If we could package our relationships, they would have labels marked, “Handle with Care.” We all have received packages in the mail that were roughed-up. I have seen some boxes that looked like they had been left beside a road after they were roughly played with by a group of gorillas. Before opening such packages I told myself, “I sure I’m going to have to return a broken item.” That was sometimes the case but often, to my surprise, the contents survived in good order.
Life has a way of roughing up relationships. Sometimes the damage is intentional, administered by imperfect people. Generally speaking, life has a way of bruising us. We have no choice in that, but we do have a choice in how we will respond and heal.
My Uncle Bill was involved in a car accident. The car was damaged but he was left without a scratch. For the next two weeks he paced around the house repeating, “I could have been killed!” We should have reported him to the power company. They could have used the emotional energy he expended to light a city for a month! When hurt in relationships come our way, we can choose to waste a lot of energy wondering, “Why? Why me?”
So what can we do when relationships are damaged?
- Repeat the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
(I cannot change another or their decisions about our relationship);
courage to change the things I can
(my response to what is happening can make a positive difference);
and wisdom to know the difference
(Sometimes I think there is something I can change that I have no power over…knowing when I do gives me confidence).
- Remember the love that came with that relationship. Even though relationships go through hard times, it is during those times that we need to remember the good things and experiences. This can provide hope for the future.
- Forgive the one who disappointed you. Harold Ivan Smith wrote a book called Forgiveness is for Giving. Forgiveness is a gift. A gift can’t be earned or deserved. It is simply freely given. You will never forget what someone did to you, but you can give them the gift of forgiveness. They may or may not receive it, but you will avoid any bitterness that can crop up and choke your life.
- If there is love there is hope. God’s relationship with people was nearly severed by our rebellion. So God in his love took it upon Himself to stoop to our level in order to provide a fix. That fix came in the person of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for us (we call that Good Friday), and rose the following Sunday (we call Easter). His victory over death made it possible for the God-Man relationship to be resurrected and is a tribute to his unconditional love for us. (If you want to read more about this love, go the book of I Corinthians, chapter 13).
- Repeat the Serenity Prayer. Didn’t I already mention that? Yes, but there is more to the prayer than those few lines. It goes on to say:
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
— Reinhold Niebuhr
Can all relationships be fixed or resurrected? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? People make their decisions and we make ours. I hope you will decide to forgive and love.
(c) 2013 Wally Johnston