Thursday, August 09, 2007

Past Hurts

Forgiveness and grace are important parts of living in a Messianic Jewish community, with conflicts resolved according to Matthew 18:15-17 when people have problems.

One question that a community needs to answer is "Once a conflict has been resolved, when is it appropriate in the future to mention those past hurts?"

A nearly identical question is "When is it necessary to explain yourself during a conflict?" Although defending your perspective and actions is the natural response, the more helpful and scriptural attitude is to seek reconciliation by asking the other people involved "What need I do?" Tallying who is wrong at what times is pointless, as we are all sinners saved by grace. But sometimes issues cannot be resolved without people explaining themselves or bringing up past hurts.

This question was an issue a couple months ago at P'nei Adonai. Your thoughts and answers are welcome.

To me, the answer seems to be twofold.

First, it is appropriate to tell even a newcomer of a past hurt when this is part of clarifying how to avoid repeated rudeness and thus build peace.

Here is an example. Person A is not comfortable with physical contact. Person B likes hugs. Person B tried to hug Person A hello but was rebuffed. For a time there was a conflict in which Person A felt like his/her personal space was not respected and Person B felt like his/her action of affection was rudely refused. Now those two understand the situation. It is valid to tell a third person, "Person A does not like hugs. Please do not try to show affection to him/her in that way. The last time someone offered Person A an unwanted hug it caused needlessly hurt feelings to both people."

Second, it is appropriate to remind someone who hurt you of a past hurt if this is relevant to confirming that both people really do care about each other's feelings.

Sometimes hurts cause doubts even after forgiveness has been offered and accepted. If Person A acted inconsiderately towards Person B, then even after that issue was resolved Person B retains the right to check on their friendship with a question such as, "If our past conflict is really resolved and you really do value my feelings then why are you now doing such-and-such?"

What do you think?