When it comes to repairing broken relationships, no one responds well to being convinced, coerced, convicted, or controlled. But if these approaches don’t work, how else can we fix the broken relationships in our lives?
- In your relationships do you typically seek to convince, coerce, convict, or control the other person when things go wrong? Explain.
- How has repairing broken relationships been modeled to you throughout your life? What have you seen work well and what have you seen end poorly when it comes to repairing a broken relationship?
- When it comes to repairing broken relationships, do you have a harder time with forgiveness or the actual act of reconciling (i.e. coming back together) with the other person? Explain.
- Think about a broken relationship in your life. Practically, what could it look like to take a step and move toward that person? What holds you back from taking that step?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So 27… Yeah, 27 years ago, I’m sitting in my dad’s office at his church, it’s just my dad, and it’s two of us and a counselor again, and we’re meeting with our counselor every week trying to figure out how to fix our broken, damaged relationship. And the strange thing is, if you can kind of put yourself in our position for just a minute, we’d spent our whole careers telling people how to fix broken, damaged relationships, and now we had one and we’re the experts, and we were stuck, and we were angry, and we were hurt, and here’s why, because he saw things his way and I saw things the right way.
And I could not understand for the life of me why we weren’t making any progress, right? It was this simple, “Dad, if you will just see things my way, we’ll be on our way.” Right? Now you laugh, and the reason you laugh is, because I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Finally, someone understands me. Finally, someone understands the situation and the circumstances I’m in as I try to navigate difficult relationships.” If you think about your current fractured relationship, a distant fractured relationship that’s actually just… It’s been broken for a long, long time. It could be recent, distant. It could be family, work, a good friend and there’s just been this weird thing and now it’s just awkward and you can tell you’re drifting apart, or maybe it’s a brother or sister, again, a family member, but isn’t it true? I mean, isn’t it true that if they would just see it your way, everything would be okay? So since we all have that in common, I thought for the next few weeks, we would address a question that I know that many of you have been asking, maybe for many, many years. And the question is, “What’s wrong with these people?”
Because until they see things your way, which is the right way, they’re just holding up progress. They’re just making it awkward for your family. Nobody can move forward. The family is in turmoil. It’s ruined one Thanksgiving or two or three, it’s about to ruin another one or perhaps Christmas. And again, if they would just see things your way, things would be okay, So I wanna just jump right in because this is a little bit complicated. To get people to see things your way, and this is the bonus, and to get them to apologize, you have to… See, I know you’re just relieved. That’s why you’re laughing. You’re finally… Somebody’s gonna talk about something practical up here.
You’re gonna have to master the tools for relationship management, and this is important to remember. Remember, people need to be managed. So I came up with what I call the C4 approach to relationship management. Now, C4 is also a common variety, plastic explosive. That is completely coincidental. The C4 approach to relationship management, this approach… The perception of this approach is that it brings people together, but in reality, it’s not bringing people together, it’s bringing people towards you so they can see the world the way that you do, and they’re never even gonna know it’s happening. Now, there are four components to this, it’s why it’s called the C4 approach to relationship management. And here they are, I’m gonna give them to you up front then we’re gonna talk about one every week. Convince, convict, coerce, control. Convince, convict, they all start with C to make this simple. Convince… We’re gonna master these: Convince, convict, coerce, control.
So we’re gonna take each one of these over the next four weeks and kinda tease it out. I’m gonna teach you how to master this. Now if you’re harboring any doubts regarding the effectiveness of this approach to relationships, just consider how effective this has been in bringing our nation together.
I know, right?
because after all, you respond and I respond, we all respond well to being convinced of things and convicted of things, shaming and coercing and being controlled. Don’t these just help draw you closer to the people around you? I mean don’t we all know this is the way forward? No, of course it’s not, didn’t work on you, didn’t work on me. It doesn’t work on anybody, but here’s the odd thing, the strange thing, this is why we’re gonna talk about it for a few weeks, the strange thing is, even though you look at that and you go, “Yeah, that’s not the way forward,” in spite of all that, these are the things we almost always reach for first, either intentionally or as we’re gonna see, even unintentionally, we reach for them first and they make things worse. Nothing gets resolved, nothing gets settled and then you tell yourself, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.
