Reconciliation or Tough Love
"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."1
An office reports that they have an answering machine that instructs callers to leave their name and address, and to spell out any difficult words.
Early one Monday when the secretary was reviewing the weekend messages, she heard an enthusiastic young woman recite her name and address and then confidently say, "My difficult word is reconciliation: R-E-C-O-N-C-I-L-I-A-T-I-O-N."2
A Daily Encounter reader (whom I will call Frieda) knows just how difficult reconciliation can be. She lives close to her parents and shares how critical and emotionally abusive they are of her and her daughter. She has tried everything she knows to forgive them and bring about reconciliation but nothing has worked. Worse still, they won't even admit that they are abusive. She feels that if she distances herself from them it will "kill" them.
The fact is that it won't kill them. And, if they act as if it will, and cry, "Poor 'me' ... how could you treat us like this?" that would be just another form of manipulative abuse.
Frieda may feel it will "kill" her, for we often project onto others what we are afraid of happening to ourselves. If she tolerates abusive behavior of herself and her daughter, she is being a part of the sickness, and it may very well kill her before her time. Such stress can and does take years off of one's life.
Forgiveness, as we have spelled out before, is dependent only on us. That's what makes it possible and that is what frees us. Reconciliation is the ideal to work towards, but sometimes it just isn't possible, as this is dependent on both parties.
To free ourselves from toxic, abusive people, we need to have healthy boundaries, exercise tough love, and make it very clear to these people that: (1) We don't appreciate their critical, judgmental, and/or abusive treatment of us; (2) That we will no longer tolerate it; (3) That if it happens even one more time, we will distance ourselves from them; and (4) We will not have any contact with them until they choose to treat us in a kind and loving manner.
And of course, we need to be absolutely sure that we always treat them in a kind and loving manner. Keep in mind, too, that the most loving thing to do with toxic people is to distance yourself from them—for your sake and theirs.
If you distance yourself from them, they may or may not change their treatment of you, but unless you exercise tough love, maintain healthy boundaries rather than keep on taking their abuse, you can be almost certain that they will continue to abuse you.
What others do is their choice. What we allow them to do to us is our choice. Remember on most occasions Jesus was tender and compassionate. But when called for, he blasted the phony religious leaders. He used a whip to drive out of the temple the money changers who were misusing the house of God to rip people off. And he said about children: "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."3
Tough words. Tough love. We too, need to love the things God loves and hate the things He hates—and God hates anything that is destructive of those whom He loves. Us!
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the courage to stand against abusive people and the strength to disallow them to hurt me and/or my children. Help me always to know what You would do and give me the courage to do it. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Matthew 5:23-24 (NASB).
2. From Michael Bledsoe firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Mark 9:42 (NKJV).