This past November I wrote the most difficult and intricate post I have ever written on my blog or elsewhere on the topic of racial reconciliation titled, “The Imperative & Paradox of Racial Reconciliation”. In getting to the finished post, I crafted various versions that in hindsight acted as my processing tools. I had originally intended on making the framework I created be the centerpiece of my finished product but God had other plans!
Outside of my continued work on racial reconciliation in the Be the Bridge groups at my church, I am grappling with reconciliation on a personal level and it is proving to be daunting. I am talking just about the hopeful restoration of broken familial bonds, not anything to do with race or gender, just plain old reconciliation. And I feel like a blind woman trying to walk in the desert at night. How do I begin to rebuild trust, restore wholeness in love, respond with empathy and respect, nurse my wounds without anger and stem the pangs of perceived betrayal? This much I do know— I need a generous endowment of The Holy Spirit to transform my heart so I can be an honest participant in any reconciliation process. I cannot do this type of heart-centered work purely by my own efforting or willing it to be so.
In trying to make a way for myself, I figured it might be helpful to dig up my earlier drafts on a reconciliation framework to give me some type of guide as I navigate the uncomfortable and often painful journey towards reconciliation within my family.
The Cycle of Reconciliation
In my research on this topic and personal experience, I’ve observed three key stages that define the reconciliation process. For want of a more creative descriptor, I’m calling it The Reconciliation Cycle. It’s a cycle because these stages are by no means linear. For a concept as complex, personal and significant as reconciliation, it is best to think of these stages as flows rather than steps, with the understanding that a person can flow back and forth and in and out of each stage or stages at different times.
- Confession—Professing/Acknowledging out loud to another and/or to ourselves/God where you have wronged, hurt or harmed another by word, action or deed.
- Repentance—Feeling sorrow and regret for the wrongs and hurt you may have inflicted on another, knowingly or unknowingly. Having a true desire to atone for wrongs and to make amends with another. Repentance often requires a heart change.
- Forgiveness—Forgiving the other party for the wrongs you believe you suffered at their hand. And forgiving yourself, bringing your hurts and wounds to the throne of God’s grace. Extending forgiveness is the only way to start a constructive, heart-centered dialog which is essential for reconciliation.
These three stages may occur back and forth as The Reconciliation Cycle is in process, the scales removed from our eyes and more grievances or injustices are uncovered.
Reconciliation requires that each party in the process arm themselves with attitudes and attributes that promote reconciliation. These attitudes are critical as the parties move from hurt to healed, and go through the three stages of Compassion, Repentance and Forgiveness during The Reconciliation Cycle.
- Humility—Confession, repentance and forgiveness require a humble heart. Both parties need to get their egos and pride out of the way for reconciliation to move forward.
- Readiness—If one party is ready to reconcile but the other is not, there cannot be reconciliation. Reconciliation requires a certain level of readiness from each party.
- Understanding—A part of the reconciliation process involves a shift in perspective where each party is better able to put themselves in the others’ shoes. This is the only way for healing to really occur. Each party must be able to understand their role in breaking the bond of relationship and desire to move forward differently.
- Compassion—Compassion and understanding go hand in hand. Having empathy for the other party promotes forgiveness.
- Patience—Reconciliation takes time. The deeper the chasm the longer the journey. Each party has to exercise patience during the reconciliation process.
- Trust—Reconciliation cannot emerge without trust. Trust is needed in one self to share ones truth to another. And trust is needed in the other party’s willingness and ability to hear and receive this truth. It requires each party to believe in the best about the other as they work through their differences.
- Commitment—Reconciliation is not a linear progression. It is much more complicated than that and each party may be at different stages of The Reconciliation Cycle at any given time. It is uncomfortable, painful and extremely vulnerable doing this tough work. So both parties must be committed to reconciliation.
I think this is why Paul exhorted believers in the early churches throughout the New Testament to “clothe (them)selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12) and to “be humble and gentle in every way. Be patient with each other and lovingly accept each other” (Ephesians 4:2). Paul knew what they were up against, and knew they would need to be intentional about loving on one another in the midst of challenges.
The Role Emotions Play in The Reconciliation Cycle
Consider the challenge required in crossing over each of these three stages of reconciliation with just one other person as you journey to reconciliation. It is a process. It is complicated. Emotions rise to the surface easily– tough emotions like shame, guilt, anger, hurt and fear which we are often ill-equipped to express in healthy ways. These emotions too, are part of The Reconciliation Cycle. These feelings need to be discharged in constructive ways. And feeling these emotions can cause old wounds to be opened anew.
In spite of how overwhelmed I feel about trying to restore key broken relationships in my family, I remain hopeful that God will equip me to do what he has called me to do: to be an ambassador of reconciliation. This is true not just among the disparate factions in my church and this country as a whole, but as up close and personal as my own family.
As challenging as I believe racial reconciliation to be as evidenced by my thoughts on it in my previous post, I think the restoration of familial bonds may actually be more difficult as it is fraught with such deeply personal experiences and history. Nevertheless, I press on, in hope, trusting in the love of God to heal all wounds.
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.” Reinhold Niebuhr, ‘The Irony of American History’
Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, insight coach, and marketing & branding consultant. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.