There has been so much turmoil, hatred, and division in this world. People are being torn apart—both physically and emotionally by these wars waged against one another. Maybe you are in the midst of a relationship today that has been torn apart by the spirit of deception, abuse, anger, and/or betrayal. Maybe there is a family member who has deeply hurt you, or maybe it is a co-worker or classmate who has bullied or hurt you in some other way. Whoever has hurt you in life, whoever you may have hurt, and whatever may have caused the rift in one or more of your relationships, there is always hope for restoration if both parties are willing to do the hard work of repairing them. Here are some of the essential ingredients that must be present in order to have a true restoration in a relationship with another person:
- In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must apologize for their part in the rift and/or forgive the other person for past hurts done to him or her. –A relationship cannot be restored if one or both parties still have bitterness and anger against the other. Moreover, not only does holding grudges and being bitter prevent relationships from being restored, they destroy one’s other relationships as well because there is a barrier to transparency that develops with bitterness. Also, the party that wronged must sincerely apologize for his or her offense, in not only words, but also by changing their actions and/or making amends. They must aim to seek restitution and restoration with the other party that they wronged, and not have an entitlement expectation that the offended party will do something for them in return.
- In order for a relationship to be restored, one or both parties must demonstrate humility to the other.—Being humble means not lording the hurt that caused the relationship to break apart over the person that offended you. Being humble also means owning your part in the rift, even if it is just your response to the person that hurt you. Yes, it probably wasn’t your fault that your offender hurt you, but your response is. As my pastor has repeatedly said, “Your response is your responsibility.” Don’t lay blame on the other party for the rift, even if it was primarily their fault. Placing blame never restores relationships, but forgiveness and humility do.
- In order for a relationship to be restored, we must forsake selfishness.—If we still are thinking, what will I get out of restoring this relationship, you are not ready for restoration. We must do not only what is best for us, but for all parties involved. We must do what we can to uplift and encourage the person in the relationship. In fact, when I was having a conflict with someone, one of my pastors said exactly this. In other words, we are to love those we consider our enemies, or those with whom we find ourselves in conflict. This means not only saying nice things about them, as opposed to mean and nasty things, but it also means a willingness to help and support the person with whom we had a rift. When we show that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, most people are willing to open up to us again. I am not saying for us to let ourselves be taken advantage of consistently for others’ selfish pleasures. In that case, we may need to set some boundaries. However, we must be willing to serve them in ways that truly will be beneficial to their emotional and spiritual well-being.
- In order for a relationship to be restored, we must be patient.—We must remember that complete change and restoration does not usually occur immediately, but over time. We must be willing to wait for the relational trust and love that we had before the rift happened to be rebuilt. Even if it takes a really long time, we must not give up on the relationship if we want it to be restored. We must be willing to work hard at restoring and renewing our relationship for the better.
When we incorporate these four elements into restoring our broken relationships, with time, most of them can be restored. Though it does take both parties for a relationship to be truly and fully restored, we must strive to do our part to be agents of reconciliation, especially with people who we interact with regularly. Yes, there are relationships that may not be able to fully be restored because of abuse or other things, but we must not let those broken relationships rule how we conduct our other relationships. However, when we are agents of reconciliation and restoration, we will make the world a better place.