The unrepentant feline 

“Ivy!”  Frustration and dismay carried my daughter’s words through the playroom door. 

Peering in, I spotted a pile of collapsed magnets, toy dolls strewn over the floor and my eight-year-old glaring. 

Three months ago, a sweet Abyssinian kitten joined our family of four.  Like all Abys, she is inquisitive, energetic and blissfully unaware of the chaos she leaves in her wake.  My daughters love to build miniature scenes on our wide expanse of floor boards.  Every morning, they leave for school with a new creation.  Almost every evening, they come home to find it demolished by four grey paws. 

A lost apology 

All of us experience times in life where someone (or a furry something) troubles us, and an apology is either unlikely or not possible.  Perhaps the source of the harm is unaware, lacks the skills to make things right, or is absent.  How do we manage these moments? 

Relationships in the red 

In Ivy’s favour, she is adored by my three daughters.  Every evening finds her snuggled under their wing.  She is a patient, gentle creature.  The first week she lived with us, we discovered her hissing, in a whisper, at a fabric dog she thought was alive.  If we are slow to climb out of bed to feed her, she bats at us with her paws, claws safely tucked away.  I have never been hurt by her. 

Forgiveness comes easier when someone has given you an abundance of kindness and much less hurt.  1 Peter 4:8 expresses it well…

‘Love covers a multitude of sins’.

1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

Grace on both sides 

It is also easier to forgive when you recognise your own need for grace.  Step on Ivy’s tail and suddenly you’re glad you overlooked the avalanche of toys an hour ago.  In fact, forgiving others has also taught me to forgive myself. 

The scope of resolution 

Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, provides thoughtful guidance on how we live with unresolved conflict. 

The first principle is to always be ready to reconcile.  Have I recognised my part?  Has my heart reached a point of forgiveness for the other person, irrespective of how far they have come in making an apology?  Have I set aside the injury the person caused, chosen not to dwell on it or talk to others about it, in keeping with authentic forgiveness?  All of this frees me from the traps of bitterness and resentment.  It lays the groundwork, so that if the opportunity to mutually make things right arises, I’m ready. 

The next stage of resolving conflict is not guaranteed.  It depends on both parties going beyond apology.  Sande calls it repair.  Has the person who hurt me reached out with love and respect?  Have they shown me through their words and actions that their heart is for me?  If so, there is scope for deeper healing.  We can be more than amicable.  The wall of trust begins to rebuild. 

Some conflict resolution moves as far as repair, but stops there, at least for a time.  The ideal, as Sande describes it, is restoration.  Time, effort and the steady application of grace mean that the relationship returns to wholeness.  Perhaps a wholeness even richer than before the conflict. 

Is there unresolved conflict in your heart?  There is hope.  Work on what you can in your own spirit so the roots are there if opportunities come.  Give healing time.  And it’s ok to have boundaries.  Restoration is not always healthy or appropriate, such as when abuse is involved.  Peacemaking is the work of a lifetime. 

For more information and resources to help you on your peacemaking journey, check out the free peacemaking resources and upcoming training events on the PeaceWise website. You won’t regret it.

This article was written by Tammy Brinsmead.

Tammy is a working single parent, who thrives on exercise (really!), cacao smoothies, page-turning novels and her Zoom Bible study group.  She writes in her spare time to encourage people in their faith.

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