PASTOR’S MESSAGE: RECONCILE WITH ONE ANOTHER

Along with fasting, prayer and almsgiving, Self-Examination is part of the Christian Lenten tradition. Jesus, being Jewish, could relate to that tradition as mirroring the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

During the Days of Awe, Jews engage in introspection, reflection, and repentance. Jews hold that during this time, God judges everyoneā€™s deeds of the past year and determines their fate for the coming year. Therefore, it’s a time for seeking forgiveness from both God and fellow human beings for any wrongdoings committed during the previous year.

I recall attending an Episcopal church where, on Ash Wednesday, each member of the congregation individually addresses each other member asking forgiveness for any wrong committed by that person. This ritual is like Forgiveness Vespers on Forgiveness Sunday in the Easter Orthodox tradition. This ritual typically takes place on the evening of Forgiveness Sunday, which is the Sunday before the beginning of Great Lent.

During Forgiveness Vespers, the congregation gathers for the evening service, which includes prayers, hymns, and readings from the Psalms and the Gospel. The key moment of the service occurs towards the end when the priest or bishop comes forward and asks forgiveness from the congregation, bowing down before each member. The congregation responds by offering forgiveness to the clergy and to one another. This act of mutual forgiveness symbolizes the beginning of the Lenten season and the emphasis on repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual renewal. The ritual is deeply rooted in the Orthodox understanding of Lent as a time of fasting, prayer, and repentance.

By asking for and granting forgiveness, Orthodox Christians seek to enter into the Lenten season with a clean heart and a reconciled relationship with God and one another. Should not ALL Christians be doing likewise? Our time on earth is short. What do we gain by maintaining grudges against other people beyond avoiding emotionally uncomfortable situations? Reconciling with those against whom we hold grudges can lead to profound spiritual benefits, fostering inner peace, forgiveness, healing, personal growth, and a deeper sense of connection with others and with God.

Reconciling with another person against whom you hold a grudge can be challenging butĀ ultimately rewarding. Too many clergy speak more in platitudes than practicality. I try to be as helpful as I can in focusing more on solutions than idealism. So, here are some steps to begin the reconciliation process:

  1. Reflect on Your Feelings: Take some time to reflect on why you hold a grudge against the person. Consider how their actions or words have affected you and why you are holding onto these negative feelings. Understanding your own emotions and motivations is an important first step towards reconciliation.
  2. Practice Empathy: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their perspective. Understanding their motivations and circumstances can help you develop empathy and compassion, which are essential for reconciliation.
  3. Initiate Contact: Reach out to the person in a calm and non-confrontational manner. You can initiate contact through a face-to-face conversation, a phone call, or a written message, depending on what feels most comfortable for you. Express your desire to reconcile and be open to listening to their perspective.
  4. Communicate Openly: When communicating with the other person, be honest and open about your feelings and experiences. Use “I” statements to express how their actions made you feel without placing blame or judgment. Be willing to listen to their side of the story and validate their feelings as well.
  5. Apologize if Necessary: If you have contributed to the conflict or hurt the other person in any way, apologize sincerely. Take responsibility for your actions and express genuine remorse. A sincere apology can go a long way towards repairing the relationship. Apologize, even if you donā€™t think you did anything wrong. Demonstrate humility by considering that whatever you said and did may be perceived by others differently than how you perceive your words and actions.
  6. Focus on Solutions: Instead of dwelling on past grievances, focus on finding solutions and moving forward together. Brainstorm ways to address any underlying issues or misunderstandings and work collaboratively to resolve conflicts and rebuild trust.
  7. Set Boundaries: It’s important to establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself and prevent future conflicts. Clearly communicate your needs and expectations for the relationship moving forward and be prepared to enforce these boundaries if necessary.
  8. Give It Time: Reconciliation is a process that takes time and patience. Be realistic about your expectations and give both yourself and the other person time to heal and rebuild trust. Be willing to invest the effort required to nurture the relationship and make it stronger.

Remember, reconciliation is a two-way street. All parties need to be willing to engage in the process for it to be successful. It may not always be possible to fully reconcile with someone, but making the effort to address conflicts and heal relationships can bring a sense of closure and peace.

 

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