When someone wrongs us it’s tempting to want revenge. But in order to repair a relationship, we must fight the urge to get back AT and instead be proactive in getting back TO the other person.
- Have you ever been on the receiving end of being convinced, coerced, convicted, or controlled? What was that experience like for you? How did you respond?
- In this message Andy states, “We’re only as happy as our core relationships are healthy.” Have you experienced this in your own life? When your core relationships are struggling, how does it impact the other areas of your life?
- When your relationships begin to get rocky, what is your first reaction? Are you more passive, reactive, or proactive? Explain.
- Ask yourself, “Is there someone in my life I need to forgive and get together with to repair the damage that has been done?”
- What needs to be true in your life for you to take that first step back?
- What can you do today to get there?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
As you know, most of the things that require assembly, like when you purchase something that you have to put together, it always comes with instructions, assembly instructions, and those are helpful if it’s a toy or furniture or… One time I purchased, I made the mistake of purchasing a grill instead of getting the grill already assembled. I thought, “I’m just gonna buy the box, I can do this and go home and do this.” And I saved $50. And by the time the grill was almost finished, Sandra would have paid someone $250 if I had just paid somebody else to put the grill together because it was kind of a disaster. But the point being the grill, anything you purchase to assemble, it comes with assembly instructions, but they never include fix it instructions. Instead, they include these. You see this all the time. We’ve included a troubleshooting guide, a troubleshooting guide, which for me is generally worthless because the trouble that they are shooting is never the trouble I’m actually having it. But generally speaking, we are far better at assembling things than we are at fixing them, and that includes relationships as well. We’re good at starting relationships, we’re pretty good at maintaining relationships, but when a relationship breaks or when a relationship gets awkward or there’s that silence or there’s that distance, oftentimes we just aren’t sure of what to do.
But that doesn’t stop us from doing something, we try to fix them. And oftentimes when we do it the wrong way. So last week, we took a look at what I would consider the traditional intuitive ways of fixing a broken relationship, and I referred to it as the C4 approach to relationship management because people love to be managed. No, they don’t, but that’s kind of the mode we go into. And the four tools in the tool kit for the C4 approach in relationship management are convince, convict, coerce and control. Convince, convict, coerce and control. These are the four Cs that we just reach for intuitively when the relationship isn’t going well, and when we feel like we need to do something to fix it. These are the tools we reach for first, and I’ll tell you why, we reach for these tools first because we’re crazy. And the reason I say that is those things don’t work on us and they don’t work on anybody else, but we keep working them anyway.
And as I had shared with you last time, my go-to is this first one, is convince.. In fact, my greatest regret in life actually relates to this. I was responsible for caring for my mom for the last 10 or 12 years of her life, and I was so happy to do that, and I love my mom, but my mom could be… And she’s probably listening, she could be stubborn. And I’m not saying my mom was stubborn, I’m just saying she could be stubborn. Okay.
Yes, the point being, when she made up her mind, her mind was made up. It was just made up. And because I was responsible for her and I’m trying to make the best decisions for her, and of course, if it’s a decision I feel I should make for her, I’m convinced it’s the best decision. And when she would just kinda shut down and just refuse to cooperate, I would just lean in and just more information and convince, convince convince. And this all kind of escalated to the point, one day I’m at her house, I’m sitting in a chair in her sitting room with her. I remember exactly where I was and how this happened. We’re not facing each other, we’re kind of like this, and I’m leaning over just saying, “Mom,” I don’t even remember what the issue was, but I’m just trying to convince her. And she leans over and she puts her hand right on my wrist, and she looks at me and smiles and she says, “AS, I just need you to love me.”
I know, that’s exactly right. It’s like, “All the energy drained out, all the anger, all the frustration.” I’m like, “That’s right. She doesn’t want me to convince her of things, she just wants me to love her.” And of course, there was something in my mind that said, “Well, this is… ” I wanted to go right back to, “I’m gonna convince you that this is how I’m loving you by… ” “But listen AS, I just need you to love.” So that was mine… And chances are, you kinda have a go-to one as well. Convict, this is the shame and blame one. This is, “After all I’ve done for you, after all I’ve done for you, after all the opportunities I’ve given you in this organization, after all the money I loaned you, after all the things I put up with, I’m just gonna remind you of all the things I’ve done, and you’re gonna feel so ashamed and so guilty, you’re just gonna melt, and then our relationship is gonna be restored.” Who are we kidding? Or coerce and control, they are sort of two sides of the same coin. The point is, we have a tendency to go there.
