January 18, 2009

Left Behind in 2009, Part 3: Nothing & Everything

In my last post, I promised to share some ideas about how to deal with the "sticky people" who frustrate or irritate us. Because this topic has appeared in three parts, I will review parts one and two.

In part one, I quoted an email from a friend. (Thanks, Chris!) The message in the email highlights our ability to choose who "sits on the front row" of our lives. Also, the message emphasized our right and responsibility to exercise judgment and discernment in making those choices.

In part two, I discussed domestic violence as an issue in family/friend relationships because domestic violence completely changes the way in which you should consider how to handle a difficult relationship. This is true whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. Being a Christian is not an excuse for turning off common sense. If someone is abusing you physically or emotionally, your only safe course of action is to physically remove yourself from the situation. Any issues of counseling, forgiveness, restoration,or healing must be addressed from a safe, remote location. Failure to make this move is creating an open door to tragedy.

How, then, do we handle the "sticky people"? This group includes family members, co-workers, employees, neighbors, church members, and others we cannot easily or permanently disconnect. I am sharing principles I have found useful. I hope they will be useful for you. Each one of these principles has helped me to understand, anticipate,head off, or more effectively (not more easily!) resolve problems with others.

Principle One: When I consider how to approach this person, I will remember: this person is created in God's image and is loved by God. God's ultimate desire for this person is reconciliation, wholeness, and joy.

Principle Two: If I listen or observe carefully, I can see or understand what is important to that person. Knowing what is important (even if I cannot offer it) is the beginning of progress and communication.

Principle Three: Commonality (of direction, desire, purpose, goals, belief, etc.) is the basis for relationship. If we do not have enough in common to move forward in a single direction, I am willing to rework or reduce my expectations of the relationship.

Principle Four: God uses relationships to teach and comfort us. I ask myself: "What is going on here that God is using?"

You may ask, "Why is the burden of understanding all of this on me?" My answer to that is: if you want peace, it is your responsibility to figure out how to get it. If you are not responsible, who is?

What I have learned from applying these principles is that I can live in the same house, on the same street, in the same town, with the same people, go to the same job, drive the same car, make the same amount of money, inhabit the same body... and experience a completely transformed life. Nothing changes, but everything changes.

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