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Zipping The Jacket
Just about everyone knows how to zip a jacket. You put the pieces together at the bottom, get it started rightly, and it glides from there. If you rush it or force it, the jacket will not come together. In repairing damaged relationships, we sometimes try to rush it or force it. We sometimes try to fix it all in one moment. But if you know how to zip a jacket, you know how to fix relationships. To learn about the connection, and see the simple little step that makes all the difference, check out episode 22: Zipping the Jacket!
Okay, so today's topic is about conflict resolution. It's really pursuing that idea of how do you mend a relationship where there has been division. Are there people in your life that sometimes you just can't get on the same page with? It's like you just see things so differently that it always ends up driving you apart. I think most of us understand what that's like. All we want to do is start getting on the same page and sometimes it seems like we're reading from entirely different books with like different languages and everything. And that can be very frustrating and a lot of times people just give up. We're never going to see things the same way. We're never going to make progress. You see this in religion. Sometimes you got to this church, I go to that church, we are divided. There's just no way we're ever going to be able to figure this out.
You see it in politics all the time. You hold that view. I hold this view. I don't see any way we're ever going to agree. Here's the thing, we don't want to give up on all of those relationships, mainly because a lot of those people are people who are close to us. You just don't have the option to take somebody that you spend time with every day and say, you know what? We never see things the same way. Let's never talk again. That's not reasonable in most cases. In fact, as you'll see today, we want to talk about marriage. One of the most important relationships to be together, unified, working in the same direction is in marriage. I mean that has impact on their relationship, on their children, on their church, their friends and everyone, and we see far too often husbands and wives who just give up on this.
We've tried to work it out. He sees it this way. I see it that way and we're just going to have to live with disagreements. This is not God's plan. It is not God's plan for marriage where God expects the two to become one and carry out their important roles together. It is not God's plan for brothers and sisters in Christ where we're taught about the need to be selfless and unified and working together as one. It is not the right attitude to have towards our neighbor where God expects us to try to draw close to them and be an impact in their lives. We can't just decide that we're too different and there's no reason to try and so in all of these cases, we have to figure something out in these relationships. There are a couple of past episodes that I encourage you to visit or revisit if you want more information on how to mend troubled relationships.
One that comes to mind is episode three: Always Speak Last. Sometimes we're doing too much talking and so it's pushing them away and it's being divisive. Maybe what we need to do is listen a little bit more. Find out where they're coming from. Why is it that we disagree? What are they seeing here that maybe I'm not seeing or at least what is their perspective so I will know how to convince them to reevaluate. Sometimes what we need to do is listen and ask more questions and learn more and then maybe when we speak it can be more unifying instead of pushing us further apart. Another example is episode 10: The One Thing. I gave an example in that episode of how much of a difference it can make. If you go into a conversation, you walk into the room and you know that the person in front of you is someone that you just see things very differently than they do and it always ends up in some kind of an argument, but you go in that day with the one thing in your mind.
The one thing is "I will be at peace with that person today". Everything that I say, every reaction that I have will pursue peace. Sometimes just a one thing attitude you bring into it can change the outcome dramatically, but I wanted to give you a third tip along that line. This episode is titled Zipping the Jacket and while actually zipping jackets is probably not going to make your marriage better, if you can remember that small piece of imagery, what it takes to properly zip a jacket, something that most of us do all the time, then maybe you can carry this with you into these relationships and make real progress. Here's the thing, everybody knows how to zip a jacket. You take the piece at the bottom on the left side and hold it in your hand. You take the piece on the bottom on the right side and you hold it in your hand and you pull the two together and you slide the insert pin into the retaining box and yes, I looked that up.