Now, all four of these things have something in common, and what all four have in common is what the person or people on the other side of these are feeling. And do you know what it feels like to be on the other side of any one of these or all four of these, it always feels the same way. It feels like this. It feels like rejection. Rejection. And do you know what what’s kryptonite to a relationship? Rejection. Rejection is kryptonite. Rejection is kryptonite even when you’re right. Here’s what I mean by that. Even when you’re convincing for all the right reasons, with all the right information, even when you’re coercing and you’re trying to coerce them in the right direction, even when you’re controlling and you’re controlling with their best interest in mind it’s still rejection and it has the same outcome. It closes hearts. It makes people less accessible to us emotionally and ultimately, and this is what’s so crazy, it undermines our influence. But do you know what everybody wants? The same thing you want. But I want agenda free, I just want you to like me for me, I just wanna feel accepted.
Now, we all know all of that, just not even worth writing any of that down, but for some reason when it comes to managing current relationships or specifically fixing a broken one, it’s like we forget all of that. Which means it just shouldn’t be that difficult to repair a relationship, but it is.
Now, the good thing about us and the thing that we have going for us is that for the most part, all of you, all of us, most people in the world want to be reconciled or want their relationships to be fixed or re-assembled. We don’t like the tension, we don’t like living with the guilt, we don’t like pretending. We hear ourselves telling our sad story and people are shaking their heads about, “Yeah, you should be angry and you should be the way you are, and you should be distanced from them.” And then we walk away, and sometimes we just feel kinda sick on the inside, like, “What is that in me that just can’t let this go.” And one of the reasons that there’s a tension that never quite goes away, no matter how justified maybe we feel we are, is that we’re only as happy, and again, this is something we don’t normally put words around, but this is all of our experience. We are only as happy as our core relationships are healthy. This is sort of that happiness factor. Generally speaking, we are never any happier than our core relationships, the most important relationships to us are healthy or we’re…
You can put it this way, we’re only as content, we’re only as content as our core relationships are mutually satisfying. And you know this personally, or you know this from your family history, that broken relationships, they take a toll on us. Broken relationships, especially core relationships take a toll on our mental, our emotional and at times, even our physical health. In other words, “Sir, your problems stem from your healthy relationships with your parents and siblings,” said no counselor ever. This is never the root of a problem, this is the root of emotional, and often physical, and psychological health. So when we started this series last time, we set some expectations and it’s super important to reset those expectations before we dive into this first decision that we have to make. And this is especially important when it comes to re-assembling or repairing or fixing relationships with another adult. And we said this, we said, “The goal of reassembly, the goal is actually not reconciliation, the goal is not reconciliation,” which sounds strange because that’s what the whole series is about.
The goal, our personal goal, is actually no regret, and if you were here last time, you remember the reason we can’t say the goal is reconciliation, is you should never set a goal for another adult. You can have a dream or a hope or a wish for another adult, but you don’t set goals for other adults because goals are an agenda. So the goal has to be no regrets, the goal is to know, you know what? I did everything in my power.
I did everything I could do to keep the door open, to put the welcome mat out, to make sure that emotionally, my draw bridge is down. To make sure that I removed every obstacle I could possibly remove, that I’ve done everything I can do to take the pressure off the other person. And again, we know from experience that those four Cs, they always make that worse. So the temptation is to say, “Well, do you know what? I’m gonna decide not to do those four things.”
But, and again, this is why this is so tricky, those are not decisions. I’m not saying they’re not decisions, they’re decisions, but those are not decisions. I’m deciding not to be so controlling, I’m deciding not to be so coercive. I’m deciding not to do something. But a decision, and this is true in every area of life, a decision not to do something is not enough to get something done. And so to reassemble a broken relationship requires some decisions, but it requires more than deciding what I’m not going to do, it requires at least I think for proactive decisions. And these decisions don’t guarantee reconciliation, because we don’t have control over all the pieces, but they pave the way potentially toward reconciliation. I’m gonna give you one today. And if you’re not a Christian, you’re not a Jesus follower, I think you’re gonna find this helpful, and I would suggest you at least embrace some of these ideas because it will certainly make your life better. But for those of us who claim to be Christians, for those of us who attempt every day to get up and follow Jesus, this is required, because Jesus’s marching orders for us is to do for others what God through Christ has done for us, in all things, including our relationships.
