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Pointers along the way #78

Learning relational skills
- Jacob Ninan

There are many things that come up in personal relationships that can cause a lot of distress and sometimes long lasting breaks. People tend to either withdraw and distance themselves from the strife, or take it up on a confrontational basis. Neither approach works. We can look at an example in the life of David where it was a case of passive inaction.

One of David's sons, Amnon, raped his step sister Tamar. David heard about it, fumed about it, but did nothing. Tamar's brother Absalom kept quiet for two years and then killed Amnon. Absalom then ran away from David. For three years David did not do anything about it. The story developed further, till one day Absalom rebelled against David and declared himself king (2Sa.13-15).

There are many issues in this story, but what I want to look at is only about how many things could have been avoided if Absalom and David had taken steps to resolve the issues rather than allow them to fester, deepen and get more complicated.

There will be conflicts. They won't go away if we ignore them or pretend they are not there. Neither can we imagine that if we wait long enough they will resolve themselves. Time is a great healer, but only when a healing process has been started and not when destructive forces are at work.

Some of us are temperamentally inclined to avoid conflicts. We may think we are peace-loving people. But the fact of the matter may be that we don't know how to handle conflicts. Even if we have tried to put out the fire in the past and our attempts have only resulted in bigger eruptions, all it shows is that we need to learn how to handle such situations.

On the other hand, some of us are inclined to fight it out, no matter if the other party responds favourably or not. We think we don't want to stand any nonsense and we are prepared to go to any length to set things right. But the fact may be that we imagine that we are right and the others wrong, which is hardly the case most of the time! We don't know how to handle things in a humble and an understanding way.

So what is needed? 1. Seeking God for wisdom and grace. 2. A strong desire to resolve the issue. 3. Willingness to listen to the other side. 4. Patience to listen without interrupting. 5. Inner acknowledgment that we could be wrong. 6. Humility to ask and receive forgiveness. 7. Determination to try and discuss things without getting upset, blaming each other and calling names. 8. If possible, set up ground rules with the other party for holding discussions.

Of course, when we try this, we may fail. But we can learn to do things better each time.