How many times do I say something I wished I hadn’t in the heat of the moment? Not a lot. And, not as many as I used to. When I do say something in the intensity of an argument, I spend the next few days (weeks? months?) wishing I could take it back. Or worse, I live with the consequences of something I really didn’t intend to say, or think through. Mea culpas or apologies follow. There’s got to be a better way. I asked God about this recently. I woke up the next day with the phrase “Suspend the Response” going through my head. It fits in the category of preventative forgiveness.
In situations with my brother, he shares details of our conversations with many others in our extended family. I recently had one family member call me to say he had heard about our difficult conversation and that he was secretly in agreement with me. Thanks. He even said the sermon at their church, which my brother heard, backed up my point. It was a small consolation for having the conversation exposed. Practically it serves as a muzzle to not say anything and communication ends up being limited and stilted. It’s not optimum, but the pain does not merit the risk of conversation.
More importantly, I go before God and ask forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. I tell God I’m genuinely sorry and receive His forgiveness. I wish it would stop there. There is no forgiveness on my brother’s part. I’m okay with this. Now, I want to stop being around my brother. But God always points me back to relationship. The book of Proverbs helps. (Currently reading Bold Love by Dr. Dan Allender) It teaches how to have conversations with many types of difficult people.
In the meanwhile, God suggests the practical tool of learning to suspend responses to questions or accusations with time and prayer. I take the time I need to think and pray through my answers and then give a response. It allows time for the emotions to ebb, logical thoughts to surface and the commitment of peace to be part of the dialogue.
“Lord, What is a better way to respond the difficult person in my life today?”