To keep our relationships healthy and satisfying, we sometimes need to tweak old habits and attitudes. Check out the following list of tips and consider tucking a few into your New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.
1. DO commit to honesty in your relationships.
Love is a gift, but trust is earned. Honesty provides a solid foundation for building relationships and especially for rebuilding damaged ones. Honor yourself and others by telling the truth with gentleness and patience and an attitude of goodwill.
2. DON’T assume that you know what another person is thinking.
We like to think that we are mind readers, but only God knows a person’s heart. Many conflicts begin with wrong, negative guesses about others’ feelings and motives. Choose to assume the best about another person’s intentions and check your runaway assumptions before they get you into trouble.
3. DO pray for those who have offended you.
It is impossible to cling to both God and vengeful feelings at the same time. When we hold up our enemies to God in prayer, we open ourselves to having our minds and hearts changed. Decide to seek after a heart like Christ’s and ask God to show you a new way of seeing the person who hurt you.
4. DON’T torture yourself with guilt and regret.
We have all done careless or malicious things that we later regret. Remorse is harmful when it keeps us trapped in hopeless ruminations about mistakes we cannot change, but healthy remorse can motivate us to learn from our mistakes and change ourselves for the better. Practice surrendering your regrets to God, asking for forgiveness and trusting God’s promise to release you from guilt over wrongdoing.
5. DO good to those who have harmed you.
We live in a fallen world, and we frequently must decide how we will respond to the selfish, unjust, or even cruel acts of those around us. When we return evil for evil, we add darkness and misery to the world, but when we return good for evil, Christ’s light and goodness become visible in us. Make it your habit to act with love and self-control especially in situations where such graces are scarce and therefore greatly needed.
6. DON’T hide from your flaws.
No one is perfect, and quarrels can be painful precisely because they expose our weaknesses. Shame over our flaws compels us to hide them, but a healthy recognition that we are all flawed helps us to accept and forgive one another. Identify the flaws in others that especially bother you and be willing to acknowledge those same flaws in yourself.
7. DO speak carefully.
We all know how words can hurt, and we also know how gracious, respectful words can heal. Harsh words may linger in the mind and heart, sometimes for years, without losing their sting. Cultivate the habit of speaking in ways that encourage and build others up rather than attacking and tearing them down.
8. DON’T be too proud to admit when you’ve been wrong.
Pride can be dangerous when it forces us to live the lie of pretending to be better than we really are. On the other hand, relationships flourish when people feel safe enough to take off their masks and reveal to each other their true selves. Admit out loud when you have been wrong and then take it a step further and ask to be forgiven.
9. DO fix your gaze on Christ and not on your grievances.
Although we may enjoy telling ourselves and others the story of how we have been wronged, we cannot begin to recover until we get our focus off the injury and fix it on the Person of Christ. He suffered terrible injuries all for the sake of love and the desire to save us. Thank God for His gift of Jesus in your life and ask Him for the love and grace you need to forgive those who have injured you.
10. DON’T try to repair a damaged relationship without God’s help.
Forgiving others is a sacred task. God Himself created us for relationship and gave us forgiveness to help us through the difficulties of living among sinful, imperfect people. Ask God to teach you about mercy and the peace that comes from releasing your pain and bitter feelings.
Adapted from A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness by Judith Ingram.
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