I was really excited about the chance to write this month’s article on relationships. I love relationships. They are both complicated and essential. Whether it is your relationship with a spouse, parent, in-laws and so on, managing those relationships year round can be nerve-wracking at times. I’ve learned a few survival tips along the way that have helped me maintain peace (and sanity) in otherwise treacherous water.
Tip 1. Never engage in gossip
Whether you’re the one doing the gossiping or the one being gossiped to, try to remember the old Spanish proverb, “If they’ll gossip to you, they’ll gossip about you.” Gossiping is a double-edged sword. If you’re the gossip then not only will the person that you’re talking to not trust you, chances are they will be giving a full account to the person that you are referencing. You better believe that whatever “confidential” tidbit of information you’re sharing will soon become public fodder. If someone is telling you something that you don’t want to know or hear, feel free to let them know. It’s become second nature for me to say, “I don’t know so-and-so well enough to say anything, but from the little interaction that I have had they were always nice.”
When someone is telling you how offended they were by what someone else said, always kindly suggest that maybe the other person’s intention wasn’t to offend the affronted party. Trust me, maintaining your stand against speaking badly about others will give you a clear conscience and keep you from feeling convicted the next time you’re in the room with the person who was being talked about. Whatever you do, do not add fuel to the fire or jump on the bandwagon. It might feel a little like you’re the odd man out if you are the only one in a group who refuses to gossip, but trust me, the people around you will have more respect for you. More importantly, you will have more respect for yourself. Matthew 12:36 says, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak,” so choose your words wisely.
Tip 2. Be careful when it comes to choosing a side
I’ve seen it happen a million times; two friends or family members are in the middle of a disagreement, one of the two parties drags you into it and you’re forced to choose a side. They eventually make up and now you’re the odd man out and in a quarrel with someone who didn’t do anything to you in the first place. Now you’re embarrassed and forced to try to salvage a damaged relationship. Not to mention that you’re more than a little aggravated with the person who dragged you into the mess in the first place. How did this happen? You chose a side. My advice? If you have close family or friends that are on the outs, let them both know up front that you love and care for them both and will not choose a side. You also need to let them know that speaking badly about the other person in front of you is not acceptable. In addition, let them know that you don’t tolerate it from the other party as well. This sends a message loud and clear to everyone involved that you are staying neutral. If someone tries to force you to choose a side, let them know that someone who truly loves you would never put you in that position. By staying out of it, you’ll avoid a lot of heartache.
Tip 3. Do not be judgmental
Sometimes as Christians we can become a little self-righteous. People do not like to be constantly told that they are doing something wrong. More importantly, they don’t like to be told that they’re doing something wrong in a condescending and judgmental tone. It’s not always what you say; but how you say it. You can say just about anything to someone if you say it with love and in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re judging them, talking down to them, throwing in jabs, or insisting on your way being right when it’s of no consequence. Sometimes, your job will simply be to lead by example. Give wise, biblical council when asked, love others and pray. Don’t forget that God makes the changes in people and He needs room to work.
Tip 4. Do not be proud
Proverbs 11:2 states, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” If you are wrong, apologize! If you were caught gossiping, sticking your nose where it didn’t belong, or hurting someone’s feelings, then apologize. Also, make sure you apologize without making excuses in your apology. Don’t say things like, “I’m sorry, ‘but’ if you hadn’t (fill in the blank).”
Here’s what I’ve learned – there are no “buts” in “I’m sorry.” Either you’re sorry or you’re not. If you’re sorry, you say, “I’m sorry.” Or, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” Or, “I’m sorry that I hurt you. That was not my intention.” If you are sincerely sorry, then don’t blame your bad behavior on others. It really is that simple, either you are sorry for what you did or you’re not.
I read a long time ago that sincere apologies consist of three things: taking responsibility for the mistake that you made, saying you’re sorry and making a commitment to never do what hurt that person again. Genuinely enacting all three of these steps to the person that you have hurt provides a solid base for trying to rebuild the relationship.
Finally, Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” If you strive to make peace where there is conflict, then the Lord will surely bless you for it. If you follow these simple tips not only will you become a blessing to others, but you will have peace in your own life.
Marisa can be reached at [email protected].