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How to Make Things Right
By Dan Vis
March 26, 2017
Comments: 34

Try as you might, there will be times you make mistakes in your family. Sooner or later, you will say something you regret, do something you wish you hadn't, or fail to follow through on something important to your spouse or children. These situations can pull you apart or draw you closer together. It all depends on what you do to make things right.

While I'm certainly not an expert in interpersonal relationships, I have made enough mistakes to get lots of practice mending wounded relationships. And through those experiences, I've found a number of important keys to help:

1. Take Responsibility

It's human nature to minimize our own fault, and maximize the blame of the other person. This is part of what Jesus meant when he talked about the beam and the mote. His instruction was clear: "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.).

Yelling angrily at another person, blaming them for the situation, denying our own part in what happened--may all seem like a good way to protect our fragile ego in the moment. But, in the long run, taking ownership of our flaws is a better way to grow in character and eventually win the respect of others.

So humble your heart for a moment, focus your attention on the words, attitudes, and choices you made. Identify and take full responsibility for any wrong you did.

2. Exercise Empathy

Over the years, I've come to realize most people don't really hear what the people closest to them say. We may think we are paying attention to the words, but their points make little sense. The pain, anger, and frustration they express seems unreasonable, and even incomprehensible. And so we discount it.

Now, when I find myself unable to grasp another person's pain, I use that as a trigger to practice empathy. People are driven by internal motivators, values, and desires, sometimes deep below the surface. We are reluctant to see how our actions violate these deeper parts of the heart, because to do so increases our guilt. But to fix a broken relationship, it is important to grasp the pain our choices caused.

Set your own emotions aside for a moment, and try to truly understand what your spouse or children are feeling, and more importantly why. Being able to connect with their pain is a vital key to real healing.

3. Ask for Forgiveness

Once you have been able to identify your wrong choice, and can see clearly why it caused the other person pain, you are ready to take the next step. Acknowledge what you did, and that you understand the pain it caused. And then ask them to forgive you.

It's not enough to apologize or say you are sorry. You are asking them to release you from the offence you have committed. Their willingness to do that, allows you and them to move forward in your relationship.

The good news is most people want to be reconciled. They want to let go of hurt feelings and bitterness. If you have successfully identified your wrong action, and connected with the pain it caused, most people will accept that. If they refuse, it is usually because we have failed in either step one or two.

4. Be Consistent Moving Forward

While Jesus may have encouraged us to forgive 490 times, it doesn't mean He was giving us permission to keep repeating the same sins over and over again, that many times. At some point, continuing to make the same mistakes will make our apology seem less and less sincere.

If we have truly seen how wrong our choice was, and grasped how it hurt the other person, we should be determined to make a change. Paul described the kind of sorrow that leads to true repentance in these words:

II Corinthians 7:10-1110 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
What carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

If it is a recurrent problem, do some research, come up with a real strategy to change your behavior, get whatever support you need, and keep working at it--until the change sticks. Your victory in that area communicates value and love to the other person, and will make your relationship stronger than ever.

I believe most relationships can be fixed if we are simply willing to switch our focus from defending self, to truly caring for the other person. Anybody can damage a relationship. But it takes real courage to fix one--the courage to reach out of ourselves and across to the heart of the one we have hurt.

Comments

Do any of these principles resonate with you? Have any of these principles helped in your relationships? Have there been times you missed one of these steps? What happened? Share a thought or two in the comments below.

Posted by Qing Ling on 04/21/18
REACH is a good acronym Dan :) I have learnt somewhere that it helps to 'hear the emotion rather than the words'. because we can always agree that someone is hurting/angry (their emotion is what they say it is), even if we can't always agree with their thoughts/accusations/beliefs/arguments.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/28/18
Absolutely Merilyn! :)
Posted by Merilyn Aveling-Rowe on 03/28/18

REACH - excellent acronym Dan     I'll remember that!    

And ACTION is the key. Do it immediately!

