Meagan and Julia had been best friends. Now they wouldn’t even speak to each other. After Ben spent time talking to Meagan, Julia was furious. Hadn’t she made it clear to Meagan that she liked Ben? Every time Julia saw Meagan walking her direction, Julia would turn away and get busy with something else—making sure their eyes never met.
One time Meagan happened to see Julia first and realized their paths might cross. Then she saw Julia notice her and turn away and Meagan knew she was being slighted by her former best friend. Now she was even more hurt and started watching for ways that she could slight or avoid Julia. Before long it was a full-scale war of wits. Was this friendship permanently “on the rocks”? Was there no way to save the relationship from the junk heap?
What would you do if you were one of these girls? Or what if you were friends with one or both of them and you were now caught in the middle? How could you avoid being a casualty on the battlefield of their personal “war”? Is there anything you could do to help diffuse the situation and get them to be friends again? Probably everyone reading this article has found himself or herself in some variation of this scenario at one time or another. How can such a sticky situation be resolved?
There is a short answer and a long answer to these questions. The short answer is that not every situation will be resolved in a positive way. Sometimes a person just will not be reconciled to someone he or she views as an enemy. However, many situations like this can be turned around. If we value our friends, it would certainly be worthwhile to make every effort to restore the friendship. In fact, according to God, we have an obligation to see if we can make peace.
Commanded to reconcile
From the very beginning, God showed His desire for humans to have friends. When Adam was all alone in this world as the only human alive, God said, “It isn’t good for man to be alone; I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs” (Genesis 2:18 Genesis 2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
American King James Version×, Living Bible). God’s intent is for humans to have companions and friends. Of course, the friend and companion God made for Adam was Eve, who became his wife.
But in His teachings, Jesus showed that the intent to have and maintain friendships extends far beyond just one’s life partner. Notice His instruction in Matthew 5:23-24 Matthew 5:23-24 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you;
24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
American King James Version×: “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Living Bible). Resolving a disagreement is so important to God that He included this instruction when He was explaining that even the feeling of hatred toward another is a violation of the commandment against murder. A few verses earlier in the same chapter Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who make peace, saying they will be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
American King James Version×).
Keys to peacemaking
So if making peace is so important, what steps can we take to make peace with a friend who has something against us? Or what can we do to help two of our friends who are at odds with each other? At times it may seem the situation is hopeless and that reconciliation is impossible. However, one of the wonderful things about being human is the ability to change our minds when we are shown that our conclusion or position on an issue is not appropriate.
Changing our minds, though, is not an automatic response. We usually think we are right about our decisions, and once our feelings are hurt, we tend to think the worst of the other person. Our minds will race to find real or imagined reasons why our feelings of hurt are justified. Therefore changing our minds, at least when conflict is involved, is not the easiest thing to do. We must be willing to admit that our conclusions may not be the correct ones. In the Bible, God refers to this as a soft or willing heart or mind (1 Chronicles 28:9 1 Chronicles 28:9And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.
American King James Version×; 2 Chronicles 34:27 2 Chronicles 34:27Because your heart was tender, and you did humble yourself before God, when you heard his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbled yourself before me, and did rend your clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard you also, said the LORD.
American King James Version×).
So what can we do to make peace? Here are some good strategies:
Apologize —There are very few acts that do more to strengthen and heal a relationship than sincerely saying, “I’m sorry.” If we have done something wrong that causes the problem in the relationship, we need to admit our fault. Most people learn from an early age to cover or deny faults. So readily admitting when we have caused someone hurt is a welcome change to many. Even if we think we have not done anything wrong and the person misunderstood us, we can still apologize for hurting their feelings. This lets the other person know we realize they were hurt by whatever took place.
Reiterate the importance of the friendship —Along with an apology it helps to assure the other person of the value you place on the friendship. Knowing the other person values the friendship and is sorry for any harm he or she has caused to the friendship helps most people be more willing to follow the instruction the apostle Paul gives us. We are to forgive when someone asks for it, realizing God has forgiven us a huge debt by the death of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:32 Ephesians 4:32And be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
American King James Version×).
Help the person see another perspective —If you are trying to heal a relationship between two friends, such as the scenario at the start of this article, this can be a means to help restore the relationship. This is especially true if you have talked to both friends and know they still value the friendship. If you know the hurt was unintentional, try to help both parties come to see that fact. For example, in the scenario at the start, you could try to help Julia come to recognize that Meagan didn’t begin the conversation with Ben—he started it. She didn’t talk with him to hurt Julia’s feelings. She was simply being civil and not rude to Ben.
Give the benefit of the doubt —If you are the one who has been hurt, sometimes the best way to resolve the situation is to follow the advice of Proverbs 19:11 Proverbs 19:11The discretion of a man defers his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
American King James Version×, which says, “Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense” (New Revised Standard Version).
Be a peace preserver
Let’s consider one more point. Proverbs 18:19 Proverbs 18:19A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
American King James Version×says, “It is harder to win back the friendship of an offended brother than to capture a fortified city. His anger shuts you out like iron bars” (Living Bible). Once people head down the mental path of thinking you have purposely hurt them, convincing them otherwise is an uphill battle. That means we would be much better off to prevent the offense in the first place—or at least limit how far down that path of thinking our friend travels. The sooner we can resolve the situation and restore the friendship, the better, according to the principle of Matthew 5:25 Matthew 5:25Agree with your adversary quickly, whiles you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison.
American King James Version×. So how can that be accomplished? Here are a few keys.
Be perceptive —When people feel they have been slighted or hurt in some way, there is usually a change in their facial expression or tone of voice. Those changes, however, are often quite small at the start, so if you are not perceptive, you will let them go right past you. Then the hurt will usually begin to build in their mind and the walls of their defenses will grow higher and harder for you to overcome. The time to begin making peace is when you first perceive the problem. The sooner you begin, the easier it will be.
Use humor —When you see that someone is being hurt by an event or comment, sometimes turning the offending comment into humor, or directing the same comment toward yourself in a humorous way, can help others see the issue is not worth getting angry about. Obviously some have a greater gift for this than others, but humor can go a long way in relieving stress—including the stress that can come between friends in a relationship.
Use distraction —Another tool that can sometimes blunt the pain of an offending comment or event is to quickly turn the attention to another subject or event. Not making a big issue of a small item that may be an irritation can help others not dwell on that item. You will need to continue to be perceptive, however, and if the person shows signs of being hurt by the event, it is better to address it than to just ignore it.
Seek resolution early —If you find yourself in a situation where humor or distraction do not resolve the problem, but only mask it, and the other person is obviously bothered, you need to seek to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Often the longer a person has to “stew” over a hurt, the deeper the hurt goes and the harder the resolution. Once it’s clear a person has truly been hurt and the peace is truly shattered, you must begin to work to make peace instead of preserving it.
Being a peacemaker is a complicated subject—far beyond the scope of one short article. However these points can help you at least get started down the road toward peace in your relationships. In doing so you will be following the example of Jesus Christ, whom Isaiah prophesied would be called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
American King James Version×). No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” YU