Have you ever hurt someone, but never intended to do so?
You did something, or said something, that was intended to help someone… or to point out something true or something (you thought would be) helpful – and your words or actions turned into a big mess. That is not WHY you acted or spoke as you did… but the storm descended nonetheless.
Life happens. And, as you have noticed, it seldom happens like we think it should. The things we do and say are never in a vacuum – they always seem to affect those around us. And sometimes those effects can be quite devastating.
The real issue is: what do you do with those times when something you intended for good, turns terribly bad?
Our first reaction is almost always to find someone else to blame. “So-and-so misunderstood me. He took my words out of context. Or… She focused on some tiny part of my message (and missed the big part). They twisted my words. Their conclusions were idiotic – because THEY have issues…”
It is so easy to put the hurts that we cause, upon others.
Our second reaction is almost always to justify our actions. “But I meant to do this – or say that. I intended to help someone with my actions or words. Those who got hurt really didn’t even try to understand my heart in the matter. My intentions were good – so I have nothing for which I should apologize.”
The Bible offers some significant insight into these types of occurrences. Intent is important, but it does not reign supreme. If people are hurt because of something you say or do, their hurt must be addressed (even if you feel you are in the right).
We all know this. If you are on a crowded street, and accidentally run into someone and knock them down – you help them up AND apologize… because your (unintentional) action has hurt them. The results of our actions (or words) need to be addressed – if those actions (or words) have caused hurt or harm to someone.
Jesus said this: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you… first be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” (from Matthew 5:23-24)
I find it interesting that one’s motive is never considered… only the fact that someone “has something against you” (some kind of hurt, intentional or unintentional) and that issue must be addressed before you can rightly worship God. Their hurt can be a barrier between you and God – even if you never intended to hurt them!
This reconciliation is hard. It forces us to swallow our pride, to open ourselves up to their pain and ridicule, to feel the brunt of their issue with us.
Most of us actively attempt to avoid these types of situations. But when they do occur, we cannot just ignore them or pretend they will go away, or chalk up their occurrence as something unfortunate (and just move on with life).
We must humble ourselves and apologize – even if we feel we have done nothing wrong. Reconciliation surely costs us – but failure to reconcile costs us even more.
There is a positive to all this humbling of ourselves… The Bible tells us that “God gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) This means that whenever we choose to empty ourselves of pride, for the sake of someone else, God steps in and pours out an extra measure of His favor into our hearts.
And being filled with God’s grace is always a good thing.
Prayer Focus: God, make me mindful of people I may have hurt along the way… and give me the courage to reconcile any differences.