One of the worst things to come out of my injury is the loss of a relationship I looked forward to developing deeper. I hurt a friend when I asked something of her. I didn’t do so maliciously or intentionally. Misunderstanding happened on both sides. I attempted, once again, this past week to get together and talk about what took place. The door to restoring the relationship is closed. I’m sad.
A young gal I mentor and I had a dialogue, this past week, regarding relationships (God’s timing brings a chuckle to this girl’s heart). Why do some relationships come easy and others… well… let’s just say challenge us to our core? As we talked, two common themes appeared. The relationship’s which came easy were steeped in acceptance for the person, warts and all; no judging of intentions; benefit of the doubt ruled. People allowed room for error and unmet expectation’s. There’s an investment in the relationship which communicates value to each person. In other words, you’re worth the effort to work through conflicts. We all know even the most perfect of relationships have conflict; it is inevitable. Those relationships which we find more challenging were not judgment free. Expectations, when met, were acceptable but when not met, oh my, emotion ruled, communication became difficult and forgiveness never quite complete; there’s always a reminder of you hurt me hanging in the relationship. The evidence is clear, healthy relationships take work!
What about grace? Where does that come into play in a healthy relationship? What is grace? What does grace look like in practical everyday terms and relationships? Is grace something only God can give or something we can all extend to others? Are grace and forgiveness synonymous?
Daniel Webster defines grace in several ways, all similar in nature to the 3 listed here.
- unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God; a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
- mercy, pardon ; disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; a temporary exemption :reprieve
- a charming or attractive trait or characteristic
Definition 1 can only be extended by God. Definition 2 also extended by God, yet, implies something we are capable of offering to others. I like definition three. When we extend grace, clemency to others for hurtful actions, we reflect Jesus. Reflecting Jesus… isn’t this what children of God are called too? Which brings me to forgiveness: Webster defines forgiving as, “allowing room for error or weakness”. Oh, my, do I ever need this one. I suspect I am not alone on this one :). Did you catch it? “Allowing room”; some people, some relationships, will require more room then others.
Healthy relationships will exhibit both forgiveness and grace. It’s not easy to set aside our hurt, our pain. Emotion gets in the way. We feel if we forgive them we let them off the hook; as if we are saying, “it’s okay you hurt me”. Forgiveness and grace are not saying the hurt’s okay (More on this in an upcoming blog).
Did I mention extending grace and forgiveness are a choice? We choose to forgive. We choose to extend grace or withhold grace. In my 20’s I had no concept of choosing grace or what it meant to truly forgive. Over the years, through many shed tears, difficult, hurtful, painful, and challenging situations, I have grown to understand the importance of these two actions. When I make the choice, healing begins and feelings eventually follow the actions. Sometimes resolving the hurt happens as we replay or rethink the situation. We come to understand what took place was never meant to harm. In those moments we’re free to simply let the hurt go. Other times the act of forgiving and allowing grace to fill the circumstances is wrought through tough dialogue. Regardless of the severity of the hurt we choose whether to forgive. We choose if we will offer grace in the circumstances; we choose!
A friend taught me the value of realizing our friends and family are rarely, “out to get us” or intentionally wound us. We live in an imperfect world and tend to respond to others out of our experience. Those who have experienced forgiveness and grace are more conditioned to extending the same to others.
I am not perfect. Let me say that again. I am not perfect. I will most likely let you down at some point in our relationship – never intentionally I assure you. I pray you’ll value our relationship enough to choose to have the difficult, hard dialogue, in order to maintain or restore our relationship.
As I write these words, another thought strikes me. Isn’t this all Jesus asks of us; to come to him with our wounds and our hurts. To dialogue with him and allow for grace and forgiveness to root, take hold, and bring healing?
Time for me and Jesus to dialog.
Until next time,