One of the first instincts of "the human element" is the personal claim of what is perceived as "mine". At a very early age we learn how to possess and own things, even the ability to survey what is around us and establish boundaries around what we see as our space. Of course, as we age and our system of value grows, what we possess and what we leave to others changes too. But, throughout, one of my basic principles is to resist being owned or possessed. And, it's a delicate thing, being in a relationship without being owned.
That's a collision point for most us ruled by "the human element" . The relationship I have with you is important, perhaps very precious, even significant. But, we'll both resist living in a controlled environment, that is, allowing another person supervision over me and my feelings. That's been a big deal in the Covid-19 pandemic. We're all trying to own everybody else with our opinions and thoughts. Unless we're dealing with some kind of personality disorder, however, our personal autonomy is sacred, especially when talking about interacting with other people. As a result, there's usually no one in charge of our relationships. You are you and I am me, what I do is about me, and what you do is about you. Don't lay the burden of our relationship on me. It's a 50/50 deal. And, that's one of the reasons our most intimate and blessed relationships can dissolve in tension. Few of us will actually claim responsibility for it.
By responsibility I'm not talking ownership. The groundwork for that kind of possession has already been laid I do hope. I'm talking about the initiative and self-denial that cares enough about the relationship to enable laying all personal emotions and resolve and pride aside for the sake of the other person and the relationship. In a practical sense it means taking responsibility for the relationship in any and every circumstance, even when you've been wronged or offended. At the core it's the application of a simple Bible concept: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3, ESV).
And, that's the deal about responsibility as a relational ingredient. It is the willingness to take the lead in the relationship in order to preserve it and the person you already cherish as a valued part of your life. This responsibility involves several biblical ideals---
1. The realization that time is important in relational metrics.
The Apostle Paul wrote a great deal about dealing with anger. He understood
the volatility of "the human element" and the egocentric emotional explosions
of dealing with other people. Even more, he knew the multiplier effect of
brooding and sulking after an angry interchange. So, he counseled, "Be angry
and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26,
ESV). So, when you experience tension in a relationship, make every effort to
settle it quickly.
2. The wisdom to know every issue isn't worth confronting.
Thank Solomon for great counsel in this regard. He wrote it plainly and
simply---"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an
offense" (Proverbs 19:11, ESV). Tensions should be weighed before any
corrective action is initiated. The right thing to do may be to fughedaboudit.
3. Be gracious in your actions and words.
Jesus knew the downside of "the human element" too, and he warned against
it. There's always the tendency to see the speck in another persons eye and
ignore the plank in our own (see Matthew 7:3). This same grace should
superintend our language when time comes to talk about the tension. Paul
wrote this---"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that
you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6, ESV).
Pause here for a moment. This grace should help us see the details of our relational tension in another light too. So, here's how I suggest you handle a discussion about some trouble in a relationship:
You: Hey, can we talk for a moment. I've been feeling some tension between
us and feel that I may have offended or hurt you in some way. If you'll tell me
what it is I'll make it right with you this minute and that tension can be
95% of the time this approach would lead to conversation, confession, forgiveness, easing of the tension, and restoration of the relationship.
4. Demonstrate concern and not confrontation.
Matthew 18:15-17 is generally referenced as a means of confronting someone
who has sinned against you. In reality, it is a means of restoring a sinful brother
or sister. So, concern should be the environment. No one responds well to a
5. My attitude should be for the sake of Christ.
Once again the Apostle Paul provided personal testimony about his attitude
when he was mistreated or when tension defined the moment. He wrote, "For
the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong"
(2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV). Having the mind and attitude of Christ is a game
changer in the relational world.
It sounds so complicated yet is so simple. This kind of responsibility should be learned as the first steps of our Christian faith. Jesus said it. There are no asterisks or brackets to explain the mystery of it. "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, ESV).
Oh no. The self-denial thing again. It is responsibility for our relationships. It is the declaration that IM4US. That is, I AM FOR US.
For the sake of Christ and the relationship, I am responsible.