When someone is bold enough to change their Facebook relationship status to “It’s Complicated,” everyone else takes notice and starts speculating about what’s going on. The fact is, all of us among the human species know what it means to have complicated relationships. We’ve been in the business of making marriage, family, and friendship more complex for thousands of years, and at the root of it all is our sinful nature and selfish tendencies.
The Apostle Paul wrote about what it looks like for a follower of Jesus to change the game – to cut through the emotional clutter that keeps us from being close to people. He gave us five new attitudes to develop as believers.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
– Colossians 3:12 NLT
1. Remember that hurt people, hurt people.
To develop the attitude of tenderhearted mercy means to actively and intentionally feel within us the pain and suffering of others. Relationships get complicated when we play defense only and receive everything as a personal attack against us, rather than someone lashing out from a place of pain.
2. Show kindness in an unkind world.
Quickly perusing today’s trending topics on social media reveals that we live in a rather uncivil culture where tempers flair and negative feelings are strong. That’s why basic kindness can be so powerful. It’s like a burst of light in a dark room. It changes the game.
3. Get lower.
It’s so hard to put others down when we’re on level ground. When conflict comes, we pass judgment that we’re more right, or somehow better than the other person. One key to changing the game when it comes to conflict is to get lower – to take another dose of humility and realize that we’re just as flawed and imperfect as anyone else.
4. Be gentle.
A softer voice pretty much always disarms and de-escalates situations more than a harsh tone. Gentleness, when we feel wronged, isn’t our default mode, but it’s powerful to cultivate.
5. Work on patience.
Patience is hard. We want what we want, now. Waiting on someone else to change, to grow, or to mature is difficult. Even more difficult is the patience we need in our own growth journey. Patience means making allowance for the imperfections to very slowly be chipped away in ourselves and in others. And patience creates a buffer in a tense relationship that allows people to come along a step at a time.
All five of these attitudes create a bit of shock and awe in our relationships. When our spouse, our friends, our kids or parents, or our co-workers are expecting retaliation and instead receive a soft answer, a listening ear, and a word of forgiveness, it changes things. It changes people. And if you’re a believer in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit has re-shaped you with the capacity to show these attitudes on a daily basis.
They just take practice.