Replace or redeem? The need for more bridges

When something expensive is broken and money is flowing, we are quick to throw the broken item away and simply buy a new one.  But when something costly is broken and cash is low, we must figure out how to fix what we have.   Unfortunately, as a “wealthy, first-world” country, we have been allowed to replace too many things for too long.  In fact, in many ways – it’s actually easier and cheaper to buy something new.

A few years ago my DVD player broke.  I called the manufacturer to see how to get it fixed.  I realized that after shipping the unit across the country, paying for the part to repair it, plus the labor charges and the fee to ship it back to me, it would be much cheaper to throw it out and buy a new one.   Honestly, that disturbed me.  DVD players had become so inexpensive that they literally have become disposable!

Most things, it seems, have become easier to replace than redeem.  As a result, we have developed a mentality that encourages us to just buy new instead of fixing old.  And sadly, that mentality is not just isolated to our possessions, but even our relationships.

Most everyone reading this, regardless of age, has a broken relationship out there.  As you read that last sentence, a name comes to mind.  Or three or four names.  People you used to laugh with – now deleted from your phone.

Words were said.  Actions were done.  Actions were not done.  Things that we would have overlooked years ago now cause us to give the silent treatment.   Mild sarcasm that we would have forgiven in the past now turns into a bitter grudge.   Or maybe the wrong done – was really wrong… wrong enough to end the relationship.  The truth is, people can sometimes do hurtful things.  I have come to realize that people who have wounded me were also wounded themselves.  In other words, hurt people hurt people.  A friend will say something critical about us.  Neighbors complain.  Children are ungrateful.  Parents nag or worse yet, treat us like children.  Siblings tease us about a painful past experience.  Co-workers gossip.   Spouses are thoughtless, or worse – unfaithful.   Relationships get damaged and we are left staring at the relational shrapnel trying to decide what we will do with this person we once trusted.  Do we try to pick up the pieces or is it just better to walk our separate ways?

Some of us have viewed our closest relationships like a broken DVD player, disposable.  It’s easier to get a new boyfriend, than try to redeem an old husband.  It’s a lot less painful to get a new friend, than repair a broken relationship with a sibling.  Why open up old wounds with a parent who has hurt you when you can just ignore them now that you are an adult?   After all, you no longer need to borrow the family station wagon to get out.  “I’ve lived without them this long”, you rationalize, “why bother now?”

There are a lot of reasons why redeeming a relationship is better than replacing it.  The temptation is to let pride continue to course through your veins and justify all the reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the restoration.  “But he is the one who hurt me”, you think.  “Why should I take the first step when she is the one who was wrong?”  Or maybe you are thinking something like, “What I did was wrong and hurtful.  There is no way she’ll ever forgive me.  Why bother trying?”   Allow me to list six reasons why it’s worth trying.  One brief disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you need to redeem an abusive relationship or allow certain access with someone that is not physically or emotionally safe for you.  But there are times when you need to forgive (past hurts) and redeem (in spite of the hurt), especially if the offending party has changed/desires to change and is truly sorry/repentant for the hurtful behavior and has shown a consistent track record supporting that change.)    As you read the following list, think of the most important relationship you had, now broken, and picture what restoration looks like with that person. 

  1. People have loved you through some ugly times.   At some point in your life, you were not the perfect, pleasant person you are today.  There was a time when you were sullen, negative, disrespectful, inconsiderate, rude, sarcastic, mean or moody and someone (parent, teacher, sibling, coach, friend) decided to love you in spite of yourself.   Your words or actions hurt them and they decided you were worth the pain and stayed in the relationship anyway.
  2. If that isn’t enough, you have also been forgiven in Christ.  The Bible teaches that every sin we commit is punishable by death (Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23).  Christ’s death on the cross was in your place.   Why would someone die for you, in your place?  Only one reason: love.  “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)   If God can forgive your sins (which He was crucified for), can’t you forgive the lesser sins committed against you?  In fact, restoring relationships is so important to God that He raises the stakes with you.  “For if you forgive others for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
  3. You have a history with the person.   If the broken relationship is with a family member (ex-spouse, child, parents or siblings,) the history with them is like no other.   They hold a special place that no one else can fill.  You may be able to get another friend – but you’ll never get another sister, father, husband etc.   Even if the broken relationship is not a family member, you have tons of memories with them. At one point, there was some good times and positive experiences.  If you could get back to THAT, wouldn’t it be worth the work?
  4. Working through the pain can actually grow the broken relationship stronger than it was before.  In the human body, muscles & bones grow and strengthen under pressure, and become weak when barely put to use.   Relationships are very similar.  Too many friends “walk” after a heated disagreement.  When pressure hits a marriage, too many think separation/divorce is the answer instead of working it out.  Granted, there is a lot of pain and rehab to do – but it can be worth the effort.  And that relationship COULD be better than it was in the beginning – but only if BOTH sides are willing to put pride aside, change hurtful behaviors, humble themselves, ask for forgiveness and do the heavy lifting.
  5. A restored relationship shows others the power of forgiveness, friendship and love.  I recently read a story about a POW soldier from the Korean War who was tortured mercilessly by his captor for years.  Honestly, it was painful to read about the details of the abuse.  Years later, safely back on US soil – the soldier wondered what happened to this particular guard.  After years of searching, he found the name of his abuser and went to meet with him.  His goal: offer forgiveness.  The captor had become a Christian and was tormented, for years, over his evil actions.   The POW’s forgiveness had set him free.  Enemies had now become friends.   We all marvel at those types of stories, but few of us want to be the main character in one.
  6. If you are the one that initiates the restoration, you communicate a level of commitment to the other party that speaks volumes about your character.  In essence, what you are saying is:
  • “I want our relationship back more than I want my pride.”
  • “I want our friendship more than I want to be right.”
  • “I want your companionship more than I want the possible rejection you can give me right now.”
  • “I want you in my life more than I want you out of it.”

It’s hard to build such a bridge.  It’s painful to swallow your pride (particular if you think you are right).   It’s scary to take the first step.  But it is worth trying.  And years later, when you look back at that “incident” that caused the breach,  you often think, “Wasn’t it dumb of us to be that way?  I’m so glad we got over ourselves!”

  • Who do you currently have a broken relationship with?
  • What is your role in the demise of it?
  • What can you do (this week) to initiate contact and begin building the bridge?

There are three things you need to know about bridge building:

  1. It’s hard work.   It’s not easy going from point A to point B.
  2. It takes time.  You may have to work at it for a while.  If it took 13  years to destroy the bridge, don’t assume it will take 13 minutes to repair it.
  3. Once the bridge is built, you can get to places you never could before.  And others (generations later) can travel on your experience (bridge) and get there too.