Clearing the Path
The snow that fell in our neighborhood last week was deep and heavy and difficult to move. It took a lot of shoveling to make our sidewalk and driveway passable, but it was worth the effort. In the end, we had a clear path to come and go—until the next storm blew in.
It’s true with snow and it’s true with relationships. Clearing a path can be hard work, but it’s worth the effort. When the path is clear, everyone travels easier.
The past year has been difficult for many of us. We’ve disagreed in conversation and social media about politics, racial issues, spiritual matters, the pandemic—the list goes on. We’ve “unfriended” friends. We’ve labeled family members. Some of us severed ties with people we’ve known for years, even decades.
How It Happened
I think I understand how it happened. The pandemic left us lonely and sullen. We were stripped of normal social stimuli and left to fend for ourselves. Some didn’t mind the isolation, but others loathed it. Our loneliness and frustration sought an outlet. And there it was, staring back at us from our smart phones.
So we went to work venting our angst on our own and other people’s social media platforms. As we did, we left a lot of hurting and disenfranchised people in the wake.
Now we’re beginning to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. In a matter of months we may all feel free to reengage with family, reconnect with friends, and reintegrate into church and society.
But what about last year’s social media battles? The text wars? The personal insults?
Do we simply move on with life and ignore the damage, or do we try to make it right, to restore and rebuild broken relationships?
What We Can Do
Let me suggest that we do the latter. Not only for our peace of mind, but for the sake of those who need us.
It’s especially important in matters of faith. Whether you’re a person of faith or you’re in pursuit of it, now is the time to clean away the debris that may be blocking paths to reconciliation.
You may have been absolutely right in the positions you took and the principles you defended. No one is suggesting you apologize for that. You were careful and considerate in expressing your views in person and online. You were gracious to people who vehemently disagreed with you. You ended your exchanges feeling confident about the way you handled yourself. If this describes you, then well done. But even in situations like these, it’s possible that the people you disagreed with now feel estranged from you. That may be their problem, but even if it is, it’s still an obstruction in the path of reconciliation. If any of those people are people you could still influence positively, especially in matters of faith, it might be wise to take the first step toward reconciliation.
I wonder how much damage would be undone if we just said, “I know we’ve disagreed, and I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I want you to know that I value our relationship and even if we never arrive at the same conclusions, I’ll always treat you with respect and count you as a friend.”
A Way Forward
It may not always be evident how clearing our own path allows other people to travel easier. In my neighborhood, all it takes to motivate people to get outside and shovel snow is looking out the window and seeing that other neighbors are already engaged in the work. When the whole neighborhood shovels, more paths are cleared and more people can go more places.
When we initiate reconciliation, we model the right path for the people we’re attempting to reconnect with. Hopefully they, in turn, will be motivated to initiate reconciliation in their sphere of influence. Other people may notice what’s been done, and those positive outcomes may lead to more positive outcomes.
The more paths we clear, the more opportunities we’ll have to talk to one another about matters of faith.