Have you ever had a strained or broken relationship and gotten the advice “Just give it time. Time heals all wounds.”? Or maybe the other party in the relationship insists reconciliation be delayed with the words: “I just need time to heal first.” The truth is, time is a counterproductive strategy for mending relationships. Time works against us, not for us.
Time does help to dampen the acute pain of permanent loss – such as when health cannot be restored, you’re fired from a job, or a loved one dies. Over time we adapt to our new circumstances even though the loss continues.
But the dynamic of a continuing relationship with family, friends, co-workers, or perhaps church family with whom you’ve had a falling-out is different. The hope of reconciliation and the restoration of peace introduces the necessity for action, usually in the form of conversation.
The longer the conversation is delayed, the likelier the relationship is to be further damaged. Why? Because time does not exist in a vacuum free of other variables. Over time, those other variables work to erode and decay what remains of the relationship, not to heal it. Over time, other variables work to erode and decay what remains of the relationship, not to heal it. Click To Tweet
Destructive Variables At Work Over Time
One of those variables is our own human nature. People don’t default to thinking the best of others they believe have wronged them. Rather, we continue to cement our case against them. We also don’t have sudden epiphanies of our own fault in most matters. We build coalitions of allies who are only privy to our side of the story. Furthermore, we don’t drift toward humility. We drift toward self-righteousness.
Another destructive variable is the presence and influence of our spiritual enemy, Satan. In times of conflict among Christ-followers, he doesn’t sit back saying “I think I’ll respect this sensitive time and give these sisters some space.” On the contrary, he exploits division and attacks our vulnerability. Our most vengeful fantasies and despondent temptations to self-harm come through the whispers of the one who wants to destroy, when we’re most fragile, our testimony and very lives.
A third variable is the psychological and physiological burden of holding on to strong feelings. There’s a reason people in love don’t maintain the intensity of their early passion. It’s exhausting! The same is true for other concentrated emotions – hurt, frustration, anger, etc. To force another to carry an emotional burden until you decide to deal with the issues is no less psychologically abusive than giving someone the silent treatment.
And the one left holding the emotional bags, so to speak, usually has to find a way to put them down and step away. They may not be interested in picking them back up when the one delaying reconciliation is finally ready to talk it out. Time, like the sun, can work in opposing ways. While the sun melts ice, it also hardens clay. One heart may thaw over time while another grows indifferent.
And fourthly, there are no guarantees for tomorrow. The person with whom we need to reconcile may not be alive to reconcile with. Stuff happens.
Insight for Biblical Living
Everyone experiences serious relationship conflict at some point. And our experiences have taught us conflicts don’t heal themselves. There’s nothing magical about the passing of time.
This is why Scripture consistently presents an element of urgency to reconciliation.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
Do not let the sun go down on your wrath. (Ephesians 4:26)
Scripture clearly commands, when it comes to healing strained or broken relationships, time is of the essence. Refusal to obey these commands – which offer zero allowance or justification for “time to heal” – is sin. Plain and simple.
So, whether you have done wrong or been wronged, do all you can to reconcile. Today. Because time will never heal relational wounds. Repentance does that.