There is one question that a marriage counselor gets way more than any other, it’s this: “Would you fix my spouse?”
I guess we all tend to approach conflict in that way – we pin the donkey of blame on others rather than own it ourselves.
The counsel of Jesus plays out differently. He said, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42) NET Bible ®
Jesus the carpenter knew the difference between a speck of sawdust and a two-by-four, and He used it to expose our silliness!
When someone hurts us, we really want them to squirm and to own it. We forget that we have added our own fuel to the fire and that our donation is much bigger – board sized, says Jesus.
Why is it that the Lord regards my problem as being bigger? Maybe because not only am I guilty of my own offenses, I also brazenly assume the mantle of self-righteousness and become the judge of others.
Jesus tells us quite clearly to take care of our own problems first.
In the last post we looked at the need to approach conflict as a doctor. Before doing surgery, a surgeon washes his hands and his arms with an antiseptic solution and then gloves up.
If he performs surgery without being sterile, he contaminates the procedure, which could prove fatal in the outcome. In the same way, Jesus tells us that we must be clean before we try to remove the cancer of conflict.
So, what is the 99 and 1 rule?
In my 32 plus years in the ministry I have never witnessed a conflict where one person is 100% wrong and the other is 100% right. Never have. Each person usually has some responsibility in the mire and mess. If it were possible to quantify it, it might be 70/30, or 50/50 or maybe even 99/1. There is almost always blame on both sides.
So, this is how I prefer to apply Jesus’ words. I look to myself first to see what I contributed to the problem. Let’s suppose for the sake of illustration that it only amounts to 1%. (I wish!) That 1% seems like a speck, but even a speck, when it’s on your eyeball, seems bigger than a house.
And though the other person may be 99% guilty, instead of waiting for them to apologize, I take the initiative. I go to them and say, “Hey, I was wrong when I _________.” Would you please forgive me for that?
Almost always the person immediately says yes to my humble request. Forgiveness is granted. And almost always they turn around and take responsibility for their 99%. Sometimes the apology comes later, but it usually comes.
The conflict is over, and the good feelings flow once again.
Is it right to admit you were wrong? Absolutely! Is it embarrassing? Somewhat! Is the embarrassment proportionate to your level of responsibility? Not really. Embarrassment is embarrassment!
So why not get the ball rolling by taking responsibility for your 1% or your 50% or your 99% or whatever it is? Do your part to put the conflict to rest and bring peace.
So, what if they don’t respond like you might hope? Doesn’t matter! Jesus says it’s our duty to examine ourselves and take responsibility for our own offenses, not those of others. And being in harmony with the Lord is probably the most rewarding peace of all.
A PRAYER: Lord I seldom want to own even my 1%. Help me to recognize my contributions to the problem and be brave enough to admit it.
This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.