By Joe Castaneda I think most people know that life is fullest when we live, and experience it with people we love. It’s not that we don’t love our down-time, and our solo journeys, but even those times are enjoyed more when we return and share them with other people. I have several friends who love solo-adventures in hiking, touring and even in their world travel. But they always post their pics on facebook, they send shout-outs to friends on Instagram and Twitter and they are engaging friends in their journey, because life is fullest when we share it with others.
The problem with sharing life’s journeys is that people can be a pain! Nothing can disrupt your life, ruin your morning or suck the joy from your soul more than people! So while we love sharing life with others, we also know that others can bring the biggest challenges in our lives.
There are two responses to the conflicts we have with others. The first generally involves blaming, occasionally some name-calling, a lack of grace and/or personal understanding (although this response is can often be masked in martyrdom, making it appear like a healthy does of grace!), often encourages avoidance, the holding of grudges and is almost always rooted in fear, hurt, reactionism and a lack of forgiveness. This is the response of victimhood.
The other response involves owning ones part, never name-calling and is filled with grace out of the recognition that we all make mistakes. This second response encourages engagement, quick forgiveness and is rooted in faith, love and pro-action*. This is the path of personal responsibility, and the path for anyone wanting to live the Overboard Life.
Nobody likes confrontation, but if you’ve been avoiding that hard conversation with someone, you’ve been living in victimhood! In Matthew 18 Jesus gave some incredibly clear teaching about personal conflict, and His teaching requires us to embrace our responsibility in a matter, and to have hard conversations. In the passage Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone...” Notice the responsibility for engaging in the tough conversation rests with the one who has been offended, the one who has been hurt.
Victims love to sit back and wait for the resolution to come to them, but Jesus says the one who has been sinned against, is the one who should initiate the restoration process. Why? I think it’s because when we don’t take care of those issues, they turn from little things, into big things. Marriages don’t usually end because of just one event. Marriages that end in divorce usually end because a bunch of little things turn into some big things, and soon, what maybe could have been mended through a couple of meetings with a counselor or pastor, now can’t be mended with years of outside help. Friendships don’t usually end with one offense. Instead, years of friendship can be brought to a halt after a pattern has developed of responding in victimhood (silence, martyrdom, lies “Oh, it’s fine, that didn’t bother me...”) to those interpersonal conflicts.
Obedience to Jesus’ words can bring healing today, so that the hurts of the future will require stitches and a bandaid, and not relational amputation! Is it easy? Not usually! Is it best? Always!
Here are few other nuggets that will help you have those difficult conversations:
1. Make sure you check your own heart and actions in the matter: Jesus once told a group of people to “Take the plank out of your own eye, so that you can see the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye.” In other words, make sure you’ve taken care of your own business before you try to help someone else with theirs. What a visual picture! Can you imagine some guy walking around with a six foot long, 2x4 sticking out of his eye? Then he clumsily comes walking up to you and says, “Whoa bro, you’ve got some sawdust in your eye hole, let me help you get that out.” That’s ridiculous. Make sure you’re not plank guy, trying to help sawdust guy. Sawdust guy needs help, but first, get that plank taken care of! 2. Be ready to forgive. When we approach someone with a hard conversation, be ready to forgive them on the spot! Peter reminds us, “that love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Jesus told His disciples that if someone comes and asks you to forgive them, then do it. Paul said in Colossians that we need to forgive as Christ forgives us. And how does Jesus forgive? Every time you ask, He freely forgives. Now forgiveness isn’t an excuse to be someone’s doormat (don’t confuse forgiveness with martyrdom), but rather, forgiveness is the power you and I have to release someone else from a debt so that restoration is possible. 3. If you are constantly in conflict with others, check the mirror before you head out the door. I have a friend who is always at odds with people in their life. This person can’t go to the grocery store without getting into an argument with a worker, another shopper or with someone in the parking lot. It’s unreal. I’ve known them for years, and they are always in conflict. If you’re ready to have a tough talk with some one, just check and make sure you know who’s at fault. I’ve often found that when I’m ready to pounce on someone who has hurt me, the reality is, that I’m the one that is in the wrong. Instead of going to confront, I need to go and confess and ask for forgiveness.
Is there someone in your life that you need to have that tough talk with? If you want to live the Overboard Life, you can’t go through your days ignoring the problems that arise in the relationships you have. Sure, the tough talks don’t always go like we want, but I know when I follow God’s plan for relationships -- when I check my own heart, make sure I’m ready to forgive and make certain that I’m ready to confess my own faults -- things go a whole lot better than when I live as a victim, and do nothing.
So go ahead and take the plunge, even your tough talks will be better on the water!
Working through some heartache in your life? My first book, Project Joseph, was written to help people navigate the pain of relationships and the struggles that we all face in life. Check it out, and see if it might help you better become who God wants you to be!