My action plan

Image: BUMIPUTRA, Pixabay


Introduction

On 19.8.20. I posted an article called “My dilemma”. It described the inner conflicts I face each time someone behaves unacceptably towards me. As a Christian, should I speak out, or should I say nothing? Jesus used both of these approaches at different times in his life, so I have never been able to reach a conclusion about how I should respond.

Unfortunately, this uncertainty means that regardless of how I handle each individual situation, I ruminate for months afterwards about what happened, and whether I reacted correctly. My endless self-questioning generates a constant sense of guilt, worry and dread, which I find impossible to shake off, and which can easily lead me into depression.

Since writing that article, I have spent a lot of time praying, reflecting, and talking this issue over with others. From the insights gained, I have put together an action plan to follow next time a hurtful situation arises.

Rather than seeing my response as a straight choice between speaking out and staying silent, I am now treating it as a series of stages, each of which is open to reflection before taking any further action.

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

So, from now on, when someone behaves unacceptably towards me, I will withdraw to sleep on what happened for at least one night, taking time out to pray and reflect before responding. This will prevent me from reacting in the heat of the moment, with a high risk of damaging both the other person, and our relationship.

2. Decide whether or not to speak out 

A. If I decide it is pointless, or inappropriate, to speak out to the person concerned, I need take the matter no further. Instead, I will work on forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If I decide to tell the other person how their behaviour has affected me, I need to think carefully about how best to approach them, perhaps by email, text, a phone call, or by arranging a meeting. It’s important to remember that they may have had no intention at all of upsetting me, and may therefore be taken very much by surprise when I raise the subject.

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

If I decide to give the person feedback, I will do so as briefly and lovingly as possible. My aim will simply be to remind them of what they said or did, and to be honest about how it has hurt or disturbed me. Anything beyond this is superfluous, and risks generating angry retaliation.

4. Wait to see if there is a response

A. If the other person doesn’t respond, there is no need for me to say any more. The matter is finished, and I will let it go. Each of us is responsible for our own behaviour, and I can’t expect everyone to respond as I wish. Instead, I will focus on loving them, forgiving them, and praying for them.

B. If the other person contacts me, I will take time to consider how best to reply, depending on what they say:

i. If they take responsibility for their behaviour, and apologise, I will accept this immediately, reassuring them that I have completely forgiven them. We will be reconciled, and the whole matter will be closed.

ii. If they react hurtfully, I will withdraw, considering the matter as being finished. Anything else is pointless, and risks generating more damage. Of course, I will still forgive them, and pray for them, but I can choose not to expose myself to further hurtful behaviour, in order to protect my own mental health.

5. Start again

Finally, if, despite doing my very best, the situation doesn’t work out as I hoped, or turns out badly, I will resolve to put it behind me, and start again. Every time I find myself ruminating about what happened, I will remind myself that it’s finished. There is always more to learn in life, and I can refine my action plan in the light of each new experience.

Conclusion

Throughout my life, when anyone hurts me, I’ve never known whether I should be honest with them, or say nothing. When I say nothing, I am left with a burden of powerlessness and distress. When I speak out, and the other person reacts angrily, I am left with a burden of guilt and dread, believing that I have sinned, and that the breakdown in relationship is all my fault.

From now on, when someone hurts me, I will remind myself immediately that I always have choices about how to respond, and that I have an action plan to follow. My overall aim will be to keep a careful, Christian balance between being honest, preserving relationships, and protecting my own mental health.

Image: Mustangloe, Pixabay


Acknowledgement

My warmest thanks to all those who have engaged in discussing this issue with me, especially Alan, Dianne, and John. Your contributions have been invaluable.


References

Introduction

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV).

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).

1. Withdraw, pray, reflect

Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer (Luke 5:16; NLT).

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

Harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1; NLT).

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back (Proverbs 29:11; NLT).

2. Decide whether or not to speak out

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).

3. Speak out briefly, and lovingly

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

4. Wait to see if there is a response

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV).

NB Matthew doesn’t mention whether the person has to say sorry or not:

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:20-21; NLT).

5. Start again

Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-9; NLT).

I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:17; NLT).

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (Lamentations 3:40; KJV).

Conclusion

Be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26; RSV).

I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say (Psalm 39:1; NLT).

Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27; NLT).

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself (Proverbs 19:8; NLT).

Start afresh

Image: Pixabay

Lord,

1. May I start afresh today,
And leave my setbacks
Far behind.

2. May I try again, Lord,
To be patient, frank,
And kind.

3. May my heart and mind
Commune with yours, Lord:
Silent, still,

4. As I listen for your quiet voice,
So I may do
Your will.


References

1. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:23; NLT).

Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you (Job 11:4; NLT).

2. Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city (Proverbs 16:32; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people (2 Timothy 2:24; NLT).

Love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish (Luke 6:35; RSV).

3. Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

Be still in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 37:7; NLT).

4. After the fire came a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12; NIV).

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go” (Isaiah 30:21; NLT).

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing (Psalm 143:10; NLT).

