There’s a time to walk away from harmful relationships, but there are many times when you just need some space.
When someone blows up, you may need to back away from them for a season. But never allow an isolated incident or difference of opinion be the cause of severing a meaningful relationship. Sooner or later we all say things, do things, and think things that are damaging. Paul encourages us to put up with each other, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 3:2-3). The word forbear means to “put up with”, “endure”, or “tolerate”. So don’t rend what you can repair. Don’t amputate what you can arbitrate. Don’t dissolve that which can be developed. Don’t cut what you can untangle. Do all you can to resolve relational breakdowns. Note Paul’s exhortation, “Endeavoring to keep the unity…” The word “endeavor” means to be prompt and earnest in attempts to restore oneness. Maintaining personal relationships require diligence, and it is worth the effort.
All who are forgiven by God have the capacity to extend the grace they received to those who offend them. Mature people know that a temporary recess is better than retaliation. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does take time for wounds to heal. Distance influences our perspective. Nothing is as bad as it seems at first. What seems HUGE today will not be as big of a deal later. We must learn to re-size our experiences. We do that by refusing to rehearse our hurts. Instead of replaying hurtful memories or verbalizing our pain, we can choose to limit our thoughts.
One of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century was that men can actually choose their thoughts. Our minds can be bent in a beneficial direction instead of a harmful one. The scenes you see on the screen of your mind can be altered by limiting your thoughts. Paul outlined the categories for our meditations in Philippians chapter four and verse eight—“True… honest… just… pure… lovely (acceptable)… good report (reputable)… virtue (excellent) … praise (commendable).” Sticking with these eight qualifiers will eliminate the majority of the things we think about throughout the day! We must inventory your thoughts. Any contemplations which are outside of these parameters must be eliminated. And the easiest way to eradicate unhealthy thoughts is by obsessing on positive things. For example, instead of mentally reviewing your past, start practicing intentional gratitude. Write down the things in your life that are true, honest, just, pure, reputable, excellent, and praiseworthy. After you document things worthy of your consideration, thank God specifically for every gift and every blessing. Stop repeatedly telling God how confused, hurt, and bothered you are. And begin the habit of praying like this—“Lord, I thank you for Your leading… wisdom… power… grace… peace… strength, etc.” If need be, totally disregard your emotions. You can thank God whether you “feel” thankful, or not. Intentional gratitude moves beyond whims and waves of emotion. It is deliberate preoccupation with the good things instead of fixating on unpleasantness. Begin to pray prayers of faith—“Lord, I trust You for______. And Lord, I trust to_____.” Practice this exercise every day for four to six weeks, and you will reprogram your mind.
“Moving on” is essential to get free from the prison of offence. You don’t have to stay incarcerated. You have the power and resources to get back on the path of life. Your thoughts are your choice. When you get consumed with your blessings, your burdens will lessen. What you think determines what you do. What you do influences how you feel. And how you feel is the result of your focus. Let go of the stuff that keeps you bound.
Offenses are unavoidable. Misunderstandings are inevitable. But the scriptural mandates of forgiveness and forbearance are the blueprint for disentangling conflicts. Never undo what you can unravel. Relational breakdown may be restored if you refuse to cut what you can untie.
by Harold Vaughan
*Note: This is a chapter from Harold’s soon to be published book on “Mastering the ART OF FORGIVENESS.”