When is a good time to deal with a disagreement? Amanda Anderson suggests sometimes the answer is “later.”
When the Dust Settles, Don’t Sweep It Under the Rug
By Amanda Anderson
In April of 2020, three weeks into my state’s stay-at-home order, my husband stepped on a needle in our living room, eye side up. It went deep into his foot.
I was on the phone with a friend when it happened, and he recruited our two teenagers to administer first aid without telling me what was going on. When I got off the phone, and was informed of the situation, our conversation devolved to the point where I – the one who had dropped and left the embroidery needle in our living room rug – got mad at him.
I realized that our responses to this incident were playing out an existing dynamic in our marriage that was in need of some attention. I wrote about the incident that week on my blog, and my post bore this wise (if I do say so myself) sentiment: Though times of crisis reveal issues in our relationships, they are rarely the time to address them.
Note them, yes. Pray about them, for sure. Make note of them to circle back later. But don't necessarily try to sort out and heal a long-standing issue with your spouse when you are both under more stress than possibly you have ever experienced before.
I spoke with a trusted psychologist at the time, and he affirmed my instinct. When the bombs are dropping overhead, he said, is not the time do deep relationship work, even though the crisis reveals the cracks. Instead, cling to and comfort each other as best you can. When the dust has settled, address the issues.
But how do we know when the dust has settled?
And when it has sufficiently settled, how do we make sure that – in our relief that the storm has passed – we don’t just sweep it under the rug?
Fortunately for our family of four, though the pandemic and restrictions continued for over a year after the needle incident, we found enough stability to work on underlying issues and fine tune our communication in the home. In fact, the slower pace of life actually helped us address several issues.
But other relationships have suffered more long-lasting trauma this year; they fractured in ways that also happened on a national scale. Even my relationship with church.
Our church in Southern California kept meeting outdoors throughout the year (hurray for So Cal weather), and things seemed fine on the surface. But on my social media feeds, I saw a different story. People I know and love went at each others’ throats online. They called each other names, accused each other of being disloyal to Jesus because of various political views. They fought about racism. They shamed people for being afraid of the virus or for being not cautious enough.
And I felt shattered. I felt afraid to go back to church.
Still, I went back anyway this spring, in the first week the church had deemed it both safe and legal to go back indoors. The mood was celebratory, but I felt traumatized. I wanted not just to rejoice that we were back together but grieve what we had lost and address what we had said and done to one another in the last year. I decided that I needed more time to fully return.
In June, I returned to teaching my own group at church, and I decided to set the tone for how we could interact. Our leaders met before the first meeting, and we agreed to a path of sensitivity to the women who were showing up just thrilled to be in person, as well as those who were afraid to come in the room. We made it clear that anyone who wanted to keep their mask on was welcome to, and no one was allowed to ask them why they were wearing it. We agreed on a “no politics” rule, no derisive comments about the government or the virus, because we’d all had enough of that.
And we agreed to focus on the theme of the study which was how to be spirit-filled women who build strong friendships, built on the qualities of a “new creation” as Paul defines them in Colossians 3: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and forbearance. By relying on the leading and power of the Holy Spirit in each of us, we can honestly deal with issues that might feel impossible in our own wisdom.
The study we did together is built around 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply for love covers over a multitude of sins.” In love, I believe we will find a way to deal with these sins and issues the past season has revealed in us, in God’s timing. Because of his grace, we don’t have to sweep them under the rug.
Amanda Anderson is an author and Bible teacher. Her Bible study video series based on her book, All My Friends Have Issues: Building Remarkable Relationships Among Imperfect Women, can be accessed on Right Now Media, or her website heartintraining.com. Connect with Amanda on Facebook: Amanda Anderson – Heart in Training and Instagram: @amandaandersonauthor.