Friday, January 7, 2011

Three Avenues by Which we can Reshape a Difficult Relationship: Conflict, Change, and Choice

Do you know someone; you dearly love, who rubs on you like sandpaper? I have—my younger adult daughter and it would be safe to say I rub her like sandpaper too. Our relationship could be compared to sardines on chocolate cake. With the sardines overpowering the delightful decant chocolate

Often I’d complain, “Can’t she understand what I'm trying to tell her?” Or I’d grumble, “I know I didn’t raise her that way.” I also found that when my daughter ignored my sensible advice; my inner peace would unravel. Certainly, “…the good that I wish [wished], I do [did] not do …” (Romans 7:18-20; brackets mine).

Ugh! My conduct became those smelly sardines on the chocolate cake adding to the stinky aroma of our relationship. I answered her rudeness with insensitive comments or followed her lead, I confess, and allowed profanity to pass through my lips as well. And I admit felt good at the time!

My behaviors, in those moments, were contrary to my desire to imitate Christ; therefore, I found myself doing what I didn’t want to do. How I wanted to stop my relentless nagging and frenzied frustrations toward her—I felt overwhelmed and helpless

Deep in my heart, I knew our lingering conflict granted the enemy a foothold in my thoughts (See Ephesians 4:26-27). I also realized I was training my brain to capture the negative rather than the positive, as my negative thoughts were engaged more often. It didn’t take much for my frustration level to reach Mount Saint Helen’s potential. My good intentions often became twisted by our scathing situation, and our interactions continued to remain unhealthy—a lose-lose situation for us both.

Like an erupting volcano, so was my inner peace. Instead of forgive me AGAIN God, I ventured a new prayer and asked for His wisdom. He showed me not one, but three avenues on how my inner world, emotionally and spiritually, and my relationship with my daughter could be reshaped through: conflict, change, and my choices


Conflict can indicate that something needs to change. Just like anger, conflict screams something is broken—fix it. You can't keep filling the water balloon, without the balloon eventually bursting. My continuing conflict shrieked change, now, today, if I wanted my sanity that is

A weeklong stay with my daughter in her new home, in another state, became a tool in God’s hand to carve the negative from my heart. Needless to say, it was a most painful week. And isn’t that like our Father to put us somewhere where we cannot run, especially when he wants to teach us a valuable lesson?

Besides asking God for wisdom, I decided I needed to enlist my friends to pray for me. A short note from one friend was packed with profound wisdom. “Show love, tender mercies even when they are undeserved.

“I don’t think so,” I responded as I read the note. But the more I continued to correct my daughter’s unacceptable behaviors, the more stressful I became. “Lord,” I entreated, “I’ve shown love and tender mercies. She’s still alive, isn’t she? So what am I not doing?”

God impressed on my heart, You’re not loving her with unconditional kindness. Whoa! Not loving her with unconditional kindness? I shouted. However, an epiphany struck at that moment; the more I tried to convict her, the more I took over the role of the Holy Spirit in her life. Even though I’m might be right—I am only Mother—not God. Masquerading as the Holy Spirit deprived her and I of inner peace. I could see how God’s advice to practice unconditional kindness in the midst of conflict, would cultivate peace in the relationship, even if my daughter did not deserve it, for that’s how God loves me. Conflict became the catalyst to bring about change.


So essentially, God, you’re saying I must change first? Isn’t it funny how we want change, except we think it’s the one who exasperates us who needs the kick in the pants? But unless we understand that we have a choice to conquer our self-made stress, we are left untouched and so well be the relationship.

The Christian principles I believe in were buried deep in guilt and frustration. My high opinion of “mother-knows-all” required a demotion. I needed to evaluate my attitude and judgments (Romans 12:3). My thoughtful analysis revealed my need to allow the fruit of the Spirit to flow through me, to resist the devil’s scheme to shatter my relationship with my daughter, and to “be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind” toward her (Romans 12:2). Yes, I needed to change.


I've got to make a choice. My relationship must be more important to me then saving face or being right (even when I know I am). The safekeeping of our relationship behooves me to learn to respond with unconditional kindness. I don’t want to smell like stinky sardines. In my heart, I desire the fragrance of Christ to permeate my interactions with others, including my most difficult and loved relationships; therefore I must make some choices.

Love does not stand alone in transforming our difficult relationships, but is the means by which we learn to respond toward others with unconditional kindness—and that is a choice. And so is learning to, “be harmonious, sympathetic, … kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil with evil, or insult with insult …” (1 Peter 3:8-9)

God transformed me by our conflict, by showing me the need to change, and the importance of making different choices to build the relationship rather then tearing it down. Change exists only in the choices I make in our communications, especially in tense moments. By choosing to actively show unconditional kindness, I learned to:

· Redirect the conflict

· Change my behavior

· Make choices that honor God

When we are motivated by unconditional kindness, we demonstrate respect for the relationship. Our inner peace flourishes and we foster an increased anticipation to restore or improve the relationship, but more importantly transforming ourselves, as we chose to practice unconditional kindness.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).

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