As we looked at last week, the Apostle Paul just puts it right out there when he wrote these words, he said, “In your relationships,” all your relationships. “In your relationships with one another,” and this is such a high bar, isn’t it? “I want you to have the same mindset or the same perspective or the same attitude, I want you to embrace the same approach to relationships as Christ Jesus, your Lord.” And regardless of how faithful you are or how much faith you have, if you decide or if we decide, when I decide to take this seriously, the temptation is to kinda tap the brakes. Because if you know anything about Jesus and the Gospels, and if you know anything about the journey of Jesus through the Gospels, you recognize pretty quickly that Jesus was actually the offended party, and yet he made the first move to reconcile with us.
Which means…adopting the same mindset as Christ Jesus requires us to accept that reassembly always begins with us regardless of who initiated the fuss. And it’s cutesy, but it’s concerning. It means that essentially, even if it’s their fault, even if it’s 100% their fault, even if they’re the ones that walked away, that if there’s going to be reconciliation, if there’s gonna be the hope for reconciliation or reassembling or repairing the relationship, that that process begins with us. And that’s hard because that’s when I wanna raise my hand and tell you my sad story. And you wanna raise your hand and tell me your devastating story and ask for a pass.
“Hey, AS, I think I get to cross my arms and wait. I think I get to forgive, I’m gonna forgive. Cross my arms and wait, but I don’t know about moving or leaning in their direction to fix a relationship that they broke.” But when we decide to wait, when we decide to wait on them, “I am gonna forgive, but I’m waiting on them.” That is a form, it’s so subtle. It is a form of getting back at them, which means we are more like them than perhaps we ever want to admit. And that brings us at last to the first of these four decisions that pave the way, they don’t guarantee, the first of four decisions that pave the way to reconciliation. Now, when I show you this first one, you may think, “Well, I’ve already made that decision,” and perhaps you have, but if you haven’t settled this, if you haven’t settled this, you will intentionally or perhaps even unintentionally sabotage the re-assembly or the repair process along the way. So this has to be decided up front, and I think in some circumstances, we have to re-decide it over and over and over. And here’s the first decision I wanna challenge you to make, I will get back to, not get back at. I will get back to, I will not get back at.
Now, the Apostle Paul is gonna tease this out for us, we’re gonna look at something he said in his letter to Christians living in Nero’s Rome. It’s a passage where he’s talking about relationships, and if you read it in context, or even as we look at some of these details, clearly he’s talking to a group of people that were having conflict with each other inside this little community of the church. And also, it’s interesting to note that the Apostle Paul, best that we can tell, he’s never been to Rome. So he is writing this letter and he’s giving them these very specific relational instructions, and he’s never met these people. To which they would tend to say what we’ve said, “Wait a minute, how can you tell me how to manage my relationships? You don’t even know me, you don’t know what I’ve been through, and you don’t know the circumstances that I’m trying to navigate.” But the Apostle Paul leans in anyway,
Here’s what he says, he says, “Love must be sincere.” And we’re gonna read a few verses that kind of end with the big takeaway in terms of this first decision, but we’re kind of warming up. Paul’s warming us up. “Love must be sincere,” which means no faking. It must be genuine. No painted on smiles. No pretending. In other words, if there is a person in your life, family, or friend, someone you work with and you’re pretending, you’re painting on the smile, you’re acting like everything’s fine, Paul says, “You probably have some work to do.” [chuckle] To which we’re like, “Yeah, but you need to hear my story.” Paul’s, “No I do wanna hear your story. You have some work to do. Love must be sincere.” The fact that he thinks he can tell us this without knowing our story, means there might be something he knows that we don’t know.
Then he introduces another big relational principle, we could spend a lot of time on this as well. He says love must be sincere, hate what is evil and cling to what is good. This is his way of saying, you need to re-allocate your hate. It’s okay to hate, but you can hate a something without hating a person. He says, “What if you did this, that person that you… ” And we don’t use the word hate because that makes us look small and petty. So we don’t hate anybody, but we hate them. So he says, “If you would just think about the person that you hate them.”
