Some of you may remember the song recorded by The New Seekers in the 70s that goes like this:
“I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,
I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company.
I’d like to see the world for once all standing hand-in-hand,
And hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.”
I think we’d all like to live in peace and harmony! However, is peace and harmony a pipe dream or a purposeful pursuit? Is reconciliation a realistic expectation or an impossible hope? What does it mean to reconcile, and how do we pursue it?
First, we need to understand reconciliation is different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is the deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person (or group) who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness. Reconciliation is different because it’s focused on restoring a broken relationship. In the case where trust is deeply broken, it’s important to understand reconciliation is a process and sometimes a lengthy one.
Reconciliation is an interesting concept. To reconcile is to make consistent – to harmonize. To reconcile is to obtain an agreement between two records by accounting for outstanding items. If people hope to be reconciled to one another, then “rightness” and “truth” must reign. The facts have to be put on the table and all parties have to pursue full disclosure. Justice must become the order of the day.
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul gives this advice: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” He goes on to say, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.”
With that in mind, these are five steps to start reconciling broken relationships.
As Christians, our first step must be to ask God to be with us in the process of reconciliation. It’s not about asking God to fix the situation, it’s about asking God to soften our hearts ad show us the areas where we’ve sinned.
Part of the process of prayer is to seek perspective on the situation – to understand the other person’s perspective and to gain a right understanding of the facts.
Make sure and listen more than you talk. You may have spent a lot of time reflecting on the situation through prayer and understanding the facts, but it may be the other person’s first time. Listen and affirm their feelings – it will communicate your desire for reconciliation.
Admit your part in the breakdown of the relationship and ask for their forgiveness. You may not feel like you’ve done anything wrong, but when you humble yourself through prayer – you seek perspective and you listen – chances are you will become aware of how you may have unintentionally contributed to the breakdown.
Hopefully, you’ve reached a point where apologies have been exchanged and you can move forward toward reconciliation. It’s important to verbally forgive. This helps provide relief and lets the parties know they’ve been released from whatever emotional debts they’ve accrued. If apologies weren’t exchanged, and let’s say the other party didn’t apologize, you have a choice to make. The best decision is to forgive them and let it go. Don’t carry the feelings of unforgiveness with you.