It’s 2020, and time to lose that extra weight. No, I’m not talking about dieting. I’ll leave your food choices up to you. However, there is an analogy to be made between dieting and what I’m writing about today. In the dieting market, there are all kinds of fads, but the principles of weight loss remain pretty simple: eat fewer calories and exercise more. I’m not saying this as a man who has achieved mastery in this area.
There is another weight that people are carrying around these days. In 2019, much was said about the mental health crisis going on around the world. The reasons for this are many and complex, but there are some things that are easy to figure out. Just like eating too many donuts can cause weight gain and poor overall health, relationship baggage can be like a heavy and unwelcome weight on our minds. Let’s talk about one better relationship habit we can practice in 2020: forgiveness.
Conflict is part of life. I routinely experience conflict with my wife, kids, co-workers, family members, and random strangers. We cannot control what other people do, but how we deal with conflict is our choice. Let’s say your boss at work yells at you angrily in front of your co-workers. I would say, without knowing any of the details, that a boss yelling at an employee in front of other co-workers would serve to tear down that employee rather than build them up or help to solve the problem constructively.
Not dealing with this conflict can lead to multiple things: a feeling of awkwardness around the boss because there is unresolved conflict, a feeling of dislike or distrust toward the boss, or a feeling of not wanting to go back to that job anymore. None of these are good! Let’s say you talk to your boss about what happened. They might seek your forgiveness, which would be good. Or, they might tell you to “deal with it” or worse if they have not yet learned the art of constructive relationships? What do you do in that case?
Forgiveness is agreeing with yourself and God not to hold something against another person or seek retaliation. It is an agreement to seek for their best even if they are not seeking for your best. Forgiving the other person frees you from what people often do… put themselves in a prison of their own making.
What do I mean by that? If you say, “I can never go where that person is (such as a family gathering);” or “I will not talk to that person until they apologize (even if they don’t know you are waiting for an apology because you never told them because, hey, they know what they did);” or anything like that, you are placing restrictions on your life because of the actions of another person. You’ve placed yourself in a prison of your own making. If we are practicing honesty, we can say, “What you did was wrong. I have chosen not to hold it against you or try to retaliate, and I want to make the trust and openness in our relationship better, but to do that, we need to work through what happened. I’m ready to talk when you are.”
We just celebrated Christmas, a time we remember how God sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth. Eventually, that baby born in a manger would grow into a man who would give His life to pay for the sins of all who would trust Him. God not only rescued us from our sin, but gave us a live-giving way to live today. Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)