Archive for February 2019

BACK TO THE SEMINAR   4 comments

Forgive me for the long delay. I’ve been busy preparing and giving an in-person presentation on reconciliation at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, on Wednesday, February 13. You might be interested to know an answer I gave there to the question “Why?”

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” Mathew 5: 23-24

It’s the biblical way of saying you can’t enjoy the blessing of internal peace if you are harboring anger over a damaged relationship. It’s another way of emphasizing the importance of removing the impediment from your own eye before trying to straighten someone else out.

The point is, reconciliation requires coming together in one way or another with the other person(s). It’s a two-way street. Except when the other person refuses to engage. Then the reconciliation requires engaging oneself internally in working through the hurt and anger.

For now, though, I’d like to talk about initiating the connection. It’s important to know the outcome you hope for …  and how likely it is that you’ll get what you’re looking for. Do you want a response? What might it be? An offer to meet and talk? An agreement to follow through on the direct action you’ve requested? Or even for the person to realize there’s a problem in the first place? Are you creating more pain and anger for yourself by imagining an unlikely response, the absence of which will leave you disappointed (and even angrier?)

Or what if you just want to express your anger. If you do that and stop there, it’s guaranteed you’ll accomplish two things – hurt the other person, and encourage defensiveness, denial, and/or retaliation.

But if hurting the other person is what you want, here are the rules for doing it.

  • Create a triangle. Try to get a third person to deliver your message for you. Or maybe bring in someone else as in, “And Mary Jane agrees with me, too.”
  • Don’t respond if the person reaches out to you
  • Send a letter – snail mail or e-mail – with no opportunity for the recipient to respond. End it with something like, “I just had to tell you how I feel.”
  • Make sure you blame the person.
  • Make sure you imply that you are blameless.
  • Maybe offer a diagnosis to explain the other person’s misdeed, as, for example, “You always were good at being passive aggressive” or “I have to understand that you can’t help being like that, given what I know about your upbringing.”
  • Avoid the Jennie rule. Jennie, my mother, one of those people who qualifies as a natural confident – one whom other people felt comforted by – recommended “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.” That doesn’t mean making excuses or accepting abuse. It means there’s always another side. Finding it is the essence of love. It’s also the best route to understanding and potentially resolving a painful issue. Or maybe realizing that it’s time to give up. So, if what you want is to hurt the other person, then don’t invoke the Jennie rule.
  • Finally, and above all, if you want to avoid reconciliation, don’t communicate directly with the other person.

Maybe you can tell from reading this that I’d rather be talking with you in person, watching your reaction, coming up with spontaneous stories to illustrate my point. But I hope these thoughts are of some help.

And, to tell the truth, I hope you won’t apply any of the rules I’ve given above.

I’ll be back soon with the more positive side of the story, but maybe you can guess what will go into the next section: “What to do if you want to reconcile.”

I’d love to hear your reactions to this.

 

 

SEMINAR CONTINUED: RECONCILIATION – WHY?   4 comments

Now that we’re thinking about it, what is reconciliation anyway? The answer to “why” depends first of all on knowing what reconciliation means in the particular case. My thesaurus has some interesting answers, the first of which is “Settlement.” Under that it lists the following as equivalents for “reconciliation:”

  • Understanding
  • Resolution
  • Compromise
  • Reunion
  • Ceasefire
  • Appeasement
  • Bringing together
  • The opposite of Conflict

I think this list is as good as any as a jumping off point to answer the question “Why?” Why strive for reconciliation?

I’d like first to focus on “settlement.” Yes, I know the definition refers originally to money settlement, the payment of debts. But I’m choosing to take the psychological/emotional route. Reconciliation doesn’t even become an issue until something unsettling, disturbing, stressful happens, or creeps into one’s awareness. It’s the feeling that someone else owes you something and refuses to pony up. How quickly do we get to “He owes me an apology, or a change of attitude, or cooperation, – or at least an explanation.” If such is not forthcoming, there’s a good chance anger will follow. How good it would feel to get even – to tell the offender off. How about a nice angry e-mail? “There. That’s settled.”

But is it really? What about the recipient who, chances are, will not be happy to receive that hurtful anger? Would it really be enough just to make the other guy unhappy? Nope. There’s no settlement there. Just an increase in the pain total. Settlement and stress reduction and pain relief won’t follow.

So, why reconciliation? One potential reason, because unilateral vengeance won’t make the pain go away – unless, of course, one enjoys another’s distress. They call that sadism.

And, of course, there’s no opportunity to receive the apology or explanation if other people have been turned off, or the reciprocal desire to hurt gets turned on.

Conclusion, reconciliation requires a genuine desire to reduce distress. Something more than one-sided spewing of anger is needed for settlement. It seems to me that’s where “understanding” comes in.

Oh, but now what does “understanding” mean?

Or maybe it’s not anger that erupts, but despair that depresses. “I give up. There’s nothing more I can do.” Maybe settlement can’t happen between living people. Maybe the other person isn’t willing, or isn’t even capable of responding, as in having an issue with someone who has completed the earthly journey. Maybe the settlement can only be internal.

“Understanding” can still help. The stress can still be reduced. Next time I’d like to introduce “Jennies rule.”

In the meantime, are some of you willing to give examples of what “settlement” would mean to you?

 

 

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