Year end pulse: another relational hair-ball
When I signed off the blog post from yesterday there was a nagging sense that I had overlooked something significant in the relational pulse check category. In a moment that missing piece fell into place and I knew I would have to change the order of posts this week. It may be the most important factor contributing to the relational mess that characterizes so much our culture today. How I could have misplaced the number one question on my RQ pulse checklist is beyond me. Could it be that it is the one I have the hardest time evaluating? Or, the one that causes me the most personal distress? Perhaps the one item that most exposes the prideful arrogance that so often pits me against others? Ouch.
It's the out-take of one single Bible verse----
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11, ESV
When there are relational troubles my first question is always, is this matter worth pursuing? A culture like ours, with everyone's feelings out there on their sleeves ready to be touched or offended, needs to think through the questions of importance. Having just eased through the holidays we all know the language soft-shoe that must walk us past so many touchy people. It's the age of harmful language, hypersensitivity, sacred spaces, and inflamed emotions. At one retail establishment someone was lambasting the Salvation Army bell-ringer for singing Christmas carols while fund-raising for the charity. What a spectacle. And, the guy had a very good voice. Joy to the World, indeed!
So, the starting place isn't the RQ questions from yesterday. There are actually PRQ (prerequisite relational questions) that must precede ones that could reconcile a broken or strained relationship. They are more personal---
PRQ1: Is there really strife in my relationship with that person?
PRQ2: Has that clash impugned God?
PRQ3: Is that tension a source of conflict for Christ's church?
PRQ4: Is the other person aware of the stress in our relationship?
PRQ5: Is this tension something I should overlook?
The gut check here happens before any reconciliation, confrontation, or restoration is even considered. Here the question is whether or not the slight is substantive enough to be mentioned. In many instances the circumstances that create such chasms of conflict between humans derive from inconsequential matters. So, churches split over the color of carpet in the sanctuary, couples argue over the choice of restaurants, friendships are cooled over forgotten events, and so many other nonsensical matters. I read in the newspaper several years ago about a man who shot and killed his wife because she constantly placed her favorite jelly in front of his in the refrigerator.
How can we major on minors to such a degree as to separate us from the people entrusted into our circle of care? You know, it's the pride thing, again. Humans are self-absorbed and like to win, be right, or have an edge over others. Jesus said it was a matter of the heart----
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality,
theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,
pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a
Mark 7:21-23, ESV
So, the actual beginning point in easing the tensions we have with other people is to seek the origin of the conflict or disagreement. It is the prayer for the discernment to know what is worthy of discussion and what is not. Every day each of us must remember that He is shaping the character of Christ in us. That character isn't mysterious but is listed clearly in Scripture---
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
At the same time, our care and concern for the other person should be governed by our love for them. As Paul reminded the Corinthians---
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It
does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice
at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-6, ESV
For several years I taught a course on resolving personal conflict. Most of the materials covered in the course each week were derived from The Peacemaker by Ken Sande (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004), an excellent resource for churches to use in discipling peacemakers. Last night one of the participants sent me a text message. She was reluctant to bring it to my attention, but she reminded me that I had skipped a step in the conflict resolution process. She was careful to be gracious and kind. I didn't take offense because she was right. It was worth mentioning.
Do the pulse check above. Maybe you should just let it go.