Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Bad Things Happen to Good Relationships

Conflict occurs over things you least expect. Here's what you can do.

One of our family scrapbooks contains a note written many years ago by our daughter's best friend, Cindy. It was written when the girls were both 8 years old and inseparable. They walked to school together every morning, enjoyed frequent sleepovers, and consulted one another on homework assignments each night.

Then one day a tiny incident stressed their friendship. Our daughter, becoming impatient when Cindy would not walk fast enough on the way to school, called her a slowpoke.

It was impulsive, a bad choice of words. One can only guess what it may have meant to Cindy. At any rate there was instant enmity between the girls. That evening there was no collaboration on homework. An upcoming sleepover was canceled. And the following morning the girls walked to school by different routes.

A day later a note, the one in our scrapbook, came in the mail. Addressed to our daughter, it read: "You called me a slowpoke, and I am angry at you. Your no longer friend, Cindy." Could Cindy have been more specific? The issue, her feelings, the altered status of the relationship: all clearly defined in two sentences.

The separation lasted, at most, one more day. When both girls realized how much they missed each other, they offered mutual "sorrys" (one for walking too slow, the other for using the epithet slowpoke) and resumed their friendship. Soon, it was as if nothing had come between them.

Yet something had happened; something had been learned. One girl had become aware of the importance of guarding her tongue lest an errant word hurt another's feelings. And the other learned not to overreact in a heated moment. Valuable lessons. If remembered, the "learnings" might save both of them in many of the inevitable quarrels they would experience in the future.

I recall wishing at the time that it would be nice if some of the adults in our church could deal with their prickly issues as clearly, as quickly, and as completely as the two girls had done. And what I wished for my congregation, I also wished for myself. In the field of human conflict, I was far from a genius.

Article by Gordon MacDonald - This excerpt was taken from Christianity Today, to read the entire article click here: