SOS: What can I do to repair a relationship?
Have you ever been mad at your spouse or a child? I know. Kind of a rhetorical question. My answer is lots. (Patience is not my forte.) With family members, I tend to have high expectations and low patience–a rotten combination for happy relationships. The bottom line? I’m still learning to love unconditionally.
The good news for me is that the recipe for repairing this is simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Simple ≠ easy.
So, when I have gotten mad at a person for whatever reason–and I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if that reason feels “justified,” i.e. my husband really should be doing something or a child really has not done something for the literally 200th time, it frankly doesn’t matter. The problem of how I’m feeling about them lies with me. If I want to have peace in the relationship, I have to let their behavior go and act lovingly. I have to go to the Lord (although often I can answer the question myself if I’m honest) and ask, “What do I need to do to change?”
I started to see this once when I was playing tennis. I was playing with someone who was having trouble returning the ball so that I could hit it. There were lots of out-of-bounds lobs. Now, let me just say that I’m no tennis expert. I could imagine my friend who teaches tennis returning a lot of bad hits. I pictured the Savior playing tennis and figured he could return those hits. I realized that if I were better at tennis, I could return the ball more often. I could keep the game going!
It occurred to me, in that tennis-playing moment, that in relationships, the more Christlike I was, the more I could keep relationships going, regardless of how the other person was acting.
Obviously, some people are easier to along with. Some children, for example, are really obedient or really kind. They are exceptionally easy. They aren’t the norm. Some adults are really humble, submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, patient, doing what they are supposed to in life…(Alma 7:23)…in short, they’re really Christlike. They may not be the norm either. I’m in the latter group–still stumbling along. Here’s the irony: when I am angry with someone, I put myself in the first group! LOL!
So that’s where I’ve learned I have to begin when I’m having a problem with someone: with myself. I don’t like it. It’s not fun. It’s much easier to find fault with the other person! Because I really want the other person to change! (“Now. If you don’t mind. Seriously. Don’t you get it?!”) I think that’s why the Lord told us to forgive 70×7 times, because 490 times sounds like a lot. Probably in reality it takes more than that for us to change personally before we realize the fault was greater in us than in the person with whom we are frustrated.
Again, the solution is simple but activating it does not feel easy. I wish I could change faster than I do. I wish I could be more loving like Christ. Right. Now. Ahhh, impatience!
I think that’s why the Lord blessed me with seven amazing children. To help me learn patience so I could have lots of opportunities to grow out of my immaturity and impatience. Otherwise, with my level of patience, I might have been totally miserable my whole life!
I’m grateful, when I have to self-evaluate and repent, that:
1. The Lord loves me unconditionally and is eternally patient. He is the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. He is always there, like the Lord is portrayed in the statue below, with his arms wide open ready to give me a hug. Absolutely always. Always. Always! Talk about amazing.
2. He wants to help me get there. He’s a prayer away. The moment I recognize my own need to repent, the door is open for me to get the help I need to have the change of heart I want. He’s there to give me that gift. He’s waiting patiently and lovingly.
It’s simple. But for someone like me, who still has a lot of pride to overcome (again), it’s taking a while.
Someday it will be there. With enough practice, I’ll get it. Just like my forehand.