All of those little zipper pieces have official googleable names and you slide it in and you grab the slider and when everything is fitted together properly, you slowly for that first couple of inches, you just slide that slider up, making sure those first few pieces of the zipper come together and once they do, the rest is cake. You easily zip it up and things comes together. Now if you decide to rush it and you don't get everything seated properly, that slider comes flying up the right side of the jacket and yet nothing comes together. If you don't get it seated properly at the bottom and it's caught there, you can pull on that slider as hard as you want and it will not work because it's being forced and it hasn't fit properly. So again, to be clear, and then we'll make the connection to relationships:
If you have the left side and the right side previously completely apart, not together at all, and you just take the pieces at the bottom and you agree to bring them together and then you start with just a small connection, just one, and add to that a second one and a third and a fourth. Before you know it, you gain momentum and you've zipped up whatever, 60, 80 100 however many elements there are. It starts with one. That's the key to relationship mending. I'm reminded of I Peter 3. I love I Peter 3:8-9. It says, to sum up, let all of you be... and then lists six things, and I mentioned that just to say that this helps every relationship that you have. But just before that, in first Peter Three one through seven it talks about wives and husbands, so I am certain that this advice will help every marriage.
There are six things listed there. Here they are. "To sum up all of you, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind hearted and humble in spirit. Not Returning Evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead. For you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." Now, we're not going to look at all of those today. Just the first one, his first piece of advice to sum up, all of you be harmonious. Now, you might look at that and think, that's the problem. We're not in harmony. The point here is you have to find something that you share in common. There has to be something. I'm challenging you this week. Take the most troubled relationship that you have, the person that you have the most difficult time getting along with and if you'll think about that, there are still things you have in common with them.
There are issues in which you are in harmony with them. Maybe not many things, but there are some things, so like zipping a jacket if you want to begin to be in harmony on many things, lots of elements, and elements is the official term for those little pieces of the zipper. It begins with the two of you being willing to be in the room together and doing your best to patiently, intentionally and kindly pair up that first element. Something in which you are both in harmony, something easy, something in which you both agree and then you build on that with something else, something easy, something that you have in common. This builds rapport, it builds good will. It builds the momentum of unity. You can't rush this. Remember if you take that slider and you zip it up your side and do everything you want to do, but you haven't patiently established a connection, then it won't come together.
You cannot force this. Don't pick issues initially that have to be forced, otherwise it'll never work. No, you start with a patient, deliberate, careful connection. That is easy and what you'll find is when you start to build that rapport of agreeing on things that you both have in common and communicating that, then it's easy to start adding in other things as well. Let's begin by illustrating this with a few examples in marriage and then we'll branch out and talk about some other connections as well. Maybe the two of you are arguing about your kids about let's say you have a teenager like I do and you're trying to decide whether she's going to be allowed to go and do something on the weekend and you totally see that differently and one of you thinks that it's fine and already told her she could go and the other one thinks that it's unsafe or unwise and wants to say no and it's becoming this big thing.
Now, of course, first of all, no reason to yell and get carried away. You disagree. We've established that. Well if you go back into a room away from the kids and you talk about it, you could banter and make your arguments and fight like you're pulling two sides of a jacket together all day long. But every time you release the jacket, it will fall back apart. But what about this? What if you sit down and say, okay, let's talk about a few things that we agree on here. Let's just begin with that. Do we both agree that we love our daughter and we always want what's best for her? And both of you will say, yeah, we agree about that. And isn't it important that no matter what we keep her safe and that we don't put her in a situation where it'll be out of her control?
And both of you would say, well yeah, absolutely. Or aren't there a few things about this weekend and this trip that could potentially just possibly, and you can see what side I'm arguing for. Obviously here I'm arguing that she can't go, but I'm trying to say, don't we both agree on this? Don't we both see this? And if we decided that this was a little bit too questionable and we weren't sure about it, couldn't we offer this alternative that would make us feel a little bit more confident and the other person would say, yeah, I think we could do that. We've sat there for a couple of minutes and agreed on things like our love for her, the desire for safety, the fact that we have a couple of other options on the table and before you know it, one side is going to align with the other and say, you know what?
Yeah, I'm with you on this. Let's do this this way and then would you agree that if we're not going to let her go this weekend, that next weekend, this other event that's a little bit different and we'll let her do that. And I agree. And so the jacket zips all the way to the top. We could have wasted 30 minutes arguing and bantering about it, but in just five minutes we establish some common ground and we came out and complete agreement. Let's talk about something a little more serious. Maybe a husband and wife are arguing about where they're going to go to church. Maybe she wants to go visit this congregation, this church, and listened to some preaching and study the word and he doesn't want to go and it's causing a lot of pain. And here's what could happen. And what usually does happen, one is she keeps pushing and he keeps resisting or he keeps saying things about it, trying to be negative about going and worshiping there.