He says, “What if you decided I’m going to re-allocate my hate, I’m gonna decide, I’m gonna hate what happened, but I’m not gonna hate the person. I’m gonna hate what’s happened to us but I’m not gonna hate the person. I’m gonna hate the consequence of the fall out of what happened to us relationally, but I’m not going to hate that person. What if we decided, I’m gonna hate a what, but I am not going to hate a who.” The Apostle Paul would say, “Now, you’re starting to remove obstacles, now you’re leaning in, now you’re making your way forward relationally. And now once you do that, it will be easier for you to see and to cling to what is good.” And he goes on, he says, “I want you to be devoted to one another in love, and I want you to honor one another above yourselves.” And this phrase honor one another above yourself, in our home, growing up with raising kids, this was the thing, honor one another. This was our rule, this was kind of the rule above all the rules, we’re just gonna honor one another. And to honor another person is to defer to them, to honor another person is to say, you first, your issue first, your question first, your observation first, you first.
And if I decide, again, he’s saying, These are the things you have control of, you can’t control what they do or how they respond, and you can’t reverse the past, but here’s what you can do, and if you choose… These are all choices, right? If you choose to honor the other person, when you honor the other person, you put the other person ahead of your pride, and I put the other person ahead of my ego. They come first, my pride and my ego come second. I’m not gonna spend a lot of time trying to convince you anymore. I’m gonna spend some time trying to understand you better. You defer. You first, you first, you first. Then verse 14, skipping a couple of verses. Again, this is all so hard, and because of first century language, this is when we skim over, it’s like, I don’t even know what that means. Bless those who persecute you. Now, chances are, you can’t think of someone that you would use this word with. They’re persecuting me.
Now, when you’re 14, 12, 13, 14, 15 living at home, yes. But once you become an adult, it’s hard to imagine somebody who they wake up and every time they see you, they are looking for a way to undermine your credibility, looking for a way to steal your ideas, looking for a way to make you look bad. And the Apostle Paul says, “Here’s how proactive I want you to be. I want you to bless those who persecute you.” And here’s what this word means, I want you to commend them. I don’t want you to talk about them the way that they talk about you. Jesus said it this way, he said, “I want you to bless those who curse you.” Okay, this makes no sense. In fact this doesn’t even seem wise, this doesn’t even… It certainly doesn’t seem helpful, it just seems like that mountain is so high that that is such a huge thing to ask anybody to do. Why is he doing this? Paul would say, “Because you’re Jesus follower.” And this is in some ways an expression of what your Heavenly Father did for you. And I want you to embrace the same mindset, the same perspective on relationships that your Savior has that ultimately benefited you.
And again, you read this, I’m the same way, you feel like, “Wait.” And you may be thinking, “AS, I feel like you’re putting all the responsibility on me.” [chuckle] To which I would say actually, technically Paul is putting all the responsibility on all of us. And where does he get the nerve to do that. Again, he doesn’t even know us. He did not even know the people he wrote this letter to. To the best that we know, Paul had never been to Rome, he had never been to Rome, and he has the audacity to write a letter to Christians in Rome he’s never met, doesn’t know anything about their circumstances and says, “This is what it looks like to follow Jesus relationally. The implication being, I know you got a sad story, and I know that you are literally in Rome, literally being persecuted, but in spite of that, this is how I want you to live. This is how I want you to relate. This is how I want you to respond. This is how I don’t want you to react.” Then he says this, he says, “I want you to rejoice with those who rejoice, and I want you to mourn with those who mourn.”
“Yeah. But what if I don’t like them?” He says, “Well, then your light will shine even brighter.” “What if the fact that they’re sad… ” Okay, this is icky. Okay, this is awful. This is in all of us. “What if the fact that they’re sad and they’re mourning, what if that makes me happy? What if I actually feel like their mourning is a win for me?” Then the Apostle Paul would say, “Well, then you have work to do. Because if you find yourself internally celebrating someone’s failure, if you find yourself internally celebrating someone’s loss, you have work to do.” He says, “I want you to refuse to celebrate their losses.” And again, this is almost impossible to do when someone has hurt you or betrayed you or hurt one of your kids, or betrayed somebody that you love. And that tension, and see here’s why this is important, that tension is something we have access to, and that tension is something we can go to work on, and that tension is where God wants to go to work in all of us.
