Webster defines the word reconciliation as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement”
It is common among those who deal with PTSD to find themselves in conflict with those around them. Whether it is among family members, spouses, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Conflict seems to be an issue that comes up frequently as we deal with our PTSD symptoms. Conflict happens. Some conflicts are resolved quickly and are forgotten. Other times conflict goes on for a while but at some point there is a resolution to the conflict. Then there are conflicts that take place and the result are long-lasting and may even bring relationships to an end. I call these conflicts devastating conflicts. These are the worse conflicts as they destroy the relationship between two people and bring pain and hurt to all involved. These devastating conflicts can last for years or even a lifetime. They have the real possibility of bringing so much pain and hurt that there is no probability of reconciling. Even in the best of relationships there are conflicts that happen. Conflicts are not reserved just for veterans or those who suffer from PTSD. However, devastating conflicts often take place within the relationships of those who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD. Some of the reasons are we have a tendency to hide and cover up our emotions. Some do so to “protect” those around us. We do not want our families and friends to know the horror we went through in war. Other times we are focused on self-medication as we try to forget the trauma we witnessed or were involved with. As we focus more and more on self-medication whether it be substance abuse, risky behavior, withdrawal and dissociation or other forms of self-medication. We pull further and further away from those who love and care for us. We freely give up the love and concern of our loved ones and friends to embrace our own self-medication as a way to cope with our PTSD.
The question that must be explored is can reconciliation take place?
The problem with seeking relief through self-medication is we bring harm and conflict to not only ourselves but also to those around us. This type of conflict has the potential of becoming so wounding that we experience the awful effects of devastating conflicts. We find the relationships we once cherished, are now falling apart and are in ruins. Devastating conflict leads to divorce, abuse, estranged relationships and alienation from our family and friends. The result may lead to long-term hostility, years of seclusion and loneliness or the complete destruction of the relationship that can never be repaired. The question I’m often asked from veterans and others I have ministered to is “can my broken relationship be fixed” “can we get back together again” these questions are hard to answer as there are so many variables that goes with reconciling broken relationships. I also hear many times from veterans that their spouse, family or friends don’t want anything to do with them anymore. They have damaged their relationship to such a point their loved ones and friends no longer want them around or they will no longer speak to them. This is the ultimate result of devastating conflicts.
The question that must be explored is can reconciliation take place in devastating conflicts? As we saw earlier the definition of reconciliation is “an act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement”. Is it possible for reconciliation to take place in broken and shattered relationships? Can we find forgiveness and acceptance in ruined relationships? I believe the answer is yes. Is it easy? No. Does forgiveness and acceptance take time? Yes. Can all broken and shattered relationships be reconciled? That is a difficult question to answer. Some relationship are so damaged it is almost impossible to be fully reconciled with each other. I do believe through the power and healing of the Holy Spirit, even the most damaged relationship can be reconciled; If only to the point that we choose to part ways without animosity or bitterness. Reconciliation is not an easy three-step process that fixes years of abuse, emotional and spiritual pain or emotional, moral, and physical transgression. Reconciliation takes time, effort, work, healing, understanding, forgiveness and humility.
16 years go by pretty fast and before I knew it I had missed a significant part of her life.
As I write this, my sister and her husband are visiting from Alaska. For us this is an enormous event. My sister and I have remained estranged for most of our lives as a result of the abuse we suffered during our childhood. We made a few attempts early on to try to develop a relationship, but they never took root. We went our own ways and for myself, I developed a lot of bitterness and anger. The last time we were together was in 1999 before I deployed to Bosnia. It did not go very well. At that point I made the decision to not have anything to do with her or her family. Thus began 16 years of bitterness and anger on my part. The anger and bitterness I held resulted in isolation and nearly having no relationship with her. Our kids grew up without knowing each other, my kids did not know their aunt or uncle and I did not know my nephews. There were a few times we talked over the 16 years but they were short conversations and often resulted in more resentment on my part. 16 years go by pretty fast and before I knew it I missed a significant part of her life.
