My father began teaching me golf when I was nine. Once he thought I was good enough to get on an actual golf course, he taught me some of the etiquette. Stand still when someone else is hitting. Don’t talk during someone’s swing. Never walk over the line of your playing partner’s putt. Furthest away hits first. Lowest score on a hole has honors on the next one. And always fix your divot!
A divot is made when you go to hit a shot and your club digs into the earth behind the ball, taking a chunk of grass and soil with it. Often it is small, but sometimes the divot is huge and travels farther than the ball (usually not a good sign).
If a divot is not repaired, the grass will die and the spot of the divot will dry up as well. It isn’t good for a golf course. It looks bad and will take a long time to recover.
But if the clump of grass is put back over the divot, it will regrow fairly quickly and soon it will heal over and be as good as new. But as easy as that sounds, many people won’t take the time to simply walk over, pick up their divot and put it back into place.
“Replace your divot” is a good principle for relationships too. Far too often our words or actions hurt others or we are hurt by theirs. Sometimes we are not aware of the hurt immediately (unless we are the one who experienced it). Too often we let the divot sit. We don’t repair it right away. As a result, resentment and bitterness creep in and cause deeper damage than if we had sought reconciliation and repair as soon as we knew there was a problem.
Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
And in Colossians 3 he wrote:
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Fix your divot! If someone has offended you or hurt you, go to them and gently tell them what happened and how you felt. Focus on the issue, not their character. Avoid saying, “You always…” or “You never…” Lovingly point out what happened and how you feel.
If you are the one who caused offense, ask forgiveness. Go to the person and tell them you are sorry for what happened or what was said. If you feel you’ve been misunderstood, explain what you intended. Hearing why they were hurt or angry may make complete sense and you can affirm that had that been what you meant, you’d be upset too.
The important thing is to repair the relationship. Forgive or ask forgiveness. As much as it depends on you, seek to keep peace. Be willing to be humble and kind and compassionate and gentle and patient. Love well. Not everyone will want to be reconciled. Not everyone will forgive your wrong or ask forgiveness for the wrong they’ve done. That’s ok. As much as it depends on you, do your part. It may not bring the peace you hope for. The other person may cling to their hurt or pride. But your heart will be in line with God’s and that’s a good place to start.
This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while. I was having lunch with one of my best friends from high school this week and shared the idea with her and she remembered a difficult conversation we had had during the period mentioned below. It served as confirmation to me that I should share it. I hope it’s received in the spirit with which it’s intended! ~ Rick
Dear Family and Friends,
There aren’t all that many things I regret in life. For the most part I have tried to live by treating others as I would want to be treated. I have sought to be respectful of others and their opinions. I have tried to be generous and kind. I have wanted to be fair and gracious. While I think I have done reasonably well, there was a period of my life that I know I wasn’t very gracious. I wasn’t very kind. I was zealous and perhaps even rabid in the way I shared and defended my beliefs. I was passionate…but I wasn’t very tactful. At times I was downright mean.
I don’t remember everyone I offended. I don’t remember all the people I lambasted. But I know it is more than I care to remember. And I’m sorry. I am really, truly sorry. I ask your forgiveness. I wish I had known then what I’ve learned over the years and would have communicated the same truths in a loving, gracious way. I wish I would have been more respectful of the ways we differed. I wish I wouldn’t have been so judgmental – whether you were wrong or not, I was wrong in the way I communicated and treated you.
I don’t know how many people I might have turned off to ideas they might have been open to listening to or discussing. I don’t know how many people heard me and tossed me into the category of hypocrite or extreme fundamentalist. I’m not really worried about those labels anyway; I’m more concerned that the deep, important truths I believed then and continue to believe now were marginalized or ignored because I was a poor messenger. And I deeply regret that.
I recognize that even if I had spoken with words full of grace and tact we might have left the conversation with different beliefs. I know that I may not have convinced you of anything. I don’t mind that. But I am concerned that maybe you walked away doubting my love for you or my part in our friendship. I fear that my actions may have led you to reject the things I believe, not on their merit or lack thereof, but because of me.
So, please, please forgive me. Please know that with time comes (at least sometimes) wisdom. If I did offend you, perhaps you’ll tell me and we can sit down over a cup of coffee and I can apologize in person. We don’t even have to revisit our original conversation unless you want to get some things off your chest! It would be great just to spend time together and talk.