Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coffee Talk: Criticism from Within

Last week, our neighbor--whom we thought we had a great relationship with--threw away one of our kids' toys, which our two-year old had managed to toss over the fence. When the boys asked several days later if they could please have their toy back, and she told them she had thrown it away, I told her I was surprised she would do something like that without first notifying my husband or me. This began a conversation in which she said many harsh and hurtful things. Her words, and the things she brought up, revealed an attitude of bitterness that apparently has been growing, unbeknownst to us, for quite some time.

Being on the receiving end of critical accusations--especially when they seem to come out of left field--is shocking and hurtful. What makes it even more painful is when they come not from a stranger, but from someone with whom you have a relationship. Whether it's a friend, a neighbor, or a family member, when mean things are said and situations are looked at from their perspective in a way that you feel is neither accurate nor reasonable, the relationship suffers harm.

First, you have to process what happened and work through it. We pray for grace and mercy to keep any bitter roots from springing up. But, there's still the practical aspect that the relationship will feel awkward for awhile. It helps if both sides can talk maturely about what happened and seek to be reconciled. But when one side is not interested in reconciliation, that starts a whole other grieving process. I think the best we can do is to continue to pray about the situation (and the person's heart) and seek to keep our own heart pure before the Lord.

As Christians, we are called to forgive and love one another. We can't control other people's behavior or thoughts, but we can seek to live out the words of Colossians 3:12-16:
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."
This Coffee Talk Thursday, I'm wondering if you've ever had something similar happen to you and how you dealt with it. Did the relationship heal? How did that come about?


  1. You are doing right by praying about it and for the situation and to keep doing right and good to her. For a relationship to heal, there must be some kind of apology. That is why Jesus said to go to your brother (and you already did that) and if they repent, you have won your brother. You are right to keep praying about this and attempting not to be bitter. Pray for repentance for her so that true forgiveness can take place and a restoration of the relationship (true Biblical forgiveness always implies some sort of reconciliation).

  2. Wow, this hits close to home for me. I recently went through a tough confrontational time with an internet friend who I've known for years. After brining up old things from the past (and things that happened recently as well), admitting to wrong behaviors, and apologizing and agreeing to try to move forward, we are slowly seeing some healing in our relationship. We know that on the subjects where we disagree, we just don't tread there anymore. So we just try to have our relationship revolve around the things we do agree on. Its not always easy, nor ideal, but at least we have been able to forgive and move forward. And I thank the Lord for that.