How to Reconcile Hurt Relationships after You Forgive

How to Reconcile Hurt Relationships after You Forgive

If you are a Christian, you are called to forgive, having experienced God’s forgiveness, and received His command to do the same for others. Jesus set this example for us even in the moments of His death on the cross.

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If a perfect God can forgive us, how can we not forgive others? Though forgiveness takes time and healing—depending on the offense—it can be difficult to establish what to do next after you forgive. Is there a way to restore relationships that have been destroyed by betrayal, infidelity, or worse?

Although every situation is different, there are steps you can take today to reconcile relationships that have gone wrong: 

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  • 1. Clear the Air

    1. Clear the Air

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    If you want to truly reconcile a relationship, the first step you must take is for both of you to acknowledge the past hurt and choose to move forward. This may be painful, but it gives both parties a chance to completely apologize for the offense. Gently laying all the emotions on the table can be a great way to start the conversation.

    It is important to note that the overall goal is to move forward, not resurrect arguments over the past. Try these words, for example: “I would like to start over in our friendship. I ask that you please forgive me for all that I have done to cause you pain.” Coming to the other person in humility, and willingly accepting that we might not be completely innocent, shows maturity and a desire to change.

    Though this may bring up some uncomfortable moments, it is a significant step towards rebuilding the friendship. Holding onto any form of bitterness, while trying to reestablish a friendship, will always be a losing battle.

    Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32

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  • 2. Be Intentional

    2. Be Intentional

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    In order to restore a relationship, we must be purposeful in how we choose to act. Rather than passively hoping the relationship returns back to normal, we must be willing to “put ourselves out there” for one another.

    In other words, what are some tangible things you can do today to bring about positive and loving change? Would reaching out via social media or planning a coffee date be the first step to moving forward? Perhaps acting on the person’s love language with a gift or positive word will be what creates a heart-shift.

    Whatever the case may be, we must say with our behavior that we aren’t too proud to be the first to reach out. Those who struggle with pride will find themselves constantly waiting for the other party to make the first move. However, if the relationship is important to you, don’t wait! Make a choice to be kind, gentle, compassionate, and intentional on purpose. If you truly feel this is a relationship worth fighting for, pray carefully over the next move and stay the course. Step forward in love.

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12

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  • 3. Leave the Past Behind

    3. Leave the Past Behind

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    When we desire to reconcile a relationship, we must be keenly self-aware of our personal biases and expectations. For example, suppose you are trying to restore a relationship with a person who was unfaithful to you in the past. Though you may have forgiven them, you still treat them as a person who is a cheater—from questioning their whereabouts constantly to creating impossible boundaries, your expectations create a hostile atmosphere in your friendship.

    However, when we make the choice to put the past behind, we no longer hold the other person hostage to their past mistakes. This is the gospel at work in our relationships. We accept their apologies and give them the opportunity to regain our trust.

    Instead of keeping records of every wrong, we pay closer attention to when things are going right. We cannot expect others to behave in a new manner if we are unwilling to do the same. True forgiveness means making a choice to not continually bring up the past to the other person and to yourself. Let’s remember what the Bible tells us about God’s love.

    It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

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  • 4. Guard Your Heart and Avoid Offense

    4. Guard Your Heart and Avoid Offense

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    Our personal heart condition can ruin any chance for rebuilding a relationship. When actively working towards reconciliation, it’s important to be careful to not jump to conclusions and offense when trying to reconnect with a friend. Rather than complaining whenever it “appears” things aren’t going to plan, pray for wisdom to know when to address an issue. There are times that we are still sensitive to the hurt and take offense to things that are not present.

    Consider this example: suppose you were upset with a friend who continually left you out. When you finally forgive the friend for not being intentional about your friendship, you see her on social media smiling with a group of friends. Suddenly, you find yourself enraged again. Little did you know; she was actually out of town with her family or was asked to eat out spontaneously after work. Her transgressions weren’t personal to you or a sign of rejection at all.

    Offenses like this often happen when we are expecting things to go wrong. Rather than seeking truth and considering the other person’s experience, we only cause more damage to an already fragile situation. For this reason, we must be slow to speak, slow to act out of emotion, and seeking discernment before responding.

    Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19

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  • 5. Take it One Day at a Time

    5. Take it One Day at a Time

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    Restoring a relationship is not a race to be easily won, instead it is a marathon. Each day brings a new opportunity. Oftentimes, we want things better right away. However, it takes time to change old mindsets, attitudes, and behavior for both parties.

    Years ago, Dr. William Harley discussed the idea of the Love Bank in the book His Needs Her Needs. Harley shares that each positive interaction creates a “deposit” within a person’s love bank. However, when a person does something negative there is “withdrawal.” He asserts that for each positive and negative unit the overall relationship is affected. Even more so, withdrawals tend to deduct at a much faster rate than deposits go in. In other words, you can have 100 great interactions with a significant other, and one traumatic experience such as a betrayal can cause your love bank to be completely overdrawn. The individual who’s done the offense would need years’ worth of positive interactions to make up for the pain they caused. Though Harley specialized in romantic relationships, it is evident that even in friendships we know that one bad experience can ruin a relationship.

    It's a mistake to expect things to improve quickly, forgetting how many deposits it took to create the once amazing relationship. Remember, every interaction counts.  A kind phone call or bouquet of flowers are unlikely to restore a truly broken relationship. Instead, continually and purposefully making each day count towards the goal at hand with make the difference. Take it one day at a time knowing that each day is an opportunity for growth. 

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  • 6. Know when to Move Forward

    6. Know when to Move Forward

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    There are some relationships that are simply unreconcilable. The neglect, disrespect, and abuse are so severe they warrant putting as much space as possible in between you and the individual. Though the Lord wants us to make every effort to live in peace and harmony with one another, He also calls us to be wise.

    Many have found themselves victims of unrepentant “friends” who are unhealthy to be around. In these times, we should pray the Lord shows us when and if we need to completely disengage for a season. In the meantime, we continue to love and forgive the person. When in doubt, it is ok to love some people from a distance. One who continually hurts you with no hint of repentance is not a true friend. Recognizing this alone gives you an opportunity to heal and pray for them properly.

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18

     

    Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life. Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.

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