If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Matthew 18:15
The man who sat in the office of psychologist Ed Fish was middle‑aged and quite successful. He began talking about his daughter's forthcoming marriage, but instead of looking forward to it, he dreaded it. Why? Because he did not like the man she was marrying? Not at all! He liked him. "I would really like to have somebody from the family at the wedding," he wistfully remarked.
"Do you have any brothers and sisters?" asked the counselor. "Two brothers." "Why don't you invite them?" "I cannot," he remarked, "we have not spoken to each other for years." "What's the problem?" The man sat there, cleared his throat and fumbled with the buttons on his coat as he told the psychologist, "You know, I can't remember." That is the way conflicts develop. Once a silent, undeclared war between family members or individuals commences, nobody wants to lose face and admit to being at fault.
Fish recalls that on another occasion a woman sat in his office and said, "My mother told me the other day that when she dies, she would like to have three funerals." "Three funerals?" he questioned. "That is because she has three children who do not talk to each other."
Something happens, and we withdraw. We brood in anger and resentment which, like concrete, sets in bitterness. Refusing to be the first to admit to wrong, we pull back. Believe it or not, most family quarrels do not involve the family estate or who gets the title to the family business. They involve petty issues that offend our pride but in reality, do not really matter and certainly will not matter a few years from now. Yet relationships are fractured and people who ought to be close to each other become worst enemies. In the next few moments, I will give you four guidelines which constitute a formula for resolving conflict, a formula that is guaranteed to work.
Guideline #1: Determine that life is too short to live with anger and bitterness in your heart. Time does not allow me to quote medical authorities who would tell you that conflict is a killer, and it is not the other person it kills, it is you.
Guideline #2: Take the first step in resolving conflict. Jesus told His disciples, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” (Matthew 18:15). Jesus' advice is not only cross-cultural, it is counter‑cultural as well. It is tough to say to yourself, "This thing has gone on too long already; I am going to do what God wants me to do and go talk about it."
Guideline #3: Learn to say, "I'm sorry; forgive me!" And then stop! Do not ruin it by passing the guilt to the other person by saying something like, "Well, it was your fault as much as it was mine...." That is true, undoubtedly, but when you are willing to accept responsibility by saying, "I'm sorry; forgive me," you have taken the path which Jesus trod in accepting our sins and failures, bringing reconciliation with our heavenly Father. You will never reach so high as when you accept the responsibility of a broken relationship by saying, "I'm sorry, forgive me."
Guideline #4: Once you have dealt with an issue, consider it dead and buried. One last thought: Unless you live so perfectly that you will never, ever have to ask God to forgive you of anything, better learn to forgive, for Jesus said, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14‑15).
Resource reading: Psalm 1: 1-6