The 5 Rs of Healing Relationships: Reconcile and Retry
While repenting and replacing can be challenging, the final two steps in healing relationships are probably the most challenging. Why? Because they need to be lasting and require constant maintenance.
We’ve recognized that we have played a part in damaging a relationship. We’ve repented to God and asked the other person for forgiveness, assuring him or her that we know what we did (or said) was wrong and will try to do better. We’ve begun replacing the negative behaviors that caused the damage with positive behaviors in order to demonstrate the evidence of our repentance.
But there are still two more Rs to consider. The final two Rs in healing relationships are linked because they help us rebuild what was damaged. Due to replacement, there is evidence that there is change. But we still have to maintain it. That’s where reconcile and retry come in.
We can look at reconciling and retrying as making peace and beginning anew. Sometimes it is necessary to simply “start over” with agreed-upon rules of behavior and communication. This involves a great deal of forgiveness, mercy, compassion and patience on the part of both parties.
Here are three ways to make the complex reconciliation and retrying process a little bit easier for everyone.
1. Develop ground rules
We want the replacement behaviors to be the norm, and that may have to be explicitly stated. This can happen in many different ways, but one possible way is a set of mutually agreed-upon ground rules. Here are some examples:
- “When I’m feeling upset, I need some time to cool off. So, I’m either going to say, ‘Let’s talk about it later,’ or ‘Let me think on that more before I answer.’ This may be frustrating to you because it may cut off the conversation, but I think it will keep us more civil. How does that sound to you?”
- “When you are sharing something with me, let me know if you are seeking feedback or just needing someone to listen. That way, I can know how to respond better and avoid being argumentative. Would that work?”
- “If you have an issue or question about me, please come to me first.”
- “Listen, we are not going to change each other’s minds about these things. I understand your position (and I think you do mine as well), but I disagree. Let’s avoid talking about this in the future, since arguing about this does nothing to strengthen our relationship. Sound good to you?”
- “I read in a blog post that it’s important to avoid insults, raised voices, interrupting one another and dominating the conversation. If either person sees any of these starting to happen, we could make it a rule to drop the subject. What do you think?”
And so on. The ground rules should help keep replacement behaviors alive and be agreeable to both parties.
2. Moving on in our minds
Reconciliation will never happen if either party refuses to put the past in the past. We can’t control the other person, so if he or she refuses to forgive and move on, overall reconciliation and retrying may become somewhat one-sided. Still, our responsibility is to move on and start fresh. We cannot start fresh if we are constantly thinking and dwelling on certain aspects of the conflict that were not resolved to our satisfaction. Sometimes we just have to accept that both parties are flawed human beings and move forward the best we can.
Reconciliation will never happen if either party refuses to put the past in the past. Moving on may require putting the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 into real-world practice. Here is how the principles of 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 can help us move forward:
“We are both human, so we need to be patient with one another. No matter what the other person is doing, I have a godly responsibility to be kind. I can’t be envious of other relationships compared to this one. I need to stop trying to seek only my own desires, while parading myself and puffing myself up, because it isn’t all about me, and I make plenty of mistakes too. I know what provokes this person, and I know what he or she thinks is rude behavior, and I can avoid those. I must think no evil about this person, while also denouncing iniquity and rejoicing in the truth.”
Verses 7-8 finish with “[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” It can be a tall order, but it is how we move on when reconciling and retrying.
3. Acknowledge that more mistakes will come, but there is a plan
“I’ll never do that again” is a dangerous thing to say. We are human and susceptible to falling back into sinful behaviors—even if we don’t want to (Romans 3:23; 7:15-19). A more humble and realistic goal is: “I will try my best to not do that again” or “I will do better in the future.” The same goes for the other person.
Mercy, patience and forgiveness must be a central part of reconciliation and retrying, because God graciously demonstrates them to us in our relationship with Him. He knows we will make mistakes in the future, but the plan is that we will repent and turn to Him for help in avoiding those mistakes (Proverbs 24:16).
Sometimes people go to the other extreme and have the following callous attitude: “I’m just going to make the mistake again because I’m human, so just be ready to deal with it.” This is an attitude of someone who will continue destroying relationships with both God and other people. A humble attitude of planning to do what’s right, despite inevitable hiccups along the way, leads to real healing.
So much more could be said about healing relationships. In this series we have covered just five steps. To review, we must recognize the damage that has been done, repent of our part in the problem, replace the wrong behavior and attitudes with positive ones, and then reconcile and retry as the relationship progresses forward. This comprises a simple, bare bones model of how to heal a bruised and battered relationship.
It’s worth the effort!