i was talking with a friend of mine recently and he was telling me about the death of a friendship that he had experienced in his world. somebody that he thought was a true friend and valued coworker turned out to be the exact opposite. i was incredibly impressed by my friend's determination to work out the difficulties, see things from the other guy's point of view, take responsibility for mistakes that he had made, and, more than anything else, the value my friend placed on relationship, teamwork, and kingdom priorities. he really wanted to work things out, but the other guy had already made up his mind and had walked away...with no reconciliation.
in return for his effort, my friend received rejection, slander, and the severing of communication. it makes me think about the relationships that all of us experience. i gotta tell you, good relationships are hard. they seem to be harder in the church than anywhere else in all of society.
i have seen this story again and again: someone makes a mistake, says a thoughtless word, or breaks a promise and another person is left to interpret. rather than going right to the person and asking for clarification, they just shrug their shoulders and breathe out a hearty "whatever" and they move on.
the problem is whenever this kind of pattern begins, it becomes easier and easier to avoid talking about it and then grow comfortable with assumptions. over time, relationships erode, fake smiles replace genuine friendship, gossip begins and the search for people who will validate the assumptions takes over. and pretty soon, people just walk away...without ever giving us a chance to work out the problem.
let me give you this advice: if you get your feelings hurt or if someone is doing something you think is wrong, go talk to them!!! give them the opportunity to listen and change. give the holy spirit the opportunity to do what you can't. for crying out loud (which i want to do sometimes), don't walk away from this church family, from a friendship, from a work relationship...without giving people a realistic chance to make things right.
the power of reconciliation is so much greater, so much better, so much more life-changing than the temporary pursuit of the personal comfort we gain by running away.
if you've got relationships that have grown stale or empty or fake or purposeless, go back and try again. ask the holy spirit to prepare the way and give you wisdom and depth. the world needs to see us act differently. they already see enough running away.
for the record, i am deeply grateful to be surrounded by some tremendous people who don't run away from conflict. i need more of them. so do you.