Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Drag Time—The Folly of Unforgiveness

You know what’s a real drag? Living life with hard feelings between you and someone you love. Discord saps your energy more than Arizona heat in August. Tension and the turmoil needlessly waste so much of each day’s emotional capacity through perpetual brooding or prolonged bickering. Maybe worse are the cold wars. Nobody’s happy. It’s a real drag.

That’s why I call coined the concept — drag time.

Drag time is the difficult period between the offence and the recovery. It is the stint when you are dragging behind you – like a ball on a chain – that collection of negative feelings and relational friction toward someone close to you. The offence in the form of misunderstandings, harsh words, or demanding requests causes distance and results in the heaviness you carry because of the unresolved issue. It really weighs you down. It robs your joy. It colours your day. It destroys your most important relationships at least for a while. It’s a drag.

 Foolish people deny the need and downplay the importance of getting relationships right after an offence. Proverbs 14:9 notes this tendency, Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” Goodwill means reconciled people. The hurt was healed. Amends have been made. Reconnection. Understanding. Forgiveness. Unity. Peace. Well-being. Life is back to normal. Things are good again. You breathe a sigh of relief. You think, “Why did I wait so long to get things right?”

 Learn Lesson 1: the shorter the drag time — the bigger the satisfaction.

 So why do we sometimes delay trying to reconcile a relationship? Usually it’s our immaturity — our pride. On one hand, our selfishness and stubbornness cause us to brew hurt feelings as regular as Tim Horton’s coffee. We replay the wrong every twenty minutes savouring every sip. On the other hand, our selfishness and stubbornness build a wall of justification and excuses brick by brick that could rival the Great Wall of China. This immature stalemate of pride is what creates the drag time.

 Problem. Only healthy people can consistently build healthy relationships. I have seen that dysfunction breeds dysfunction. A person’s blind spots, biases, and bad behaviour rob them from responding well when reconciliation is called for. They perpetuate the negative cycle with selfish reactions. Often they haven’t learned how to forgive or apologize and move on.

We all need to grow in the reconciliation direction. God calls us to. Philippians 2:3,4 puts it clearly as to what a healthy, selfless maturity looks like. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And as you grow, you will find that the more emotionally mature the people are in a relationship, the greater the chances in bringing differences to an equitable and God-honoring closure. Determine now that the relationship is far more important than the issue that currently divides you. Differences and disagreements are part and parcel of two people growing closer. Keep taking steps toward selfless, gracious living. Don’t waste another day.

Learn lesson 2: the shorter the drag time — the greater the maturity.

The big picture is that God calls you and I to forgive. We really have no choice. The Lord’s heart is always toward reconciliation (read 2 Cor. 5 18-21). I may be a slow learner but over and over again in my delay to get something right with my wife, Donalyn, I would finally come to the same conclusion. God simply and repeatedly calls me to forgive her (70 x 7) and God calls me to apologize to her – whichever is needed. Jesus is clear. It doesn’t matter if she has hurt me (Matthew 18:15) or I have hurt her (Matthew 5:23,24), Jesus calls me to GO – to actually take the initiative – and get the relationship restored. The person with the softest heart toward God will always go to get things right. Even in the Lord’s Prayer He taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Repeated reconciliation is God’s norm.

After finally concluding that I will need to eventually forgive Donalyn, frankly the sooner the better, I decided about six years ago on January 1 to “Pre-Forgive” her for the entire year. Novel concept but consistent to what I had been learning. Since I knew I would have to forgive her anyway, I thought I’d get a head start for the year. I didn’t’ tell her. Sometime in mid-April that year during a “discussion” she blurted out in a rather perturbed tone, “What’s with you!! You’re different.” I owned up to her that I had “Pre-Forgiven” her for the year. We laughed and discussed that I had less of an edge, got over things more quickly and was so much more likely to not make a big deal about differences. Discovery made. I had begun to develop a forgiving heart like God wanted. Just begun mind you.

Learn Lesson 3: The shorter the drag time — the stronger the faith.

Your mission should you decide to accept it: Shorten the Drag Time! That’s God’s way!

Try cutting your drag time down from 3 years (or longer for some) to 3 months (your life is wasting away) to 3 weeks (you might still know what you were fighting over) to 3 days (egg shells are no fun) to 3 hours (take time to calm down but get it resolved) to 3 minutes (take a “do over” the moment you sense something you said came out poorly). Take the steps needed.

Cut the drag time down due to greater maturity, warmer faith and deeper satisfaction day-to-day. Get over issues quickly. Maybe that’s why we are challenged, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26,27).

I love to hear stories about your drag time. Leave your comments below.

© Dr. Dave Currie – June 2014


Feature image used with permission: © sokolovanton/ Image ID:11902554