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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher

Reconcile, Resolve, Rejoice


1a : to restore to friendship or harmony 'reconciled the factions' 1b : SETTLE, RESOLVE 'reconcile differences' 2 : to make consistent or congruous reconcile an ideal with reality 3 : to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant 'was reconciled to hardship'

At this time of year, families come together to celebrate the holidays. It's a joyful and stressful time with so much going on, most of it good.

It's also true, though, that this time of year is unhappy for many people, who have had a falling out with a friend or family member. Maybe it was a small slight, a big disagreement, a betrayal, some poorly chosen words that haven't been or can't be taken back. Or maybe it is a lifetime accumulation of smaller things, philosophical differences, jealousies, harsh judgments and unkept promises.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb 'reconcile' in a few ways (see above). Definition 1 describes resolution of as a means to restore friendship and harmony. Definition 3 talks about accepting something unpleasant.

The holidays are a great time to do work on reconciling relationships, as hearts and minds are more likely to be open and willing.

The question, though, is what constitutes resolution? Does there have to be an acceptance of 'fault?' No. Do we have to agree on that which we formally disagreed? No. Agree to disagree if you have to.

The only critical piece for resolution to take place is to agree that, whatever the cause of the estrangement, it is not (or is no longer) as important as the restoration and ongoing maintenance of the relationship.

This is especially hard in families. The relationships, with their duration, complexity and basic assumptions about roles and responsibilities, make changing course challenging due to perceived risks. To succeed, we have to shed our traditional standing in the family and humble ourselves, risking our pride in the pursuit of a more important good.

That brings us to the part where it can get unpleasant. We're all different. We all have faults and we all make mistakes. Even in families, even brothers who shared bedrooms into their 20s, can be very different people. Even those who are sincerely open-minded about other people can sometimes be harsh and narrow about the life choices of those in their families.

Rifts of this type can be very painful. One or both parties may have felt very hurt and still do. Even when someone knows they are responsible, their pride often prevents them from asking for forgiveness. And the injured party sees this humbling of the one who hurt them as a condition to the start of healing.

These responses are part of human nature and normal. But to fix the problem, we have to be humble enough to push through 'normal' and ask forgiveness. We must also be merciful enough to grant it when asked. It's still the right thing to do. Even if the other person doesn't meet you in the middle, or at all, you've still done your piece.

Make a call before the family convenes or friends get together. Let the other person know you value the relationship and want to fix what's broken. If you were wrong, say so. If you don't think you were wrong, tell them you are sorry they are hurt. Then when you see each other, you don't have to say anything. A hug will make your point for you.

None of this is easy. None of this is quick. And none of this is a straight line up from the abyss. Trust takes time, and reconciliation is dependent on trust. Take your time, and if there are setbacks, keep at it.

In this life, we have only so many friends and one family. God gave them to us to help us, and to make life better through shared experience. Resolving deep, emotional conflict and restoring the relationship is part of growing spiritually.

Praying for the softening of hearts and the strengthening of humility to help overcome divisions, anger and bitterness. In almost every case, we have much more in common than we have in conflict. Praying for peace and reconciliation between people, especially families. Praying for Love to overcome Pride. Amen.

'Tis the season. God bless you.

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