My dilemma

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Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

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Guilt (#2 of 2 linked prayers)

1. At last! I’ve grasped
A fundamental truth:
There’s no need to feel guilty
All the time
For praying, Lord,
However I can manage.

2. There are no other words
That I should say.
All you ask is that I’m real,
And honest,
For otherwise, Lord,
How can we be one?

3. This truth brings gladness,
Inner peace,
And freedom,
For it shows me
That your kingdom, Lord,
Has come.


References

1. Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

2. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one (John 17:22; NLT).

3. Worship the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2; NLT).

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the gift I give is a gift the world cannot give (John 14:27; NLT).

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NLT).

Your kingdom come (Luke 11:2; NIV).

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; NKJV).

Guilt (#1 of 2 linked prayers)

1. At last! I’ve grasped
A fundamental truth:
There’s no need
To feel guilty all the time
For being, Lord,
Exactly as I am.

2. There is no other way
That I should be.
All you ask is that I’m real,
And honest,
For otherwise, Lord,
How can we be one?

3. This truth brings gladness,
Inner peace,
And freedom,
For it shows me
That your kingdom, Lord,
Has come.


References

1. Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

2. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

3. Worship the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2; NLT).

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the gift I give is a gift the world cannot give (John 14:27; NLT).

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NLT).

Your kingdom come (Luke 11:2; NIV).

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; NKJV).

Free gifts


Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires
(Psalm 37:4; NLT).

1. God’s love
Is within, for the taking,
His light
Is as free as the air.

2. His peace
Heals each heart that is aching,
His truth
Is both upright and fair.

3. God’s Son
Is his gift of salvation,
His Spirit
Is gracious and sweet.

4. His mercy
Is for all creation,
His joy
Makes our exile complete.


References

1. He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).

The teaching of your word gives light (Psalm 119:130; NLT).

2. The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:11; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth (Psalm 96:13; NLT).

3. God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16; NLT).

May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing (Psalm 143:10; NLT).

4. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11; NIV).

Dialogue

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The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8; NLT).

1. Please teach me, Lord, what you require,
So I may do as you desire.

2. “Love me, your neighbours, strangers, foes,
And pray for all, till healing flows.

3. Make no show of faith, or prayer,
But serve me gladly, everywhere.

4. Keep your temper, staying calm;
Forgive all those who hurt and harm.

5. Say, ‘Sorry,’ when you grieve someone,
And make peace, always, if you can.

6. Be honest, kind, and quick to care;
Keen to lend, and give, and share.

7. Above all else, these words are key:
Take up your cross, and follow me!”

8. Thank you, dear Lord; I hear your call;
You are my way, my truth, my all.


References

1. What does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 10:12; NLT).

I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; NIV).

2. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength [and] love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31; NLT).

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:43-4; NLT).

3. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others (Matthew 6:6; NIV).

Serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2; NKJV).

4. In your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4:26; NIV).

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent (Psalm 4:4; NLT).

Forgive those who sin against you (Matthew 6:14; NLT).

5. If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-4; NIV).

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9; NIV).

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18; NIV).

6. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid (Luke 6:35; NLT).

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

7. Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

8. Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; NLT).

Christ is all that matters (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

Don’t force your prayers

1. Don’t force your prayers:
God wants us to be honest,
Telling him exactly
What we need.

2. Don’t force your prayers:
God wants us to speak simply,
So let us always follow
His Son’s lead.

3. Don’t force your prayers:
God wants us to be childlike,
Spontaneous, unceasing,
And unplanned.

4. Don’t force your prayers:
God wants us all to trust him,
For he will always hear,
And understand.

References

1. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Tell God what you need (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

2. When you pray, don’t babble on (Matthew 6:7; NLT).

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13; NLT).

3. Anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it (Mark 10:15; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

4. Trust in God and trust also in me (John 14:1; NLT).

The Lord hears my voice (Psalm 55:17; NLT).

He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do (Psalm 33:15; NLT).

Speak the truth in love

What joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
(Psalm 32:2; NLT).

1. Let all you say
Be honest:
“Yes, please,”
Or else, “No, thank you.”

2. Let all you say
Be humble:
“I’m sorry,
I was wrong.”

3. Let all you say
Be gentle:
“Don’t worry,
I forgive you.”

4. Let all you say
Be Christ-like:
Speak truth, in love,
Lifelong.

References

1. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Just say a simple yes or no (James 5:12; NLT).

2. Always be humble and gentle (Ephesians 4:2; NLT).

Keep a humble attitude (1 Peter 3:8; NLT).

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-4; NIV).

3. When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NIV).

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-2; NLT).

4. We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Let your prayers be honest


1. Let your prayers be honest,
Tell God what you need.

2. Let them all be simple,
Follow Jesus’ lead.

3. Let them be spontaneous,
Share each sin and fear.

4. Let them be unceasing,
For God will always hear.

References

1. You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Tell God what you need (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

2. When you pray, don’t babble on as people of other religions do (Matthew 6:7; NLT).

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13; NLT).

3. Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

4. Never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NLT).

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

The Lord hears my voice (Psalm 55:17; NLT).