Posted by Dan Vis on 03/21/18

Thanks Floride! Glad you found this helpful... I need a good acronym or mnemonic or something to remember these four steps. So easy to lose sight of them in the moment. Maybe someone will come up with one!

Hmmm. How about this: REACH, as in reaching out to the person you have wronged...

Responsibility
Empathy
Ask (Forgiveness)
CHange

Just came to me. As easy as could be... Next time I repost this, I'll try to remember to work it in. :)

Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/20/18
Great point, Dan! It resonates well with me. Sometimes, I found myself in situations where things would have been better if I had taken time to listen to my husband and understand the issues. But that always came to me too late, after that created lots of frustration and tension between us. Like you said, owning up to your mistakes and asking for forgiveness always brings positive results and take the relationship to a whole different level. Also, step four is very important to a healthy relationship, and I often fall short on that. You made some good points in there that I will try to practice, and I know that will be beneficial for both my marriage and my relationship with others.
Thank you and God bless!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/20/18

Absolutely Carole, apart from the grace of God none of these steps come easy to the natural man. But praise God, His grace is sufficient!

Hi Jackie, I know God is in the reconciliation business. It may take time, but as long as we continue to focus on drawing closer to God, He will show us what steps to take and the right time to take them.

PS. Note there is a new "Edit Recent Comments" link down in the comment box. You can use it to fix typos in your post--for up to 6 hours. I made the change you requested.

Posted by Jacqueline on 03/20/18
My son moved out and have not been able to have any conrmtact the Woodruffs are making sure of that. Ggod can reach his heart. I know I was not perfect and I would love the oppotunity to seat and talk things out. He is not ready. I ask that when the time come God make me willing to seat and listen and allow him to expre$ his pain fears hopes and dreams. God you are in charge. I release my child into your hands please put Godly people on his path. I pray for the Woodruffs that you will help them return to you. Help the family to renounce their wrong doing. to look to the Author and finished of our Faith. To revive our dry bones by the outpouring of your Holy Spirit. Jesus forgive me for all the times I messed up with Joshua. Help heal our relationship. Whatever you do save his soul for heaven. Do whatever it takes.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/19/18

Not one of these steps can we do in our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit in us, to help us be honest with ourselves, see where we need to take owership over our ways, be made humble to seek forgiveness,
Put ourselves in the other persons' place, overcome self-centeredness.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Wonderful message Dan. I am happy your system is up and running. HE heard our prayers.

Carole

Posted by Dan Vis on 03/19/18

Thanks everyone for all the great comments! Glad it resonated with you Valerie! And that's definitely a great verse to meditate on!

Thanks Fred, for highlighting the point we sometimes need to slow down and make sure we understand how we impacted the other person. So important!

Great post Leslie! It is hard when self is at the center, and good questions (if sincere) that open communication can definitely help deflate anger. Exactly!

More great points Lynn! Particularly: "there is no growth without responsibility" and of course, the importance of depending on God for wisdom.

It's true Ann, we're not guaranteed success by doing the right thing, but we still need to try. As you said "Christ can give us wisdom and patience to deal with the situation".

Yes, Deanna, even good intentions can be misinterpreted. And sometimes reconciliation can take years, or not at all. But regardless, we have the peace of knowing we have done what we can...

