(OK, OK, I know I'm overdue for another post when the comments turn to Donny Osmond...)
The concepts of conflict resolution, annoyance resolution and gossip have really been weighing on my mind lately.
Let's get some scriptural background first:
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)
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 everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:14-18)
Let me ask you, when you are upset with someone, do you first:
A ) Talk to your friends about it
B ) Keep it inside, but hope you can avoid that person in the future
C ) Go talk to the person and let them know what upset you
How about when you know someone is upset with you, do you:
A ) Talk to your friends about it
B ) Figure it's their own problem and they can just get over it
C ) Go talk to the person and see if you can make things right
Does every grievance need to be aired? No. There are some things that annoy each of us that we just need to get over. We as humans can be far too touchy at times. Not everyone is out to get us, and we all do small things which offend each other from time to time. Let's be more skilled in the area of giving grace, for we all need it ourselves on occasion.
But, if something is bothering you enough that you feel the need to say something about it to someone, your responsibility as a disciple of Christ is to handle it in the way he commanded you to - the "someone" you talk to about it should be the one with whom there is the disagreement or annoyance.
Friends, if you are doing anything other than C in the questions above, YOU are the one with the problem. I don't care what the other person did to you, you are still equally in the wrong.
(Let me make clear that I have nothing against those who feel the need to seek wise, godly counsel regarding how to address the situation with the person. There is a world of difference between that and gossip / slander. It is the difference between those who want and intend to do the right thing and those who simply want to make themselves feel better by tearing down the other person, with no intentions of ever confronting the person directly in humility.)
I know this strikes fear into the hearts of people. It seems so much easier to just gripe about the person to our friends, who will most likely agree with us and then we can make jokes about that person together and feel good about ourselves again. Other times, it seems so much easier to just ignore the issue and try to avoid that person so you don't have to deal with your own anger and hatefulness, and so you aren't bothered with that whole issue of forgiveness.
For a lot of us, our default setting is "conflict avoidance".
The truth, however, is that the easiest thing to do is to simply go directly to the person you have the issue with. Most often, you will be able to correct some misunderstandings, work out some differences, or, at worst, be able to agree to disagree, and viola, you have "won your brother"! You no longer have to avoid him, you no longer feel the need to cut him down in your conversations. You are free! The load is lifted, you can sleep at night, and your blood pressure can go back to the normal range. The sooner you can do that, the better. I seem to remember something about not letting the sun go down on your anger, and not giving the devil a foothold, don't you?
Now, I don't want to ignore reality. Some situations and relationships may not be able to be repaired that easily. That's why Paul says, "As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." You may make every effort at reconciliation yet , for whatever reason, it is not received. Perhaps that person refuses to forgive. Perhaps that person refuses to change their behavior to stop hurting you and others. That is out of your control. That does not "depend on you". At some point, you may need to shake the dust of your sandles (so to speak) and leave that relationship. However, that should be the exception, not the rule. If you find yourself constantly cutting ties with people over issues that cannot be resolved, it is time to take a deep look inside yourself, for most likely YOU are the problem.
Why am I ranting about this?
Because I have seen Jesus' way work time and time again, and it is so freeing in a person's life.
I am tired of seeing people choose to live tortured by anger, resentment, and bitterness rather than making an attempt to work things out with someone else.
I am tired of bunco nights where the topic of conversation is gossip about those who are not in attendance.
I am tired of simple misunderstandings causing so much strife in the lives of people I love.
And, most of all, I am tired of anonymous letters filled with hateful comments written by cowards who claim to be disciples but do not follow the way the Master laid out to address your issues with someone.
Let's stop giving the devil a foothold. Who do you need to talk to...today?