Sometime back Joe (not real name) approached me for some advice as to how he should handle a relational problem in his life. He had been offended (insulted) by another Christian. He had followed the Biblical pattern of going to the person directly to make him aware of the offense in hopes of an apologetic response. Additionally, this person lived a distance away. However, such a response had not come, and Joe’s hurt was festering He did not know what to do. He wanted to build a bridge and not a wall between himself and the other person.
This was a tough one. So, having given it some prayerful consideration, this was my advice to Joe:
- The best way to prevent such a problem is to learn to be more thick-skinned, willing to overlook and shrug off insults on the front end. Getting self out of the way can help to short-circuit some offenses (Proverbs 12:16; 17:9).
- We should stay focused on our own responsibility and not that of the other party. Forced apologies are not legitimate, but mere words at best.
- Accept the reality that the depth of some relationships is limited, and confident that you have done what you can to preserve it, let it go and move on (Romans 12:18).
- In prayer, ask God to help you to have a forgiving spirit—anyway!
I’ve had some contact with Joe since this incident occurred, and he informed me that he had followed my advice. “Surprisingly”, he shared, “the other person had apologized since the incident, and things had improved in their relationship”. My advice to Joe was a good reminder to me of these practices: Overlook, focus on my responsibility, accept reality and let it go, and pray for a forgiving spirit. May we all do whatever is possible to build bridges instead of walls—regardless of the actions of others!