Relationships can be complicated, especially when there have been times of hurt and pain. How do you know when it may be time to reengage in a relationship that has caused you pain? In this article I will explore when you will know when it’s time to let someone back into your life, and how to do this.
I have several relationships in my family that have caused me a lot of pain, stress and heartache over the years. I have struggled deeply with what the right thing to do in these relationships, reengage, keep a healthy distance, or remove them from my life. I go back and forth many days with what I believe I should do. First let me say that the relationships in my life that have caused me deep pain has been ongoing for many years, and I have suffered physically, spiritually and emotionally because of the damage these relationships have been to me. It is much easier to distance yourself from a friend that has caused you pain, but a family member is much more complicated. There are at times I just want to “keep the peace,” and forget what they did, but I can’t!
Ways to release the pain that others have inflicted upon you:
- Work out your forgiveness with those that hurt you. Tell God how you feel and repent for holding onto any unforgiveness, anger, or bitterness towards them. Forgiving someone that hurt you can be a process and it is something that you may have to do daily and when “triggers” occur, such as when they do a similar thing to hurt you again. Forgiveness is never a one-time deal, but a choice every time that person that has hurt you does something again to upset you or a painful memory comes up.
- Never let anyone pressure you back into a relationship. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness does not mean letting the offense reoccur again and again, you do not have to tolerate a lack of respect or abuse.
- Choose to speak blessings over the person or people that hurt you instead of all the negative they did to you.
- Don’t keep replaying in your mind what they did, give them grace and say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Every time what they have done to you is played in your head, choose to say, “I forgive you.”
- Take control of your thoughts, behavior and actions. Don’t let anyone control your joy, peace and happiness.
- You can’t make people change, but you can change how you respond to them. You can choose if a relationship is healthy for you. It’s okay to create space between you and the person that hurt you to heal. Healing will be much more difficult if you are continually engaging with people who are doing the same things that hurt you before.
How To know when you should reengage with someone who has hurt you:
- Accept the person where they are at, but don’t allow yourself to be put in a position to be hurt again. Set boundaries upfront. Boundaries may look like limiting the time you spend with them.
- You have to decide if reengaging would be beneficial to you both, or would it be a one-sided relationship?
- Have they changed? Is there tangible proof, not their words but actions that they are different? Do they continue to dismiss or downplay their hurtful behavior?
- Keep your heart guarded until you know there is a true repentance and a turning away form their hurtful actions and behaviors. Keeping your heart guarded means not allowing them into your most intimate, personal parts of your life.
- Are you able to be around that person without feeling stressed, anxious, or angry? If not, you need time to heal.
- Be willing to admit ways that you may have contributed to the problem.
- Be realistic about the process. Change often requires time and hard work. Periodic failure by the offender does not always indicate an unrepented heart.
The reconciliation process of healing from damaged relationships can be circumvented by well-meaning “forget and move on” people, the hurt person can become resentful over time, and the relationship is not healed; it is more deeply damaged. Never just “patch’ things up and pretend nothing happened in those relationships that have hurt you in some way, both parties involved should be willing to work though their hurt and the relationship should never be forced. If you have deep pain from these relationships you will need time and space to heal. Creating healthy distance can help you love the person that has hurt you instead of becoming resentful against them for not changing into the person that you needed them to be.
You can forgive people who have hurt you deeply but sometimes it is always possible to reconcile with abusive, hurtful or unrepentive people. God does desire full forgiveness and reconciliation. If there is a middle ground that both parties can offer full forgiveness and do their best to reconcile, that would be better than both parties being bitter and resentful of each other.
Words alone are not enough to restore trust. When you have been significantly hurt and feel hesitant about restoration, it is wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation again. Only God knows people’s hearts, but you can evaluate people’s actions.