Just 3 blocks from my home are fields — acres of them. They stretch the expanse of my vision. Corn, beans, hay — they are all there. As I biked through the road that bordered them, I noticed one old farmer re-twisting wire on a fence that, for sure, pre-dates the turn of the century, plus a hundred years. He was ‘mending fences’.
You know I’m a word guy, so when I finished the ride, I looked up that phrase. Currently, the phrase means, “Re-establish good relations with people one has disagreed with.” I thought that definition odd so I kept digging for origin.
I found a proverb in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotation that dates back to the 17th century, that says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’. The American poet, Robert Frost, gave the proverb a boost in the American consciousness with his 1914 poem Mending Walls:
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.
So let me extrapolate.
When one of your relationships breaks down, it is as if one or the other party caused an offense to the fence that somewhat defined your relationship (see what I did there :)) A trust broken. A secret revealed. A feeling discarded. All of these ‘fences’ that give direction and meaning to your interactions now need mending.
Here are ways to mend those fences
- Use the wire of apology. It is amazing what happens in the other person when you apologize for an offense. Even if you feel that you were not the culprit, apologizing for the break in the relational fence is a step forward.
- Use the wire of humility. In every relational breakage, there is an aspect that you can own. Remember that a physical fence has two sides. Don’t power up, humble down. Emotionally, this puts you in a place to be able to listen and understand the other person’s point of view.
- Use the wire of gentleness. The bible says that a gentle word turns away wrath. Proverbs 15:1. Converse with care. Speak words of life not death.
Are there relational fences that are broken down in your life right now? Put on your overalls. Grab the wire. Its time to go to work.