Posted by Deanna Dekle on 03/19/18
Good points Ann. I have also found that to take the steps to correct something can easily be misunderstood and appear to cause more trouble! Yet I have seen God work that out. It is very important to take it all to God and pray for His leading in how to go about things. Claim His word and move in faith-just don't expect things to get corrected right away-and sometimes it might not happen, regardless, doing what is right is the thing to do. That is the beauty of the Bible. God has recorded examples of human relationships and the results of failure to correct and the results of faithfully trusting in God--Joseph's life-Jacob's-... I have seen things take years, and just recently learned that one lady who had a chip on her shoulder and would not accept any attempts to resolve it has died...thus it never was in my knowledge solved; yet I know that I did what I could.
Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 03/19/18
Accepting responsibility and making an apology without excusing one's behavior is absolutely necessary for Christian growth and we will have issues with that until Jesus comes. There are some situations though that are not always so easily dealt with by just an apology. Manipulative behaviors and attitudes do color the way some people view things. Sometimes the pain another person feels is connected to things that happened in their past and it is projected onto us in some way. I have a relative that reacts way out of proportion to some perceived ill treatments and it has caused many issues in the family relations. This elderly person did not have a happy life and my household members are trying to be compassionate, respectful and forgiving and deal with manipulative behavior in a Christlike way. We cannot undo what someone else did but Christ can give us wisdom and patience to deal with the situation.
Posted by Lynn Badger on 03/19/18
Just one more thought Proverbs 3:5-75 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. -Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!
Posted by Lynn Badger on 03/19/18
Great principles Dan. I too believe that accepting responsibility is necessary. I find that in most issues if you step back and look at them you will find that they may be right about something you need to look at. Growth is possible in most all situations. But there is no growth without responsibility.
Posted by Leslie Caza on 03/19/18
Wow. So simple yet so difficult when self is at the center. Lord help me. Sometimes I'm at a loss as to what is hurting the other person or at least what is their concern or need. And even if I'm not at a loss and think I know, I can be way off. I'm slowly learning to ask. This is not easy when the first impulse is to defend self, but I am slowly learning that calmly asking, "what do you need? How did I make you feel? How can I make this right?" deflates anger and opens the door to communication. If the person is very deeply wounded and trust has been lost they may not be open to discussion. Trust may need to be regained which may take a lot of time, loving words, prayer, and kindness.
Posted by J. Fred Calkins on 03/19/18
Thank you Dan, Far too often I have jumped too quickly to simply asking forgiveness without first taking responsibility and discovering empathetically just how my wrong impacted the other. The fourth step of discerning ways I can make sure not to fall into the same error again is also crucial. Fred
Posted by Jacqueline on 04/04/17
Romans 12/14-16,12:17,19-21. It is only constant surrender that allows the fleshly thoughts lie dormant. And for the spiritual eyesalve to be calm curteous and kind after we been hurt or treated unjustly.
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/01/17
Great to hear from you Tesha! Great observations. Loved the word picture you painted. :)
Posted by Tesha Anna Gilmore Bair on 04/01/17
Oh, yeah...and I've learned that figuring out the empathy before going to the person is a really helpful plan.
Posted by Tesha Anna Gilmore Bair on 04/01/17
I thought for years that #3 & #4 were all that were needed!
I just finished memorizing the Sermon on the Mount. I found Matthew 7:3-43 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? to be very hard to memorize, because I kept thinking, "But how can I notice the log in my own eye?" Human nature makes it seem like the other person is more at fault.
I kept asking, "Lord, what if there are cases where the other person did have the greater sin?" What finally made sense was, "The log is your anger." The visual image I had was of holding a martial arts stick threateningly in front of me as I walk towards a patient with something in their eye. Of course it doesn't work that way! Lol!
Posted by Jacqueline on 03/29/17
I know. I been letting go and letting God. He is helping me to allow Joshua space. Growing up things were not discussed instead we would get the silent treatment and when they were done we continue as if nothing happened. God showed me along time ago what I was seeking acceptance and love from my Dad. The Lord said. How can your parents give what they never had. I am learning the bible has the answers I seek. Joshua not wanting family counseling
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/29/17
We can't control the choices of others, Jackie, but we can stand before God with a crystal clear conscience, if we have done all we can to make things right with those around us. There is a sweet joy in that.
Posted by Jacqueline on 03/29/17
God knows the heart it is been one rough road for three years there's been so much that's been going on but I know I have ammitted faults to God and my son. He not wanting to work on it out. So I pray.
Posted by Deanna Dekle on 03/28/17
James 2:2-182 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.; I Corinthians 13:1-131 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Posted by Deanna Dekle on 03/28/17
I John 4:7-107 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.; 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 25:31-4631 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.; James 2-18; James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.; Galatians 5:22,23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Relational Religion There isn't religion without relationships Right relationships ensures obedience and respect to laws. The Law is a transcript of God's character. We will have the same character when He abides in us. John 15:5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
The biggest challenge we have is to die to our self so God's love can show itself in us. Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. is a frequent prayer of mine. May my self centered love be crucified (Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.) and true love demonstrated.
I have found since a child that taking time to think about how others might feel and view a situation helped me have compassion; yet the devil tries to turn our compassion into a better thinking of self than is true; 1 Cor. 13 reminds us that we are not to be puffed up; neither are we to guard our "rights" but to allow our blessings and gifts, talents or possessions to be Christ's and given or shared as He directs and not as convenience gives us freedom from "guilt" that we did something..
Having just had 1 1/2 year of trying to help someone who we had living with us..I found God often bringing to mind these Bible verses and asking me to apply them and to not be hasty or critical or judging, but patient, understanding and loving, forgiving and to remember I have my own issues and needs for the same.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/28/17
Wonderful testimony, Margaret! All of us need to rewire our triggers here and there. This is definitely one--learning to see angry words as an invitation to ministry rather than a call to arms. Not easy, but it changes our perspective. And that change in perspective often leads to a change in situation. :)
Posted by Margaret Major on 03/27/17

