I am deathly afraid of the dentist. All of my fear stems from a dentist in my childhood who refused to use Novocaine. Going to the dentist was not just unpleasant, it was a tear-welling, sob-blasting, white-knuckle, fear inducing experience. some 30 years later I am still scarred by it. Even typing about it makes my palms sweat.
Thankfully, my current dentist is sympathetic and compassionate. He is understanding of my fears, goes slowly, and reassures me.
I get over my fear though because I like my teeth. I grit them and go because it is important that I can chew my food. If I didn’t go through the unpleasant business of going to the dentist, I would be much worse off, the consequences are far worse than the momentary discomfort of a tube in my mouth and a scaler blasting the build up off my gumline.
Ok, so what in the world does this have to do with anything?
It is a difficult thing to approach someone you know you have offended. Someone you know has a bone to pick with you.
Sometimes, it is a misunderstanding.
Sometimes, it is a flat out failure in meeting expectations.
Sometimes, it is well deserved vitriol.
There any number of reasons that someone may have something stuck in his or her craw and cannot seem to spit it out. It becomes like the popcorn hull nestled down between your teeth. I have a friend who had that happen, and it turned into a major infection that did major damage to one of his teeth. The tooth had to be removed because it if wasn’t, there was a chance the infection that killed it would spread to other teeth, possibly even into the jawbone itself. I know the removal of the tooth was not pleasant, not pleasant at all. But to not remove it would have been even less pleasant because of the consequences of letting the infection grow and spread and destroy more.
When there is an unresolved offense, when someone has a bone to pick, when someone has a problem with you, deal with it as soon as possible. If it has been festering for a long time, it may be too late to salvage things, but it will prevent any further spread of the infectious disease of resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
It’s possible, in the event of a misunderstanding, a simple conversation and apology will resolve the issue. It’s quick and mostly painless work, like using dental floss.
It’s possible it could require much more than that.
Advising the humbling work of reconciliation and actually carrying it out are two different things.
Here are a few things to remember when going through this, either as offender or offendee.
- “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Every Christian relationship should be marked by love. Jesus gives a new commandment at the end of his ministry on earth, a command to love one another as he has loved us. That means sacrificially, generously, forgivingly, compassionately, proactively, encouragingly, respectfully, encompassingly, and humbly, to name a few.
- If you have offended, go and seek forgiveness for both your sakes. To delay is to allow something to fester. To seek reconciliation quickly is to bring healing and love into the situation. You will demonstrate your love for your brother or sister because you recognize their hurt and want to make it right.
- If you have been offended, do not sit back and let that offense take root in your heart. Approach the one who has offended you and let them know your hurt. To delay allows Satan a foothold of unforgiveness in your heart. And to quickly move toward restoration and healing allows the one who wounded you to seek your forgiveness. If the offending party does not know of the offense, how can that person attempt to reconcile.
In Ephesians, Paul advises, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). There’s a reason the Bible tells us to deal with our anger. The Bible doesn’t say that doing so is easy or pleasant.
It’s like a trip to the dentist.
No matter how uncomfortable it might be, the consequences will be worse.