less difficult and more successful. Regardless, in any relationship, difficulties will come. Choose to protect and value each relationship by not being afraid to confront when necessary.
As we work on having strong, devoted covenant relationships with God and those in our target rings, aim to love well and be vulnerable with everyone no matter what circle they’re in. Pay attention to those around you. Ask God if there are people in the outer rings that He wants you to bring into a closed ring. Are there people in the rings who are toxic that you need to move out a ring and create some space and boundaries for a healthier relationship?
Learn to listen well. Learn to live unoffendable. Be a safe and approachable person who can be trusted with someone else’s heart. Confront biblically by calmly and lovingly using I-statements. Treasure the relationships in your life, invest in others, and allow them to invest in you too.
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