One day James was on his way home from work and called to tell me of a conversation he had with a mutual friend. This friend said and made choices that really impacted our lives. And it hurt, a lot. We weren’t sure how to proceed but the one thing we did know, this friend hurt us and they knew they hurt us and they never apologized.
I had another friend I was close with for years. They said some judgemental statements about me and my family, that really crossed a line. As time went on the judgmental comments continued and grew into more personal and targeted statements. When I reached out to share my heart with them and how it was hurting me, I was met with harsh words and a friend who was screaming and interrupting me every time I tried to share my thoughts. I felt no choice but to set new boundaries in the relationship to protect myself. Once I started setting those boundaries, this friend did not respond most lovingly and lashed out wanting to end the friendship. Being very careful with how to respond, I shared why I had to pull back and the hurt that I had. This friend chose to walk away with no resolve and no apology.
James and I worked at a church that we loved deeply and gave everything to. Certain people went out of their way to hurt us during an unstable time in the church’s leadership. We fought to work through it, fought to stay, and it was made very clear we weren’t appreciated or even wanted. We felt like we had no choice other than to leave. We walked out of that church building broken and they knew it. They knew how we were treated was spiritual abuse. They knew their actions were wrong. For the majority of them- they knew. Yet, no one reached out and took ownership of their wrong and no one sought forgiveness or to make it right.
These people’s actions hurt. It felt like I had an open wound on my heart and they walked away knowing they caused the wound and didn’t care to stitch it back up. While I won’t share the specifics out of respect for them and I don’t believe the Lord would want me to. I want to share just enough for you to understand that I’ve had people, whom I loved deeply, hurt me, walk away from a relationship with me, and never once apologize- even though they knew the hurt I was carrying because of them.
During those moments I would cry and my pain would be deepened knowing these people knew they hurt me and their pride was more than their love for me. I would be saddened knowing had they just come to me, all would have been forgiven and we could have moved forward, with new boundaries in most cases, but still in communion with one another. While there are times relationships need to part for mental health and safety reasons, I’m also a big believer in reconciliation and not shying away from the hard conversations.
I will fight for friendships, I will talk about the difficult stuff, I will listen and always offer an apology first. I may disagree or have a different perspective but my heart is always for reconciliation. So, when I’m faced with people I have cared and loved for and poured into a friendship with that chooses their pride over the relationship- it more than hurts. It impacts me and is something I wrestle with for a while.
I’m sure you can relate in your own ways.
You have carried the pain from others knowing the weight would lessen if there was a true apology, repentance for those actions, an acknowledgment that you never deserved to be treated the way you were. You also know what it’s like to have the weight become heavier when you realize those words will never be heard.
Friend, while we cannot control the actions and motives of others, we can control ours. If we know how hard it is to never be offered a meaningful apology and the challenges of navigating the realities of our friend’s or family’s lack of remorse, then we need to be more proactive with our own apologies. If we understand the hurt when a loved one chooses to ignore our pain, then you and I need to choose to not do the same when we’re in the wrong. We must choose to push our pride and desire to be “right” aside and lead with compassion and gentleness. We need to allow the value of people to rise above our pride.
We need to become more aware of the hurt we cause others and seek forgiveness. We cannot hold others to a standard we don’t hold ourselves to.
Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
When we come before God in worship, we recognize that we can only stand before Him as righteous and acceptable only because of His forgiveness, mercy, and grace. What this scripture is telling us is we cannot stand before God and offer our worship and receive His forgiveness, mercy, and grace if we have discord with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture is very clear and consistent with God wanting us to be right with each other so we can be right with Him. The Ten Commandments have four commands that focus on the Lord but six commands that focus on our relationships with each other. Jesus says we cannot be forgiven if we are unforgiving, Jesus also says that we will be judged by the same standard by which we judge others. The prophets shared that God hates the worship of those who mistreat or exploit others.
Friend, no matter how inspiring, moving, or “spiritual” our worship may seem if we harbor evil against each other or harmed another in our Kingdom family- and have not tried to reconcile- God will not accept our worship.
I don’t know about you, but I want my worship to be accepted by God. I want to enter into His presence with a clean heart and pure motives. I consistently pray for God to search my heart. To show me anything that is not in His image and bring it to the surface so I can deal with it, heal from it, and become clean of it.
I encourage you to do the same.
But, I will be honest- it’s a hard prayer to pray because once God reveals the truth to you- your response is either direct obedience or disobedience. There is a step two to that prayer and I pray you will be ready to walk out that step.
We’ve all made mistakes, made poor choices, and hurt others. However, we don’t have to ignore it in hopes they go away- because they won’t. You may become desensitized to your wrong, but the person hurting will not. You have control over our pride and only repentance clears the wrong. Be quick to apologize and mean it. Be slow to anger and bitterness. Forgive others because Jesus has forgiven you. Walk-in freedom in your relationships knowing there isn’t anything your burying out of sight. Then, enter freely into worship with a clean heart.