The 5 Rs of Healing Relationships: Replace
Forward progress in healing a relationship must include replacing the thoughts, words and behaviors that caused the damage in the first place. How do we replace negative behaviors with positive ones?
With the first R (recognition), we accept that we have caused a rift or done damage to a relationship. With the second R (repentance), the healing process begins as we start to act to turn things around with God and the other person. But the only way for the healing to continue is for us to replace the negative causal factors with positive thinking and behaviors.
Without replacing whatever caused the damage in the first place, the relationship can feel like a war being fought at the same time its peace treaty is supposedly being drawn up.
Simply stopping what we have repented of is not enough. That can leave a hole that needs to be filled with something. To keep the healing process going, we have to replace those negative behaviors with positive, godly thoughts and behaviors.
To illustrate, let’s examine some of the most damaging negative influences on relationships: gossip, insults and offensive comments, self-righteous ideological stances, invalidation of others’ feelings, and pride and arrogance.
Examples of replacement
Let’s look at what can replace these common negative influences:
Participating in gossip
Problem: Damages relationships through lack of peace and trust.
Replacement: Resolve to not speak evil about anyone—especially when he or she isn’t present (Titus 3:2). If we are approached with incendiary or negative information about someone, we can tell whoever approached us to go speak directly to the individual instead of us. If we are tempted to be the gossiper, we can remind ourselves that Christ’s model of what to do if we have a problem with someone doesn’t involve spreading it to others (Matthew 18:15). Talk honestly and openly (with love) to the person involved if there is a problem or annoyance that cannot be brushed off.
Making offensive and insulting comments to others
Problem: Damages relationships through lack of consideration and kindness.
Replacement: Speak only kind words that benefit others (Ephesians 4:29). After any interaction be sure that the other person knows you care about him or her and would not say anything to be intentionally hurtful.
Arguing over self-righteous ideological stances
Problem: Damages relationships through lack of wisdom and being disagreeable.
Instead of shoving our opinions down others’ throats, we can respectfully allow for differences in perspective and life experience.Replacement: Instead of shoving our opinions down others’ throats, we can respectfully allow for differences in perspective and life experience. When we do disagree, we can be kind about it and agree to disagree when necessary. There is wisdom in choosing to avoid argumentative topics by not bringing them up (Proverbs 20:3).
Invalidating others’ feelings
Problem: Destroys relationships through lack of gentleness and compassion.
Replacement: Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s situation, trying to understand where he or she is coming from rather than telling the person he or she is wrong to feel that way. We can do our best to understand why others feel the way they feel and to seek understanding and mercy. Trying to better understand others is a sign of wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).
Displaying pride and arrogance
Problem: Damages relationships through lack of humility.
Replacement: The Bible tells us the replacement for pride is to “esteem others better than” ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This means we place more value on others than ourselves. It takes humility to make an effort to heal relationships—especially when it means admitting we have been a part of the problem. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong in this situation rather than assuming otherwise. Humility doesn’t come naturally to human beings, but we can grow in this trait by allowing God to transform our minds (Romans 12:2).
When these replacements are in place, they become the visual, verbal and emotional evidence that the relationship can improve. They show that healing is possible.
The last blog post in this series will look at the final two Rs in the healing process: reconciliation and retrying.