I tried, and besides that, you know what, I just don’t even care, I just don’t even care.” Or we just keep pressing, pressing, pressing and pressing in trying to fix the relationship the wrong way, which means things continue to go wrong and we end up pushing people even further away.Now, the odd thing about this is on the surface, it doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult to fix a relationship, does it? I mean it just seems like we should just be able to do this but it is difficult, and that’s why I decided we really do need to talk about it. And I’m gonna give you… Suggest four decisions that you have to make to pave the way towards reconciling with another person, just four decisions that you have to make to reconcile with other people. We’re gonna talk about the first one next time, today is kind of an introduction and a setup for the entire series, and the best way to understand why this is not intuitive is to think about your car, okay, we’re better at starting our cars and even driving our cars than repairing our cars.
You can start it, you can drive it, but when something goes wrong, you really don’t know what to do, and the same thing is true when it comes to a relationship, that starting a relationship is somewhat intuitive, managing or navigating a relationship is somewhat intuitive, but fixing a relationship, fixing one isn’t only not intuitive, it is the opposite of intuitive. Again, everything we reach for initially is generally the wrong thing. Our initial moves are almost always the wrong moves, and while we know, this is what’s so strange about this, while we know that these four things don’t work, we’re not even aware sometimes that we’re using them. I wanna give you two quick examples to kinda move us forward. Here is a controlling statement, that when you use it, you are not aware of the fact that you are trying to control the other person, in fact, we hear this statement in media all the time when people make apologies and it sounds a little odd when we hear it but we don’t know why, and then we use it, but this is someone who in their mind is thinking, “You know what? I’m trying to fix this relationship, I’m trying to repair this relationship,” and so we say things like this, “I’m sorry if I offended you, I’m sorry if I… I am moving in your direction, I’m trying to fix this relationship.”
“Clearly there’s something wrong, I’m sorry if I offended you. Oh look, how magnanimous of me, I’m apologizing.” but do you know what this actually communicates? What this communicates is you are too easily offended, that’s what that says. I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t know I was offending you because well, what I said actually would not have offended most people, so you are less mature then and you are less dialed in than most people, so if I offended you knowing that what I said wouldn’t offend most people, but if I offended you, a little pat on the head, a little side hug, if I offended you, I am so sorry. And then we wonder why people are like, “You know, I just feel so much better,” you just insulted them and you didn’t mean to but here’s why, because fixing and repairing or reassembling a relationship is not intuitive. Here’s another one, this is both convicting and coercive, somewhat passive aggressive and we have all been guilty of this, This does not feel on the other side of us what we think we’re making people feel, and again, our intentions are good, our intentions are right, but repairing a relationship isn’t easy and it’s not intuitive. I said I’m sorry, why are you still upset? I said I’m sorry, I mean I came to your direction, I’m acknowledging that I did something wrong, I said I’m sorry, why are you still upset? It should be fine now, translated: I’ve done my part, you should be fine now. Since you’re not fine, clearly something’s wrong with you.
See, I did my part and you’re not fine yet, so clearly I’m the better person because I said, I’m sorry and you should accept my apology and we should be back to where we were before I insulted your parents, we should be back to where we were before I criticized you in front of your friends, we should be back to where we were before I said what I said or did what I did. And we’re not back to where we were, and I’ve done my part. So what’s wrong with you?
Here’s the thing, reassembling a broken relationship. Reassembling broken relationship, is a learned skill, and most of us were never taught how to do this, and many of us have never even seen it modeled well. Just think about… Some of you think about your parents, your parents were estranged from a brother or a sister, or maybe a dear friend, they had this friend for years and years and years, and then something happened, and maybe growing up, or even as an adult, you hear your parents talking about, “Well, this person,” and every time their name comes up or every time there’s… Something about them surfaces, you can tell, it’s just not good. And you’ve heard their side of the story, and even when you hear their side of the story, and this isn’t just true of your parents, this is true of a lot of people, when we’re on the outside and we listen to what they’re so upset about, and we listen to what divided these people that used to be close, especially family members, isn’t it true that on the outside looking in, you think to yourself, “That’s just silly, that’s just silly, just call her. I mean, here’s the… Pick up your phone and call her. Look, just invite him to lunch. Hey look, why don’t you two just go out with another couple?”
