Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church...
Paul (Ephesians 4:15)
You know those moments when you have an interaction that leaves you with tension or hurt? Maybe someone said something at work that made you feel less than another worker. Perhaps your spouse made a comment that made you feel taken for granted. Maybe a friend made a statement about a political view that left you feeling misrepresented. Or maybe you just had a basic argument with someone and it left you full of all sorts of strong feelings afterwards. Whatever the reason, whatever the tension, so much goes on in our minds and hearts in those moments. And it doesn’t stop with that interaction.
Have you noticed that when tension enters a relationship, every movement becomes analyzed in a new way? Every look and word is examined. We wonder what they’re thinking. Actually, we’re pretty sure that we know. And we begin to construct a complete world in our minds that fills in all possible gaps.
Do you wonder if you do this? Here’s a clue: Yes.
We all formulate stories surrounding conflict. And they tend to be very one sided, and we are always the party that has been unfairly wronged. I cannot tell you how many times, after a conflict with my children, that I’m convinced that their only goal in life is to destroy me. I’m positive I haven’t constructed any of that in my head. It’s real. I’m sure of it.
The problem is that when we create a narrative in our heads, there’s a very real chance it isn’t true. And for a disciple of Jesus, that’s a problem. We cannot live with integrity if we’re not chasing after what is true.
So what do we do? One very simple way of dealing with conflict and tense relationship moments is so helpful, but it requires humility, honesty, and courage. Brene Brown is a vulnerability researcher and author, whose work in the social sciences eventually led her to become a follower of Jesus. She shares one of the greatest and most courageous ways of moving toward reconciled relationships.
We identify the story we’re making up. Then we ask if it’s true.
We choose vulnerability with our selves, and with the other. When we admit that we’ve made up a story and we’re not sure it’s 100% accurate, we communicate something to our sister or brother. Brown says that it communicates,"I want you to see me and understand me and hear me, and knowing what you really mean is more important to me than being right or self-protecting.”
If someones clarifies that our story is not true, the tension shifts and we can move forward in truth. And if we learn that we actually were reading the situation correctly (rare), then asking this question breaks the tension and gives us an opportunity to move toward reconciliation and grace in our conversation. And yes, someone could be dishonest with us. But we’re talking about doing our part here, not finding reasons to avoid it.
Jesus has taught us to be a people of reconciliation. That reconciliation is strikingly holistic. It comes to us in the form of God reconciling the world to himself through Jesus. And then, as people who are loved and in right relationship with God, we are given what Paul calls, “the ministry of reconciliation” for the world around us. In simple talk… it means we are committed to the process of becoming right with people and right with God. It’s in one of our job descriptions.
Much interpersonal tension lacks clarity and dialogue- and therefore remains a heavy burden with no resolution in sight. But Jesus wants us to know freedom, and he gave us the tools to seek truth and reconcile.
What stories have you been telling yourself lately about yourself and others? Are you sure they’re true? It’s worth asking.
Jesus, give me humility and courage to name the stories I’m making up.