The best relationships go through periods of struggle, and some fracture under the stress of misunderstanding or sinful behavior. But as followers of Jesus, we need to take reconciliation seriously.
We put together these five steps for patching up broken relationships, and while they’re helpful in many situations, some relationships are broken because of abuses or extreme breaches of trust. And while reconciliation is essential, sometimes relationships need more dramatic forms of mediation and restoration before trust can be restored.
So while the following steps are the basic building blocks of reconciliation, we acknowledge that all relationships are different, and some require more work to resolve. Keeping that in mind, here the five steps for reconciling broken relationships.
It should all start here. Not only do we want God present in the reconciliation process, but we also want prayer to soften our hearts. We’re not just asking for God to help fix the relationship, but that He will also help us want to see our relationship mended as badly as He does.
Part of the prayer process is seeking perspective. In the thick of things, it can be challenging to see things as they are. Reflection is an integral part of the process because it helps us better see what went wrong, why we responded the way we did, and how we contributed. Before we wade in with the desire to fix the situation, we want to see it as clearly as possible.
Once your heart is softened and you’ve gained perspective on the situation, it’s time to reach out. One of the big mistakes people make in this part of the process is that they talk more than listen. Even though you’ve taken time to reflect on the situation, you still don’t see it from their point of view.
Remember, they might not have spent much time analyzing what happened, so this conversation might be the first time they’ve really delved into the circumstances. Be patient and try not to get defensive. The better you are at listening and affirming their feelings, the better you demonstrate your desire for reconciliation.
This is the part of the conversation where you admit your part in the breakdown and ask for forgiveness. If you’re guilty of an infraction or some insensitivity, this is as easy as admitting your mistake and offering to make any restitution necessary to mend the relationship.
Maybe you don’t feel like you did anything wrong. This is why it’s so essential to assess and listen. These disruptions often happen because we don’t recognize where we’re at fault. If we’ve humbled ourselves and truly heard the other person, we may better understand how we contributed to the breakdown.
Hopefully, they’ve apologized to you for their part in the fallout. If they have, it’s important to verbally forgive them. This helps provide relief and lets them know you release them from whatever emotional debts they’ve accrued.
If they haven’t apologized for something you feel they’ve done, you’re faced with a choice. You can choose to forgive them and let it go. If that’s the case, verbally forgiving them might actually upset them. It’s best to make the decision to forgive and bury the hatchet. But if they refuse to acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused, you might need to bring someone in to mediate the discussion and help create some resolution.
Broad strokes to reconciliation
These are fundamental steps and might not fit perfectly into every scenario. Sometimes years of infractions add up before a rift occurs. This can be particularly true in the breakdown of some family relationships.
Once you get to the conversation portion of the steps, it’s always an option to bring in a pastor, counselor, or trusted party to help keep the conversation on track.
The Bible places a lot of emphasis on the essential nature of community. If you’re looking for inspiration to take these first steps toward reconciliation, check out “15 Bible Verses about Friends and Friendship.”