Around two years ago I traveled to Alaska with my older sister’s son. He was returning home after being in Texas for a while. It was a quick trip; I was in Anchorage for about 24 hours. In those 24 hours, I saw my sister for the first time in 16 years. I had not talked with her before I flew to Alaska. There were no plans to get together, no goal of reconciling with each other and to tell the truth I was not even sure I would see her. I arrived very late to Anchorage and went directly to the hotel, later that morning I met up with my older sister at a restaurant. Not very long after I arrived at the restaurant my other sister arrived. It was an awkward and unexpected reunion. She was not sure I wanted to see her and I was not sure if I wanted to see her. Throughout the day we really did not speak to each other than just some pleasantries, there was no effort to reconcile or resolve any issues we had with each other. I was just happy we were not fighting. Later that evening while we were at my oldest sister’s house, my older sister left to run an errand. At that point it was just the two of us. We started talking about some mundane stuff and made polite conversation. As we were politely talking I realized I had only a few hours before my flight to Texas. I realized if anything was going to take place between us it was my responsibility to make it happen.
Then the most incredible and Spirit led moment took place. The Holy Spirit tugged at my heart and said it is time to put all this bitterness, anger and resentment behind you and start fresh with her. I asked her if we could go outside to the porch and talk. She agreed and we headed out to the porch. On our way out, I truly did not know what I was going to say. I just knew it was time to reconcile with her. In short, I told her it was time for us to put everything behind us and start over. After years of having a very strained relationship followed by 16 years of being estranged we made the choice to start anew. We did not hash things out, we did not demand apologies nor go over a long list of wrongs that we had done to each other. We did not declare our positions and stubbornly stick to them. We simply agreed to start over and be reconciled with each other. Over the last two years we have worked on developing a relationship with each other. We talk on the phone, we text each other and we are actively working to establish a loving relationship. So here we are together in Texas, it was a bit uncomfortable when she first arrived and the first 24 hours we both seemed a little hesitant with each other. The second day we had the “conversation” it went very well, we said what needed to be said. We did not bring up grievances, we did not fight or accuse one another; we simply talked about what we had missed over the years. It is now day four and all is well; it is as though we had never been estranged. There may be other “conversations” that might arise, but I know if they do, we have the ability to talk and work through anything that comes up.
Our story of reconciliation is ours and unique to us. Does every story of reconciliation have the same outcome? No. Some stories never get to the point of the possibility of reconciliation. What makes our story successful? I’m not really sure. I know throughout the years God has worked in our lives and only brought us together when He had brought healing to our wounded souls. It was when we both could let go of our pain and hurt and start anew that we were reunited. I wish I could give you a list of 10 things to do, which will guarantee reconciliation takes place in your relationships. I wish I could come up with a reconciliation formula that will ensure a happy and amazing outcomes for everyone. But I cannot. What I can do is share with you the model of true reconciliation, a reconciliation that brings ultimate healing to what was considered irreconcilable. This is found in the reconciliation we have with God. This reconciliation takes us from being an enemy of God to once again having an eternal relationship with God. This reconciliation leads to forgiveness, healing and newness of life in Jesus Christ. It is through His finished work on the cross that each one of us can find true and lasting reconciliation with God.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:17-21
This is the basis of all reconciliation, when we experience the true and lasting reconciliation in God we can and will find reconciliation in our other relationships. If you find yourself in a broken relationship, today may just be the day to begin the process of reconciliation. Remember it takes time, effort, willingness on both parts and a sense of humility. In reconciling you must be willing to lay aside your bitterness, anger, hate, pain and frustration. If you truly want to find reconciliation for your broken relationship then follow the model that God has set for us through His Son Jesus Christ. If you want to know how you can be reconciled with God check out the “Our Hope” page on the www.healingthestorm website.