Clergy Corner: Repairing relationship rifts is no easy task

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Richard Puls, Psy.D.

■ By Richard Puls / Contributed

Perry Como once recorded a song called, “Home for the Holidays.” The first stanza goes like this:

“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.”

These words express a nice sentiment, but they do not portray the reality of many families whose members have experienced great rifts in their relationships with one another. Sometimes a family feud endures for decades. Someone offended someone else, and even though no one quite remembers what happened, the resentments have grown like a cancer, affecting many others in the family as well.
Other times the rift occurs as a result of abuse or neglect, which has shattered family relationships.
In still other circumstances, feelings of jealousy or envy, the perception of unfair treatment, or the reality of abandonment have caused deep rifts in families; chasms that seem impossible to bridge. The holiday season magnifies the intensity of these broken relationships.
In the book of Genesis we find the story of Jacob and Esau, two twin brothers. Their father, Isaac, favored Esau, who was born first, and their mother, Rebekah, liked Jacob better. Parents who play favorites with their children almost always cause feelings of rivalry and resentment among the siblings.
Jacob managed to cheat Esau out of his birthright and his father’s blessings. When Esau found out what Jacob had done, he threatened to kill his brother. So Rebekah sent Jacob away to live with his Uncle Laban, where he stayed for 20 years.
When God told Jacob to return home, he had to pass through the lands owned by Esau. The meeting between the two brothers turned out well, with Esau taking most of the initiative to reconcile with Jacob.
What do we learn from these two men about healing relationship rifts? Even though we might not be sure how the other person will respond, we may need to take the initiative toward reconciliation.
The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others.” Paul is talking about unity among Christians, but his words apply to harmony among family members.
If you take the initiative to reconcile with someone you care about, approaching that person with an attitude of humility, you might be surprised at the results. Jesus Christ humbly took the initiative to reconcile with us, even when we were deeply estranged from Him.
Come join us at Hemet Valley Christian Church on Friday, Dec. 1, at 10 a.m., where we will explore this topic further in a workshop entitled, ‘Repairing Relationship Rifts.”

Dr Richard Puls is the senior pastor at Hemet Valley Christian Church, located at 330 S. Franklin St., Hemet, Ca 92543. Dr. Puls has more than 30 years’ pastoral experience. He received his bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministries from Hope International University, a master’s degree in Christian education from Grace Graduate School, a second master’s degree in counseling psychology at Pepperdine University and a doctorate in psychology at American Behavioral Studies Institute. As a therapist, he has counseled hundreds of individuals and couples, spoken on topics of change and growth, led seminars on psychological issues, and taught graduate courses on therapy.

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