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Couple Hacks: Resolution Vs. Reconciliation

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

Chan Gin Kai

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

It is unfair. But God is the recipient of this bad deal, not us.

God reconciled us to Him by sending Jesus to atone for our sins. We don’t have to pay for it, Jesus did. We didn’t ask for it, God initiated it. We are incredibly fortunate that God came up with this unbelievable idea... We, the unworthy, can have a relationship with Him.

The passage is all about God’s relationship with us. It is the epitome of what a godly relationship should be. And it is a concept we can apply in our dating relationship or marriage.

Resolution Is Overrated

What is Resolution? It is the action of solving a problem or contentious matter.

It is natural that couples will disagree and inevitably quarrel sometimes. It is important to resolve the contentious matter because making peace by simply sweeping the issue under the carpet creates more problems in future. We can be quite certain the problem will recur. Besides a pile up of unresolved issues is like a powder keg waiting for a careless spark to trigger a disaster. Resolving issues help the couple to mature and grow too.

In an ideal world, we will resolve the problem and settle the quarrel quickly. But what if there is no resolution?

Not every issue has a definite right or wrong, and many are a matter of opinion. It is hard enough to get a resolution when one party is right and the other is wrong, especially when pride gets in the way. How much harder is it if both parties are right? It is entirely possible for two to disagree on an issue, and yet neither is in the wrong. And it gets even tougher if both parties are wrong.

Besides, how do we resolve a situation when we have different memories of what transpired?

A: That’s not what I said yesterday.

B: You didn’t say it, but I know you meant it.

A: Why don’t you take what I said at face value?

B: Because the tone of your voice reflected something else.

A: But you know I get louder every time I get excited.

B: You get louder when you are angry too.

A: But I wasn’t angry yesterday.

B: I remember how angry your face looked.

You know how it goes. Each of us remembers different versions of the same incident, but always in a version that favours us. We are all prone to revisionist history, even if we’re not deliberate about it. It is human nature to remember better versions of ourselves. And when we have different memories of an argument, resolution becomes quite impossible.

But though resolution is important, it is still overrated in comparison to reconciliation. We think an issue needs to be resolved before we can be reconciled. That can’t be further away from the truth.

Reconciliation Matters More

What is Reconciliation? It is the restoration of friendly relations.

While it would be great to solve a contentious problem, it is far more important to restore the relationship. It’ll be useless if a contentious issue is resolved but the relationship is ruined. We need to chase after reconciliation much more than we pursue resolution.

But what are the barriers to reconciliation?

  • As mentioned previously, the fallacy that there must be resolution before there can be reconciliation is one common obstacle. There is no resolution to the problem between God and us. We were separated from God because of our sins (Isaiah 59:1-2). We were reconciled through Jesus’ sacrifice. God has shown through his example that reconciliation can happen regardless of resolution. You can reconcile with your partner and enjoy your relationship even if an issue is not resolved.

  • Another obstacle to reconciliation is the quest for fairness. We'll always love to seek an equitable result, a win-win scenario for both parties. Again, it’ll be perfect if we can get that, but it is not always possible. A party may be 'more wrong', and require 'more forgiveness', so how are we going to make it fair? Each party tends to assume that the other party has committed more wrongs too. So how do we achieve equity? God’s reconciliation with us was a great act of unfairness to Him, but He initiated it still. Are you willing to reconcile with you partner, even if you feel it is unfair to you? Does your love for your partner override your desire for fairness?

  • The biggest obstacle to reconciliation is pride. We take pride in 'being right'. So what if your partner was the one who made the mistake, and you were the one who was proven right, or 'more righteous'? Does your self-righteousness get in the way of reconciliation? Do you rub it in to prove your point, but call it discipling your partner? Jesus is sinless, but he “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) Will you humble yourself in order to reconcile with your partner?

So how do we reconcile without resolution?

  • Agree to disagree. If it is a matter of sin, there's nothing to disagree on anyway, since we should all humbly own up to our sins and repent. But if it is a matter of opinions, it is OK to disagree; we don't need to be unified on everything. Or we can disagree for now, till we find another time to discuss it, or get a third party's advice/opinion.

  • Apologise. But what if you feel your stand was right? Even if you weren't wrong on the issue, you could still have hurt your partner during the argument. That's something to apologise for. And you can certainly apologise for not pursuing reconciliation faster.

  • Assure. Feelings will inevitably be hurt after an argument. We should always try to help the other party feel better again. Assure your partner of your love. Encourage each other and build each other up. Bring up good things you appreciate about your partner, and make each other feel happy again.

Reconciliation Helps Resolution

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to downplay resolution and neither am I advocating sweeping contentious issues under the carpet. We should resolve the disagreements as much as we can. But it is hard to resolve matters when our hearts are not reconciled.

When a couple is reconciled, they feel happier and more loving. It puts them in a more spiritual place too. That makes it easier for them to solve the contentious problem TOGETHER, instead of against each other. We want to be on the same side as our partner, as we resolve the issue, not on opposite sides trying to win the argument.

So contrary to the assumption that we need resolution in order to achieve reconciliation, the reverse makes more sense... Reconciliation helps us achieve resolution.

So the next time you have an argument over a contentious issue, pursue reconciliation with each other first. Choose to be humble. Reconnect with each other and make the other party feel better. You'll be surprised how much easier it is to resolve the issue after that.

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".

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