Restoring Relationships: Sympathize

“A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11 NIV).

The third biblical step toward restoring a relationship is to sympathize with the other person’s feelings.

Use your ears more than your mouth. Before attempting to solve any disagreement you must first listen to the other’s feelings. Paul advised, "Look out for one another's interests, not just for your own." (Philip. 2:4 TEV) The phrase "look out for" is the Greek word skopos, from which we form our words telescope and microscope. It means pay close attention! Focus on their feelings, not the facts. Begin with sympathy, not solutions.

Don't try to talk people out of how they feel at first. Just listen and let them unload emotionally without being defensive. Nod that you understand even when you don't agree. Feelings are not always true or logical. In fact, resentment makes us act and think in foolish ways. David admitted, "When my thoughts were bitter and my feelings were hurt, I was as stupid as an animal" (Psalm 73:21-22 TEV). We all act beastly when hurt.

In contrast, the Bible says that patience comes from wisdom (Prov. 19:11 NIV), and wisdom comes from hearing the perspective of others.

To listen is to say, "I value your opinion, I care about our relationship, and you matter to me." The cliché is true: People don't care what we know until they know we care.

To restore fellowship "we must bear the 'burden' of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others ... Let's please the other fellow, not ourselves, and do what is for his good" (Rom. 15:2 LB). It is a sacrifice to patiently absorb the anger of others, especially if it's unfounded.

But remember, this is what Jesus did for you. He endured unfounded, malicious anger in order to save you. "Christ did not indulge his own feelings ... as scripture says: The insults of those who insult you fall on me" (Rom. 15:3 NJB).

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