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Reconciling With People That We Have Hurt

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other topics.

reconciling-with-people-that-we-have-hurt

Reconciliation is an integral part of the Christian faith. Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus told us that if we feel that someone has something against us, we should go and be reconciled to them before making an offering to God (Matthew 5:23-24). We are supposed to try to restore damaged relationships when possible. So why are many of us Christians so reluctant to make an effort towards reconciliation?

The fact is that restoring relationships takes determination, effort, and hard work. We risk someone giving us a tongue lashing or rejecting us, so we may drag our feet and avoid the people involved. Reconciliation can serve several purposes, such as restoring relationships and helping everyone finding closure.

Signs we are Ready for Reconciliation

We are ready to try reconciliation if we:

  • are willing to be accountable for the things that we have done
  • are willing to accept responsibility for the offense we committed and apologize
  • put our pride and blaming behaviors aside
  • show humility
  • are willing to provide restitution, if needed
  • can show that we are not going to continue in our hurtful behavior or anything associated with it
  • do not downplay or dismiss our offense
  • do not resent people for doubting our sincerity, especially if we have offended before
  • accept that they may not be ready for reconciliation yet and need time to heal

Barriers to Reconciliation

Ignorance

We may not realize that we have hurt and estranged someone. We need to be mindful and observe others to determine the health of our relationships. We cannot always expect that people will tell us when we have offended them. Some questions to ask are:

“Is something wrong in this relationship?”
“Do they seem cold and distant when they are around me?”
“Are they avoiding us?”

Fear

We may feel afraid of negative repercussions and ask these questions:

“What if I was mistaken and they either don’t remember the incident or were not offended by what I said (or did)?”
“Will they laugh at me for bringing it up?”
“Will they tell me off because they are angry with me?”
“Will they say hurtful things to me?”
“Will they reject me?”
“Will my bringing the possible offense up damage the relationship?”

Bitterness

A grudge against someone can fester into a toxic bitterness. Unforgiveness creates a barrier to healing relationships. The movie Overcomer demonstrates a reconciliation between a dying father and his teenage daughter, a runner. Her grandmother is bitter against the father because of his sinful past and tried to block their relationship.

Pride

Sometimes people will approach us and let us know that we have offended them in any way. Our reaction will determine where our headspace is at. We will probably be shocked and taken aback. We may experience guilt and shame. If we respond to people we have offended with denial, anger, and righteous indignation, we have pride that we need to overcome. Pride should be rooted out as it can get in the way of attempts to restore our connection.

It is difficult to admit that we have hurt someone else. We tend to blame others for when an estrangement. We may make excuses or blame others instead of taking responsibility for our actions. It takes true humility to admit that we have done something wrong (Philippians 2:3-4).

Laziness

We sometimes keep putting off reconciliation and let opportunities go by. We think that if we ignore the situation, it will just go away. Reconciliation takes work. We have to think carefully about what we are going to say to the offended person. We need to be prepared for a variety of responses and mentally prepare ourselves for what might happen. Relationships can enrich our lives and are worth the extra effort needed towards reconciliation.

reconciling-with-people-that-we-have-hurt

Reasons to Reconcile

There are several reasons we should attempt reconciliation.

It is the Christian thing to do

Jesus taught that people should forgive one another and be reconciled.

Reconciliation is an Opportunity to Apologize

We can take this time to apologize. Telling people that we are sorry helps us get rid of the guilt we feel for hurting others and helps us to forgive ourselves. We can stop dwelling on the past and move on. An apology makes it easier for the offended person to forgive us and may make them more open to restoring the relationship.

We Can Make Amends

Making amends can help the healing process. Amends may involve actions such as financial restitution or replacing something that was broken. We can also commit to not repeating our hurtful behavior.

We Can Find Closure

When we open the door to communication with those we have hurt, we can find closure. It also helps the other person because they can express their feelings and find closure as well. It restores a relationship that can enrich our lives and theirs.

When Reconciliation Is Not Possible

Relationships take two people who are willing to forgive, trust and restore the connection. The people we have hurt may not be ready or unwilling to reconcile. We need to be patient and understanding with those we have hurt.

They may need time to heal from the offense before reconciliation can take place. The people we hurt may impose certain conditions such as amends before reunification can occur. They may want to be left alone for a while so they can recover from the wounds that we caused. Offended people may be as unyielding as a fortified city (Proverbs 18:19). If reconciliation is not possible now, we should not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). There is often reason to hope that it can happen in the future.

reconciling-with-people-that-we-have-hurt

According to the book Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians, author John Paul Lederach says that conflict is messy and painful. We need to accept that our offense may have negative consequences and impact other relationships around us.

In time, though, we can either find the closure we need to put the past behind us and hopefully are able to enjoy the benefits of a healthy relationship. If the offended person rejects our advances, at least we can take comfort in knowing that we tried.

References:

Getting Right with God, Yourself, and Others, Participant’s Guide 3, Celebrate Recovery, John Baker
The long road to reconciliation: Seeking harmony in strained family relationships, Focus on the Family, Tiffany Stuart
Why Should I Reconcile When It's So Painful?, Kris Swiatocho
Why should I reconcile with people who hurt me?, Crosswalk.com

© 2014 Carola Finch

Comments

Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on February 27, 2014:

I have apologized for things I have done or said and for the most part the people never remember the acts that seem so burdensome to my mind. I am then accused of being so sensitive that I see where I have "wounded" people in every statement I make. But the fact is that words are capable of inflicting pain. Each situation and personal encounter is different. My policy is: If I get a twinge that I believe is from God (the small still voice) I apologize, even if it seems incidental or slight. I do it as soon as I can because the more time that passes the more the thing will dig in and be harder to amend. The amendment may not take care of it but it is like salt on ice. It begins to be felt as the spiritual temperature rises. It will melt down as much and as fast as God engineers. When people come to me to apologize it never yet has been that I have not said that I am okay and God has made me have peace.

ologsinquito from USA on February 27, 2014:

Only good things can come from reconciliation, whether you've hurt someone or they've hurt you.

Carola Finch (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 27, 2014:

Thanks for your comments. The principles of the article are based on the Bible, which is so full of wisdom.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 27, 2014:

Thank you especially for dealing with the reasons we avoid reconciliation. Life could be so much more satisfying if we heed your advice. Thank you.

mabelhenry from Harrisburlg, Pennsylvania on February 27, 2014:

Our mirror in seeking and finding reconciliation towards others is God. He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He placed the responsibility of this value in our hands to expedite accordingly, and in maturity we grasp His definition of the broken links which need to be repaired for reconciliation to manifest and be fruitful. Brava Carola, this hub is full of counsel, encouragement, and admonition. The key to reconciliation is forgiveness.

Asking God for forgiveness for our trespasses, forgiving ourselves and those we have trespassed against and who have trespassed against us daily if we value reconciliation. Guarding our hearts with all diligence because we understand that the issues of and in life can affect and infect us. This hub is opportune and a timely word. Thank you for sharing it. Voted up!

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on February 26, 2014:

I suspect that pride is a main reason for not apologizing to someone we've hurt. Even the Bible says pride always goes before the fall. It is best to remember that and as you say, practice humility. People are always drawn to humble people, too.

Well done!

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 26, 2014:

Great hub Carola. Everything you say here is so true, and if we have hurt someone we will never be able to be really free of the burden until we can reconcile, or apologise. They may or may not accept it, but at least if we make the effort and release the burden, we have done our part. Well written. Voted up.