I once received a note in the mail from one of our teenagers. I had written her, complimenting her on an important part she had played in a school play. The note was special for several reasons. For some time, this young lady was somewhat unhappy with me. I had disappointed her by not being willing to perform a wedding for someone she cared about. However, as time went on and I tried to keep being kind to her, God gave me an opportunity to speak to her about her concerns.
Later, God gave me a chance to intervene and help her during a difficult time in her life. By the grace and goodness of God, she had gone from being upset with me to writing to tell me that I was “a good Pastor.” I wonder how many relationships could be restored, how many problems could be resolved, how many obstacles could be overcome if we were only willing to be humble and patient. I hope the following suggestions will be of some help to you.
1. Understand the other person’s perspective. Understanding does not mean agreement, and it does not require excusing wrong behavior. It simply requires that you see the issue from the viewpoint of the other individual.
People will never listen to you until they believe you understand them. I recall years ago speaking to a lady who was very upset with me. Her grandson had been expelled from our school for drinking alcohol. To me, this was a no-brainer. To her, we rejected a young man we should have helped. Rather than explaining my position and trying to buttress my case, I said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter whether you and I agree or not, because these things are very real and very serious to you.” She looked at me and said, “That’s right.” I went on to express my love for her and my regret for the sadness she felt. I never did explain my side of the situation. She stayed a member of our church until the day she died. I had the privilege of preaching her funeral.
2. Do not expect those on the other side to see your point. While we may hope that they will understand our position, that should not be our goal. Our goal should be to make sure we understand their position.
3. Make sure your heart is pure. Be certain that there is no resentment, no anger, no personal animosity, no pride which would interfere with the restoration of this relationship.
4. Look for ways to help and encourage them. Take every opportunity to write a positive note, make a positive public comment or give a word of appreciation to them.
5. Distinguish between your goal and your desire. My desire is that people with damaged relationships will forgive, forget, and go on to happily serve God in our church. However, I am not in charge of that, they are. My goal is to do everything I possibly can to have the right testimony, spirit, and character before them.