Healthier relationships require us to embrace new approaches toward our relationships. In Part 1 of this post, we explained two transforming (and necessary) choices: admitting “my” mistakes and having the courage to address hard conversations.
Today’s post looks at two more choices that greatly impact your relationships.
Choose Grace to Represent God’s Heart Well
“He doesn’t deserve grace” – those words echoed through my office without recognizing the irony of such a statement. While not stating explicitly that grace must be earned, it couldn’t be taken any other way. Certainly, grace can be a difficult proposal, especially to those who have seemingly been harmed by people who insist that grace simply allows serious offenses to be covered up or swept under the rug. However, grace is the choice to take in the best interest of another party.
In my graduate school class on marriage counseling, we were given an assignment to interview married couples about their struggles and successes in marriage. I chose a couple from my church who had just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. I asked them about the key to a long and happy marriage, “He treats me like a princess” she retorted with a confident spunk. I asked him next, “ I treat her like a princess,” he said with a believable chuckle. When I asked them about conflict and how they resolved it, they both scratched their head, thought about it for a few minutes, and realize they couldn’t remember any serious conflicts. I wondered, “Have I encountered the perfect marriage?” I don’t think I did, but in talking it through I was struck by the word grace.
Conflicts become opportunities when each party is committed to grace. When two people choose to treat one another with kindness, no matter how they feel, they will have an atmosphere of safety and sincerity. James 3:17-18 describes those who resolve conflict well, “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” What’s described here is only possible when the choice of grace is made, and each party strives to represent God’s heart well.
Choose Patience to Trust God’s Work
Insisting that others turn more quickly into the people we expect them to be is one of the most significant sources of tension in relationships. Conversely, one of the best gifts we can give to others around us is to learn to be patient. Impatient spouses, parents, children, and bosses often end up living with regret as they painfully push for change.
Impatience is rooted in pride.
The impatient person ultimately trusts themselves more than they trust God to change others. They are unwilling to wait for God to do his work. They take things into their own hands and coerce; they pressure and intimidate others to get what they want. Patient people are content with speaking the truth in love and giving others time and support to pursue changes for the right reasons. Patient people also realize that God gives us what we need. Even if we don’t get want we want from others, we can still experience joy and peace despite the disappointment.
Impatience leads to frustration.
James 1:19-20 reminds us that anger will not produce the righteousness of God, in us or in others. Instead, a patient person is quick to listen and slow to speak or get angry. Ultimately, while impatient pressure may win short term battles, it undermines the true unity that we desire. Impatient people end up frustrated, the end result of impatient pressure is further disunity. It simply doesn’t work. Our pride tells us we must have it another way and our techniques to change others will work, but it always backfires.
Healthy relationships give space for God to do His work. We must accept imperfect people while also encouraging and exhorting others to change in gentle ways. If those around you know you as an impatient person, it hinders how much they trust your advice. Make it your goal to grow in patience.
Difficult relationships are often stuck in painful and difficult cycles that seem to repeat themselves over and over. While you cannot ensure another person will change their approach, you can change yours.
“What if I choose humility, courage, grace, and patience, but the other party doesn’t? Wouldn’t that be frustrating and unproductive?” Ultimately, it takes faith to believe that these choices are the best path forward.
- God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
- God assures us that our courage to do the right thing will have a positive impact on us and those around us.
- God reminds us that we won’t experience grace if we are not committed to giving it.
- God, himself, demonstrates his own patience with us over and over again.
Embracing these choices is to embrace the ways of God. Trust that humility, courage, grace, and patience will transform virtually any relationship.