There is one thing all relationships have in common. They are messy. You will face challenges. You will disagree. You will be hurt and hurt others. Have you decided how you'll respond?
Will you burn the bridge? Lash out? Or will you be ready? Before conflict or disappointment arrive at your door, do you know how you'll greet them?
I'll be honest. I haven't always been ready. And guess what? I've paid the price in lost time, trust, and respect. I've warranted the accusation of not practicing what I preach.
Trial by fire, though, has forged principles I am determined to live by. It's the proverbial target I'm aiming my arrow at. These are those principles distilled into a prayer:
I acknowledge my own faults and take responsibility for my actions. Expose my blindspots. Thank you for forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Help me see where I need to apologize and make amends with others.
Soften my heart to forgive others immediately, to always take the first steps in reconciliation, and to love without a performance clause.
Help me to serve others as Jesus did, as I give graciously and generously, putting others' needs before my own, expecting nothing in return.
Give me the strength to be an example and inspiration to others, for I understand now I cannot control but only influence.
Rid me of worry and anxiety, for both are a costly and fruitless endeavor. Bring peace in our life as you restore all things.
I have to make the decision to proactively make these principles a part of who I am or be forced to reactively be at the mercy of my circumstances.
Do I place my confidence in myself or the Spirit of God in me? How will I respond to my offender before the offense? Where will my hope be before I'm disappointed? Will my peace be in the unchanging love of God or the fickle heart of man?
Our relationships change, flourish, and last when every person is committed to these principles. There will inevitably be an ebb and flow, but hugely dramatic circumstances begin to disappear when we aim at the same target.
In a perfect world, we would all be on the same page. Unfortunately, the opposite mindset is too often the case. It goes like this:
What I did was justified. You don't understand what I've been through. It's not that bad. Just get over it. I'm doing what makes me happy.
They are so much worse than me. How can they not see their own faults? They need to apologize and make amends with me.
I'll consider forgiving them if they ask for it, but they better be sorry. I hope they pay for what they do.
I wouldn't help them if my life depended on it. They don't deserve it. They've got what's coming to them.
Maybe I can convince them of why they're wrong. I have my arguments prepared, and they're going to see it my way. I'll have the last word.
All I feel is stress, worry, anxiety, anger, resentment, bitterness, and regret. I've forgotten what peace felt like. My heart is full of turmoil. There is no hope.
There are a few combinations of these mindsets. Let's call the principles we see in the prayer Person A and the opposite mindset Person B.
Person A + Person A: Life has its challenges, but the difficult mostly serves to make us stronger. Disagreements are minor setbacks. We live in harmony and peace, understanding our shortcomings will sometimes surface but grace is there to heal.
Person A + Person B: Life has its challenges, and the difficult sometimes cuts to the core. Person A is always trying to make amends. Harmony and peace seem like a distant dream, and life feels like a constant battle. Person A continues to give, and Person B takes.
Person B + Person B: Life in general is a challenge, and everything is difficult. Person B and Person B always fight. Each feels entitled to their own agenda and desires. Every day is an unpredictable storm, and everything these two people touch turns to drama. Separation is inevitable.
The goal isn't perfection, it's a commitment to principles. It's a willingness to always start with looking inward first, forgiving immediately, giving generously, leading by example, and acting from a place of peace.