He’s almost done, he says, “I want you to live in harmony with one another, and I don’t want you to be proud. Because proud ignites and fuels all four of the C’s, because all four of the C’s are an attempt to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you would just see the world the way I see it and do what I think ought to do, then the world would be a better place and our relationship would be healed.” He says “Now, pride is always gonna get in the way.” And then the pay-off. Now, he brings us to the statement that takes us and introduces and sort of teases out the first of our four decisions. He says this, “And do not, do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not repay anyone… ” Again, you wanna say, “But you don’t know my story.” Paul is like, “I’ve never even met any of you. Here, send this to all the Christians in Rome.” “Paul, how can you be so personal?” And he’s going, “Because this isn’t about me, this isn’t about what’s happened to them. This is about, are we following Jesus?” And the word repay is powerful, do not repay. Because the reason we want to pay people back is because of what they’ve done to us. And repay, it feels like this is how I get even. And of course, as we talked about before, we’re trying to get even with someone we don’t even like, but intuitively, we want to pay them back.
And again, if someone heard your story that you would perhaps be justified in trying to pay them back, it’s in human nature, it is human nature to want to get back at. but it is the will of God for all of us to get back to. Because that’s what your Heavenly Father did for you. So decision number one, reassembling of these broken relationships. I will get back to, not back at. And again, when you see this, you think, “Well, I’ve already done that.” Here’s why this is important. The powerful thing about this decision is that if you will make it intentionally, I’m not just not gonna get back at, I’m gonna actually look for a way to get back to.
If you will be intentional about this relationship, this decision, it will ensure that you don’t go half way. And do you know what halfway is to reconciliation? Halfway to reconciliation is, I forgave her, I forgave him. I forgave and now I’m gonna wait. I forgave and now I’m gonna wait. And the Apostle Paul… And I think if you think about it, this becomes clear, forgiving and waiting, that’s still back at, not back to. Because God, your Heavenly Father, [chuckle] did not stop with forgiveness. We talked about this last time. God’s forgiveness was a means to an end, and reconciliation, repairing a relationship with you and with me and with the world, that was the end. you can forgive from a distance, but you cannot reconcile from there. You can forgive arm’s length, but you can’t reconcile from there. So would you decide I will get back to, not get back at.
Now, if someone has come to mind or maybe a group of people have come to mind and you in your heart, your arms are crossed. I’m gonna deal with my emotions and I’m gonna figure out eventually how to forgive them, but I don’t know about moving forward. If you are tempted, and we’re all tempted to forgive and to wait, I wanna leave you or suggest today a prayer that you pray, a specific prayer. And here’s the prayer,Heavenly Father, this is just my version. Heavenly Father, help me to see… And then you put their name in there, or maybe you need several blanks. Help me to see him, her, the way you do. When they come to mind, I want to see them and visualize them the way you see them, not the way I see them, because I see them through the filter of what they’ve done to me. And Heavenly Father, help me to feel toward whoever, you’ve got your arms crossed here. Help me to feel toward them what you feel.
If you begin to feel broken-hearted rather than angry, then you know what happens? You think the drawbridge is down, it goes all the way down. You think the welcome mat’s out, it’s all the way out. You think the door is open, it’s all the way open. And nothing changes in the relationship, but something extraordinary changes in you. And as long as my arms are crossed and I forgave them and I’m waiting, God has not finished working in us and on us in this relationship. So would you decide or would you consider deciding, I will get back to, I will not get back at.
I’m not gonna repay evil for evil, I’m not going to imagine… And that’s where it starts. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Wouldn’t that be nice? We always win those imaginary arguments with people in public and we shame them and people walk off and go, “Wow, you’re right and they’re wrong.” I’m not even gonna do that anymore. I’m gonna take retribution off the table as an option, even if it comes my way. No pay back, no back at. No more secretly hoping they fail, no more secretly celebrating their failure. Father, I wanna get to the place that if they’re mourning, I’m mourning. And if they’re rejoicing, I’m rejoicing. And I’m not there yet, but I want you to get me there so I can lean in their direction, to the place where I can uncross my arms and move forward. So would you decide, or would you consider deciding, or would you spend some time thinking about what you would have to do to decide to get back to, not back at?