From the outside looking in, just fix it, just reassemble it, just reconcile, you don’t wanna let this thing go on and on and on and on and on right? Because it leads again to the holiday avoidance danceThen somebody gets injured or somebody dies, then there’s a funeral. Or again, there’s an accident, and suddenly you find yourself in an environment, a very emotional environment, and I’ve seen this so many times. And in that moment, that thing that was so big, that was so consequential, that mountain we’ll never get over, that offense that I’ll never be able to fully forgive, suddenly in the midst of tragedy, it gets smaller and smaller, and smaller and smaller. And in those moments, you know what people do, they do, and they say what they should have done and what they should have said a long time ago.
And because they didn’t do what they should have done or say what they should have said a long time ago, in some cases, they missed out on years of relationship. And maybe you’ve had this experience, or you’ve watched it play out. And once people, especially family members come back together and kinda get over whatever it was, it appears so small and so inconsequential, and they always walk away thinking the same thing, why did it take so long for us to repair, reconcile or reassemble that relationship? They spent months or in some cases years, just waiting, rehearsing. Let me tell you the story one more time, let me tell you the story one more time, here’s the narrative, here’s why it’s never gonna work out, or of simply avoiding. Now, here’s the thing, this is very personal, it’s very emotional. So I accept that as we move through this content, here’s the thing. Waiting for the other person, this is what ends up happening. You end up waiting for the other person to do what you should do, and the reason you should do it, is because you’re the better person, right?
Here’s how I know you think you’re the better person, because when you rehearse those narratives about why things are so bad, it’s their fault. Well, if it’s their fault, you’re the better person and the better person should initiate reconciling the relationship. So back to my dad. So we’re sitting there, this is going on and on and on. So finally, I think I’ve told you this part of the story before. So one afternoon, it was just so awkward. We’re in a Mexican restaurant, we hadn’t ordered yet, we’re sitting there with chips and salsa, and literally we’re not speaking to each other, we are grown men, we are pastors, we’re professional Christians, we can’t have a conversation. We are both so angry and so locked down, and we both knew how ridiculous it was again, because of how much time we spend with other people and other couples and other people with difficult family relationships.
And then finally my dad said… And this is almost a direct quote, because I just never forget this moment. He finally looked at me and he said, “Andy, we both know, because we’re both pastors. We both know what happens to fathers and sons who go through something like this, and I don’t want that to happen to us.” And I said, “Me neither.” The problem was, it was happening to us. Now, we had an advantage or two, one advantage was we both wanted the same thing, and we did not want that to happen to us, and both of us were willing to work at it, but I’m telling you, even though both of us were willing to work at it, it was so, so, so hard. Now, it’s so hard because this is not… Primarily, this is… What makes this so hard is primarily it’s just such an emotional thing. It’s a very emotional topic.
and it’s why we just make excuses. Now, before we move forward and get practical, I wanna set expectations, and what I’m about to say is gonna sound like it’s contradicting what I’ve already said, so I need you to hang with me and if it feels contradictory to you, that’s my fault, I’ve not explained it well, but this is so important, and if I explain this well, this is gonna take some pressure off and make the future a little bit clearer. As it relates to reassembling or repairing or restoring adult relationships, not so much with kids, this applies to kids, but when it comes to reestablishing, repairing adult relationships, the goal isn’t reconciliation, this is the part that’s confusing. The goal isn’t reconciliation, because unlike a broken toy or a broken dish or a broken iPhone screen, when you think about a broken object, you have control over all the pieces and you have 100% control over the entire process, but when it comes to repairing relationships with other people, we don’t have access to all the pieces, so we work and we pray toward reconciliation, but reconciliation can’t be the goal and here’s why, here’s just a little relational tip, may be worth the price of admission.
