How Can I Heal a Broken Relationship?

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior taught an important principle: Our relationship with God is heavily influenced by our relationships with other people:

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

Bringing a gift to the altar was something His audience could relate to. It represented their efforts to draw close to God. When Jesus visited the American continent, this practice was apparently not part of their religious tradition, so He taught the same principle using different words:

Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you (3 Nephi 12:23-24).

There is a sense of urgency in this counsel: Don’t delay. Leave your gift at the altar. Be reconciled first, then come back. Fix the relationship now, before it gets worse.

A friend of mine pointed out recently that the Savior didn’t say, “Be reconciled to thine enemy.” He said, “Be reconciled to thy brother.” Rifts which harm us spiritually are far more likely to occur with those we are closest to: our siblings, our parents, our spouse, our children. We need to watch for those rifts and heal them quickly.

If we have caused the rift, we obviously have a responsibility to approach the other person and ask forgiveness. But what if they harmed us? President Spencer W. Kimball taught that we should also take the initiative in that situation:

It frequently happens that offenses are committed when the offender is not aware of it. Something he has said or done is misconstrued or misunderstood. The offended one treasures in his heart the offense, adding to it such other things as might give fuel to the fire and justify his conclusions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Lord requires that the offended one should make the overtures toward peace.

After quoting the passage above from the Sermon on the Mount, President Kimball continued:

Do we follow that commandment or do we sulk in our bitterness, waiting for our offender to learn of it and to kneel to us in remorse? (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 9: Forgiving Others with All Our Hearts).

Today, I will pay attention to the state of my relationships with other people, especially those closest to me. When I sense issues in those relationships, I will take steps to heal the wounds and reconcile the relationship. I will take the initiative regardless of whether I offended them or they offended me. I will remember that my relationship with God is strongly affected by my relationship with others, particularly with the people closest to me.

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4 Responses to How Can I Heal a Broken Relationship?

  1. Barbara Carlisle Reissen says:

    Paul, I love this post. However, after doing these specific things, trying to heal a relationship with my daughter-in-law, I have not had success. Any suggestions to reconciling to the fact that she doesn’t want to heal the relationship?

    Like

    • Paul Anderson says:

      Thank you for the comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.
      How to heal a relationship when the other person doesn’t want it to be healed? That is a hard question, and I appreciate you asking it. I can’t tell you exactly how to resolve the situation, but here are a few suggestions:
      1. Don’t give up on the relationship. Don’t assume that your daughter-in-law will always feel the way she does now. She will grow and progress over time, and so will you.
      2. Forgive, and then forgive again. She needs to know that you are ready for a better relationship as soon as she is. That means that you have to overcome any hurt feelings as quickly as possible.
      3. Pray for opportunities to serve her in meaningful ways. Heavenly Father knows her better than anyone. He can help you find ways to show love that will be meaningful to her.
      4. Focus on the positive. We are all imperfect, so all of our relationships with each other are imperfect. Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the relationship. Find some positive aspects and see if you can build on those.
      I hope that some of these thoughts are useful to you.
      Paul

      Like

    • Paul Anderson says:

      Barbara,

      After responding to your question last week, I have continued to think further about it. Yesterday, I wrote a blog post which directly addresses the question you asked. Here’s the post:

      How Can I Heal a Relationship with Someone Who Doesn’t Want the Relationship Healed?

      I hope that some of the thoughts in this post are useful to you.

      Thanks,
      Paul

      Like

  2. Pingback: How Can I Heal a Relationship with Someone Who Doesn’t Want the Relationship Healed? | Book of Mormon Study Notes

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