Relationship Maintenance

While in seminary, I worked for a salsa production company (Renfro Foods). In addition to having all the salsa and chips you could want at break-time, the job satisfied my lifelong curiosity about how things work. Seeing the raw product prepped, cooked, filled in bottles, labeled, boxed and shipped out the door was a fascinating process. But the smallest glitch could stop that production. Therefore, all the machinery and conveyor belts needed regular maintenance. The man charged with plant maintenance could often be seen carrying a grease gun and applying the white, food-grade grease to the points of greatest friction. As he squeezed grease into the fittings, the production was kept running smoothly.

If it weren’t for friction and fractures in relationships, there would be no need for the Bible. Think about it. Were it not for sin – breaking man’s perfect fellowship with God – there would never have been the need for God’s revelation of the Word. But, the immediate results of man’s Fall in Genesis 3 reveals the damage done in all of our relationships: man/God; husband/wife; and man/creation. Therefore, the Bible became necessary to help us see how to restore and maintain all our relationships. It is, among others things, a how-to manual of relating properly to God and others. [1]  From the Ten Commandments to the Great Commandment, the Bible is about relationships ( Exodus 20:3-17; Matthew 22:36-40).

Even in the best of relationships, though, we blow it. We are thoughtless, say things before we think and are just unkind. In those situations, we need to be quick to seek forgiveness (or give forgiveness).  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive (Colossians 3:13, HCSB). Seeking (through confession, i.e.1 John 1:9) or granting forgiveness is the necessary “grease” that brings about reconciliation. However, where forgiveness is absent, bitterness and barriers grow and relationships break.

Prepare/Enrich, which I use for premarital counseling, provides this good advice to couples (but can apply to all) in the area of seeking and granting forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the decision or choice to give up the right for vengeance, retribution, and negative thoughts toward an offender in order to be free from anger and resentment. This process promotes healing and restoration of inner peace, and it can allow reconciliation to take place in the relationship. [2]

Here, then, are some suggested steps for seeking and giving forgiveness:

Six Steps for Seeking Forgiveness:

  1. Admit what you did was wrong or hurtful.
  2. Try to understand/empathize with the pain you have caused.
  3. Take responsibility for your actions and make restitution if necessary.
  4. Assure your partner you will not do it again.
  5. Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
  6. Forgive yourself.

Six Steps for Granting Forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledge your pain and anger. Allow yourself to feel disrespected.
  2. Be specific about your future expectations and limits.
  3. Give up your right to “get even,” but insist on being treated better in the future.
  4. Let go of blame, resentment, and negativity toward your partner.
  5. Communicate your act of forgiveness to your partner. (“I forgive you.” NOT “When you change, I’ll think about it.”)
  6. Work toward reconciliation (when safe). [3]

So, as we continue to resolve to take actions in 2012 to experience God’s love for us and to reveal His love through us, make sure that you are taking steps to restore relationships, whether it means seeking forgiveness or granting it.

You can’t undo anything you’ve already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And then let God do the rest. – Tertullian

[1] If you want to explore some biblical advice on relationships, here is simple Bible study on the  New Testament “One Another” & “Each Other” Commands by John Egleston.

[2] Prepare-Enrich Couple’s Workbook, pg 13, © Copyright 2008 Life Innovations, Inc.

[3] Ibid.