Never ever set a goal for another adult, never set a goal, you can set goals for you, but you don’t set goals for other adults, even adult family members, because a goal is an agenda. I have a goal for you, I want you to do something or say something or accomplish something, so I have an agenda. So every time I’m with you, you know what I’m bringing to the relationship? I’m bringing my agenda for you, and agendas always, always, always undermine or put a box around relationships. This is why your relationship with your boss, is friendly as everybody wants to get, there is an agenda, he or she hired you to do a job and you are friendly and they are friendly, but you’re probably not gonna be life-long friends, you’re gonna get along, you’re gonna be polite, but if there’s an agenda, what between you are in the room, with you and another person, it really is like having a third party in the room and agendas ensure… They ensure that broken relationships stay broken and this may explain why some of your efforts in the past to restore or repair a relationship have failed.
I’ll just make it personal, do you enjoy people who have an agenda for you? No, because soon as they sit down, your guard is up, you know where this is going. Again, it’s like a third party, it’s like a third person sitting at the table. Parents, this may explain… Your kids push back, your adult kids push back, it may explain why they check their watch when they’re visiting with you. Do you enjoy people who you feel like are always evaluating and judging you? No, so as we move through this series, we move through this content, it’s very important for you to understand what the goal is, what the win is, and the goal, here’s the goal, here’s what we’re shooting for, this will take a little pressure off, but it’s also gonna put some pressure on, the goal in reconciling, the goal in reassembling, the goal is simply no regrets. It’s knowing that you did everything you could do, it’s knowing that we did everything we could do, that we open the door, that we put out the welcome mat, that we put down the drawbridge, that we put down the weapons, that we removed any unnecessary obstacles to reconnecting with that person, that essentially, we’re gonna learn how to take the pressure off to create space for them to move toward, which means…
And this is kind of the bad, the negative side of that, which means no matter whose fault it was or whose fault it is, no matter how much of the blame really sits on them versus sits with you, you and I, we always have a part in the process of reconciliation, which leads me to this question, why in the world are we talking about this in church? And the answer is obviously, I have run out of topics. [laughter] I figured you need to laugh about now in this message. Okay, now, the reason we’re talking about this, and this is so cool, and by the way, if you’re not a Christian or a religious person, this is gonna be super practical, there’s gonna be takeaways for everybody, but if you’re not a religious person or a Christian in particular, this is why as Jesus followers, this isn’t really optional for us, it’s optional if you’re not… You just pick and choose, do what you want, I don’t have any authority, I can’t tell you what to do, nobody left me in charge of you or made me the boss of you, but if you’re a Jesus follower, not just a believer or a Christian but somebody who wakes up every day and decides you know what?
To the best of my ability, I wanna follow Jesus, we don’t really have any choice in the matter because reconciliation, this is so powerful, reconciliation is actually the operative noun in the Christian faith, and by reconciliation, I simply mean restoring a relationship, restoring a relationship. The story of our salvation, the story of redemption is a story of reconciliation, that God reconciled members of this rebel race unto Himself, and here’s the kicker, and here’s the trick, and here’s the “oh, I didn’t think about that,” your heavenly Father was not content to simply forgive you.
Forgiveness, and this is where we get tripped up, forgiveness is only half the equation. I can forgive you and never make any attempt to reconcile with you, but reconciliation is the win. Reconciliation is the win in our relationship with God and reconciliation is the win in our relationship with each other. And according to Jesus, the two are related. and when it comes to forgiveness, I hold all the cards. I get to make the decision. I’m going to forgive her, I’m going to forgive him, God forgave me, so I’m gonna accept my forgiveness from God and I’m gonna forgive other people. I hold all the cards, I control the outcome, I control the entire process. But reconciling with people is extraordinarily, extraordinarily emotional sometimes, and it’s so extraordinarily inconvenient.
And not only is it inconvenient, we’re gonna talk about this a little bit. Sometimes it’s unsafe, and sometimes it’s unwise, but those are the exceptions. For the most part, it’s just uncomfortable. So unfortunately, Christianity has been reduced or was reduced to forgiveness. God forgives me, I forgive you I’m good to go. But the problem with this version of Christianity, it keeps us looking up, it doesn’t force us to look around. And when you read the Gospels, one thing is abundantly clear, and this is good news, this is the good news. Your Heavenly Father was not content to simply forgive you. That God’s forgiveness is so powerful. God’s forgiveness was a means to an end, that God forgave to remove an obstacle to relationship, God forgave to remove an obstacle to reconciliation, the obstacle of sin, but the end, the win is reconciliation, a re-assembled relationship with your Heavenly Father.
