Most of the bumps we experience as Christians are those between our closest relatives and friends. Why? First is the obvious: proximity. We have more contact with these people. But second, we care more about what they think of us because of who they are. We can’t expect a bump-free life, but we can keep our wits about us and do what we can to ameliorate and navigate through those collisions.
One important thing to keep in mind is that we usually judge others based on their actions (and we attribute the motive), and we judge ourselves on our motives. We say, “But we had good intentions. We didn’t mean to come across that way.” So we can justify our own behavior, which may have been atrocious, and consider only our motives (which are pure, don’t you know).
But remember that you don’t have access to the other person’s heart or motives, so it is wise to assume the best not the worst. But it is so much easier to assume the worst. Our flesh naturally goes that direction. I’m not saying we should be naive. Perhaps we luck out and are correct in identifying the motive. But we ought to reserve our final judgment until we know for sure. We need to listen to the other side of the story before we lurch to assign blame.
Scripture says it is best not to take sides in a dispute until you have heard both sides of the story. Parents should know this better than anyone. Often we listen to one side and determine from there where our loyalties are. But we ought to be cautious here. If an offended party is pouring out her troubles into your ear, you are getting one side only. How much has this offended party actually been giving offense herself? It is worth thinking about. Before you join in by being offended yourself, hold back and think for a moment. Do I really know all the facts? Am I showing a bit of favoritism by not getting the full story? Parents in particular can become very aggrieved when they think their children are being wronged.
If we become entrenched in a one-sided view, it’s a pretty sure thing that our participation in the peace-making process will not be helpful. In fact, we can make things far worse. That is why sometimes a wise third party can be helpful in settling disputes, because they listen to both sides of the story and don’t have a stake in it.
When our children were in school, and their dad was one of the founding board members of that school, he told them that if they thought they were wronged by one of the teachers, they should be prepared for him to defend the teacher, back the teacher, and not automatically go to our kids’ defense. Why? Because he didn’t want to be the kind of board member who would throw his weight around to see that his kids were always “in the right.”Â And if our kids took a hit once or twice, we believed this would be good preparation for life in the big wide world. And it was.
It is hard to stand by and be wronged. But as my husband is fond of saying, there is a deeper right than being right. Sometimes it is right to be wronged.