And it just breeds more division amongst them. But what about this? What if she sat down with him and said, can we just talk about a couple of things for a minute? Do you agree that we both love God? I mean, we believe in God and we want to serve God, and he would say, yeah, of course I believe in God. And do you think that just going anywhere really and choosing worship over staying home to go worship God would probably be good for us, could be healthy for us, a nice way to spend the morning? And he would say, well, yeah, I guess it would. Well, you know, we have a few friends that go to this church. I mean, they are our friends, right? Would you say that that guy that goes, there's your friend and he would say, yeah, he is my friend.
I like him. Well, don't you think it would maybe mean a lot to him if we finally accepted his invite and we went and just, hey, just for an hour for worship or something and said hello? And he can't disagree with any of this. These are common little zipper elements. Yes. I love God. Yes, worship is good. Yes it would be good for us and yes, our friend would feel great about it and you just start working this commonality. Let us all be harmonious. Let's find that thing that we enjoy and then he may come in and have a different attitude as opposed to just continually telling him, I think we should go and you need to just get up and come. None of that's going to work. None of that's going to work. You cannot force the jacket together. You have to patiently work with common ground and work your way slowly up until it becomes easy and it all comes together and listen, we can talk about a lot of relationships here.
I'm thinking about God's people since we just gave the example of being at Church and worship. Let's talk a little bit about God's people. The word of God is abundantly clear that when we walk in the nature of God, Ephesians 4:2 say we do so with humility and gentleness with patience, showing tolerance for one another and love being diligent to preserve the unity, the harmony, the unity of the spirit. In the bond of peace, unity, and peace. Have you ever known cases where God's people, brethren, who have tons of things in common, aren't even talking anymore? They sit on opposite sides of the church building or they worship at different places? It seems like they can't have a two minute conversation without saying something that causes division. Now, it may be that they don't want to mend that relationship, and if I can just be quite honest with you, they will face the Lord on that.
That is not God's plan for them. Not In your home, not in the church, not in your relationships, but I'm watching that and I'm thinking, these two guys have tons of things in common. What if they went out to coffee one morning and they just sat there and said, look, let's not talk about that thing that we always talk about, that issue we disagree on. Let's talk about the things we have in common first, and they talked about how they love their church and they love their families and one another's families. And they love the word of God and they love God and they're waiting for Jesus and they want to be an encourager and they're building all of these elements of unity and they start talking about the issue, but the elements of the issue in which they agree, the elements of the issue where they see it the same way.
Now in the end, the whole jacket may not come together, but they built this rapport and trust and understanding that at least can cause them to spend time together and be kind to one another and also may get some momentum going or one of them realizes that they've been rushing things and they need to slow down and rethink it or the other one realizes they've been trying to force that zipper instead of getting it properly placed and one of them changes a little bit and all of a sudden they're unified. I see it all the time, but it always begins with that first piece coming together intentionally and carefully, united so that you start working in the same direction instead of emphasizing your differences. Look, we could go through tons of examples. I hope that you're able, as your exercise today, to think about somebody you want to mend a relationship with and I hope that you want to do that.
God wants you to do that and you're able to say, you know what? I have to stand for truth in that relationship, but it's truth in love. So maybe the right way to begin is to talk about the truths that we both love. Establishing that commonality and then seeing where we can go with it. Okay, let me leave you with this. A small child has a difficult time zipping up a jacket. Maybe they don't know how it works or maybe they just try to rush it. They also have a difficult time getting along with other little kids that they have disagreements with. But you know, when we grow up, we're supposed to do away with childish things. We learn how the jacket works, we learn how the pieces fit together. We learned the secret of success. If you can learn it in that, you can learn it in this. The secret of fixing relationships that are in trouble is getting together, finding some common ground and building from there. Think about that and maybe it'll start coming as natural to you as zipping a jacket.
Kris Emerson, a loving husband, father of four, and gospel preacher, takes a few minutes to go over some important life changing and spirituals insights.
- How to fix my marriage
- How to be a better spouse
- How to communicate with my spouse
- How to please God in my marriage
- How to find common ground