And then as we talk about all the time, at the end of His ministry, He gathered with His apostles for that last Passover. He said, Okay, here’s your marching orders. You are to do for others as I’ve done for you. You are to love others as I have loved you. And I was not content to forgive you, I went the extra mile to reconcile a relationship with you. I wanna close with just one verse today, and this is something the Apostle Paul wrote. And the Apostle Paul, goodness gracious, that did he ever understand this. The Apostle Paul steps onto the pages of history as someone who hates Christians, who hates the church, he had Christians arrested, tortured, apparently he had Christians executed. He stood by and watch Stephen, the first Christian martyr be stoned and he approved it and then he went on the war path. So imagine what was in his conscience, imagine the guilt and imagine the shame he carried when he became a Jesus follower, and he realized, ‘I did all of that and it was all wrong, it was all a sin. It was horrible.” And yet God chose the Apostle Paul and reconciled the Apostle Paul to Himself.
Paul understood forgiveness is just half the equation, my Heavenly Father, in spite of all my sin, did not stop with forgiving me, He chose me because He was able to have a relationship with me, because He removed the obstacles between Himself and me. And then he wrote this to all of us, In your relationships, in your relationships with one another. Which relationships? All of them. In your relationships with one another, which relationships? All of them. The easy ones, the hard ones, the ones that are busted, the ones that are hitting on all cylinders. In all your relationships with one another. What’s he gonna say? What do you want me to do? What could possibly encapsulate or what could possibly be so big and so broad as to be able to say it about every single relationship. In your relationships with one another, this is so powerful. Have the same mindset. Or in other words, think the same way as Christ Jesus, your Lord in all of your relationships. This is amazing, it’s all encompassing, it’s so powerful. In all of your relationships, I want you to approach them the way your Heavenly Father demonstrated His approach through how Jesus approached relationships.
And what was Jesus’ mindset when it came to relationships? Remember the story? If you grew up in church, you heard this. In fact, even if you didn’t grow up in church, you probably heard this, the Parable of the 100 Sheep, the Lost Sheep, we call it. He said, There was a shepherd who’s got 100 sheep and this one sheep wanders off, and the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 and goes after the one. The way we do it is one sheep wanders off, and we think to ourself, “Rogue sheep.” If that sheep would like to rejoin the rest of the group of sheep, we’re easy to find, there’s 99 of us, so we’re just gonna go on about our business. And when they get their act together, hey, we will welcome them back into the fold, but I’m not gonna go looking for it. How did Jesus approach relationships with people who are offensive and who position themselves as enemies?
This drove religious leaders crazy. The religious leaders couldn’t understand Jesus, and they would say,” Jesus, why? Why do you move in their direction? You should just preach and then when they repent of their sin, then they will move in your direction.
And he could have said, “Because I have come to do the will of my Father in Heaven, and this is my heavenly Father’s approach, the people who are sinful and offensive and are outside the circle of fellowship.” But here’s what he actually said. He said to the Pharisees in one occasion Jesus answered him and said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, I’m a doctor. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Jesus said, “I didn’t come for the people who got it all together. I came for the people who have broken their relationship with their Father in Heaven, I’ve not come to call the righteous. I’ve not come to call on the righteous, I’ve not come to move toward the righteous, but I’ve come to call sinners to repentance. And I can’t do that from a distance.” We’re almost done. Jesus says, “I can forgive from a distance, but I can’t reconcile from a distance.” Reconciliation, reassembling, requires proximity. It requires us moving toward the unreconciled.
And if we choose to follow Jesus, this is what we will do. We will move and we will remove every single obstacle possible, because the goal isn’t reconciliation, that’s beyond our control. The goal, the goal is no regrets. The goal is to remove every single obstacle we can remove, which paves the way toward what hopefully ends with reconciliation.