I found this Monday Memo so valuable Dan. Most insightful, and practical. Especially point 2. Exercise Empathy. ..."Now, when I find myself unable to grasp another person's pain, I use that as a trigger to practice empathy"... This is such a great way (tool) to make connection, break the dead lock and move forward.

I was better at paying attention to other people's words/feelings (pain) and seeing behind the their hurt than my spouses. I thought I was paying attention to his words, but his points make little sense. The pain, anger, and frustration he expressed at times seemed unreasonable, and even incomprehensible. And so I discounted it. Thank you very much for sharing this Memo Dan, it helped me to see my error and do something about it; I actually practised these steps this morning particularly regarding empathy, and it truly works well.

Posted by Dan Vis on 03/27/17

I'm sure this reading connects with many, as so many temptations are "common to all". But to see such a desire for tenderness, openness, and kindness in these comments reminds me that we have the best community anywhere here at FAST. Thanks to all for commenting!

David, loved your note about the strengthened relationship (not to mention our own growth) "makes it all worth the effort". It does, doesn't it?

Posted by David Grabe on 03/27/17
Greetings to all in the Holy Name of Our Saviour!
This Memo made me stop and reflect on many things. I see how many times I have failed to "connect with other's feelings" which only created more dissension and hurt.
I see where change must take place in me, and it happens when we acknowledge, surrender, and allow the Lord to effect the change in cooperation with our meaningful effort (Philippians 2:12,13Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.). Pastor Dan, when you stated, "Your victory in that area communicates value and love to the other person, and will make your relationship stronger than ever", that makes it all worth the effort! Thank you so much!
Blessings to all this day, and always, by all means!
II Thessalonians 3:16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/27/17

I pray daily for my family. How we all need to forgive one another and come close and close to JESUS. This is what matters, and I make it a matter of
prayer each morning.
We all stand in the need of HIS strength and to surrender to HIM in all areas.

Carole

Posted by Gloria Bernard on 03/27/17
Yes, Dan, this was a hard lesson to learn, not to blame others. I was always swift to speak, slow to hear.
I am willing to accept criticism. I am learning by my mistakes. I know that God allows these trials, to show us our weak traits of character.
I also remember reading in SOP, that there will never be a time when we can reach and say, I have fully attained.
Posted by Leslie Caza on 03/27/17
This reminds me of getting past the letter of the law and into the spirit of the law. Beautiful.
Posted by Konni Plue on 03/27/17
#2 seems impossible to do..But with God it is possible to understand and relate to the offended's pain. May God give me wisdom, desire, and in fact a new humble heart to follow this teaching. Thank you Pastor Vis.
Posted by Marion Coppock on 03/27/17
My how I needed this just now. The Lord is so good, he sees our needs and even though we wait for answers sometimes, he will answer according to His timing.

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