Opening the Door
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15
My hands shook as I hung up the phone; tears stung my eyes as I thought, “How did we get here?”
A couple days before, we sat in a meeting, and though not my intent, I said something that upset my friend. Though unintentional, my words hurt her. In response, she called to level the playing field using words that stung. Again, I asked myself, “How did we get here?”
As I pondered that question over the next several days, I realized we got there because I had not addressed issues that were occurring. For months, I bit my tongue and didn’t tell my friend she was offending me. I thought my silence was taking the higher ground and “turning the other cheek.” [Matthew 5:39] I thought if I just kept it to myself, it would go away, and I would never have to deal with it.
To be honest, I hate conflict and will do just about anything to avoid it. Conflict makes my skin crawl and my insides turn; avoiding conflict has become a mantra. To avoid conflict, I started avoiding my friend while slow resentment built inside of me.
There are different motives for avoiding a situation—sometimes, we let something go out of good intentions. But, often we avoid conflict because we desperately want to take what we perceive as the easier path and escape a difficult discussion. There are times when we should let things go and move on.
However, when we can’t move on because the same things keep happening over and over, and no matter how deep we try to bury our hurt the feelings just keep coming back, we should ask ourselves if it’s time to act. If we’re going out of our way to avoid the person who’s offending us or if bitterness is beginning to take root in our hearts, we need to heed the warning signs and do something.
So, what are we supposed to do? As Christians, shouldn’t we rise above it and move on? Sometimes, yes. But, again, if the same things keep happening repeatedly and the situation is getting worse, we need to respond. Thankfully, Scripture tells us precisely what to do and how to do it.
Good news- this lesson isn’t just for followers of Christ! The Bible is full of wisdom that everyone can benefit from, and this happens to be one of those lessons! So, if you’re not sure how you feel about Jesus, don’t stop reading! I promise this is great wisdom for everyone!
Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
If someone offends us, we’re told to talk to them about it. Talking to someone who has wronged us brings the issue to light and gives them the chance to repair the relationship. After all, how can they seek restoration if they have no idea what is going on? Don’t they deserve the opportunity to make the situation right?
Perhaps, their words or actions stem from an underlying hurt they’ve been harboring. If so, opening the conversation allows them to share their feelings so we can right our wrongs.
Open, honest dialogue opens the door to healing.
However, our approach to that conversation is critical.
Matthew 18:15 tells us to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” [Emphasis mine.]
When someone has offended us, we need to have a private conversation. Talking privately protects the other person’s heart, showing them respect and providing them the opportunity to share feelings they may be wrestling with. Instead of airing our grievances in a public forum, likely embarrassing the other person and causing them to react defensively, we should talk to them in private.
Although I didn’t share the words and actions that had upset me in that meeting, I allowed the feelings brewing in my heart to bubble over and be displayed in a public manner. I can’t help but wonder if I had done the hard thing and talked to my friend earlier, privately, the way Scripture teaches, would we have been able to avoid the fallout from that situation?
Matthew 18:15 ends with hope about using this approach, telling us that if we approach someone privately and they listen, we have gained our brother. Of course, humans have a wide range of emotions and responses, so we can’t predict how they’ll react. It’s important to remember that we aren’t responsible for their response; however, we are responsible for how we handle the situation. The ultimate goal should be restoration, and our approach should be focused on that outcome.
Are you trying to ignore a hurt growing inside, hoping it will go away, but it seems to be getting worse? Pray about that situation. Ask the Lord if it’s time for a conversation with the person involved and what that discussion should look like. Ask Him for the courage to do the difficult thing, in turn giving that person the chance to restore the relationship. Pray for the words to say so that you don’t unintentionally hurt or offend the person you’re working towards reconciling with. Also, pray He softens your heart and keeps you humble. Their behavior towards you may be in response to something you’re unaware you’ve done. If that’s the case, now you have the chance to restore the relationship!
On that fateful morning, as we sat in our meeting, I let my frustration and resentment influence my words and tone. I didn’t intend for it to happen, but the feelings I had been trying to push down impacted how I related to my friend, causing her pain, which was the last thing I wanted. I don’t know if talking to her earlier would have changed the course we were on, but I owed it to her to have that discussion, no matter how uncomfortable it would have been.
Thankfully we were able to have some challenging conversations and work through the hurt we both felt. But the situation didn’t need to be as complicated as it was. If initially I had taken time to pray over my feelings and found the courage to have an uncomfortable discussion, perhaps we never would have had the large rift to overcome.
From now on, lets prayerfully keep the door open to healing through private conversation.