Rescuers and Justice Warriors


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I believe there are three approaches in dealing with conflict between people, and I’ve found that two of the three approaches simply don’t work.  The first approach that doesn’t work is the rescuer approach and the second is the justice warrior approach. We’ll talk briefly about each of these and discuss why they almost never resolve a conflict over the long-term, then we’ll discuss the one approach that works. 
Approach #1 that does not work. The “rescuer” approach.
When a person with a rescuer mentality encounters a conflict in a relationship, his or her response usually goes something like this… The rescuer sees the relationship isn’t working, so the rescuer believes they must do something about it. The rescuer begs the other person to stop the hurtful behavior and act correctly. The rescuer entreats the other person to see their side of the conflict and the rescuer is willing to do “whatever it takes” to make the situation okay again. The rescuer simply cannot live with an unsettled interpersonal situation, Mr. or Ms. Rescuer simply must “fix” the broken relationship. If the other person doesn’t respond favorably to the rescuer’s approach; the rescuer will often get angry with the obstinate person, and this often brings about approach #2…

Approach #2 that does not work. The “Justice warrior” approach.
The justice warrior must do something about the relationship that isn’t working. The battle for personal justice must be won at all costs, so the justice warrior often pulls out his or her Bible and quotes Scripture to the difficult person. Then the justice warrior will usually try a few forms of mental gymnastics, wrestling with what might be wrong with him or her, and trying to determine what might be wrong with the other person in the conflict. A justice warrior just can’t live with an unsettled interpersonal situation, they simply must “fix it”. If the other person does not respond correctly to the justice warrior’s approach, he or she again will get frustrated with the other person.  Refusing to give up on the broken relationship, the justice warrior will often try again with the rescuer approach.

Having tried everything to fix the relationship with no success, the rescuer/justice warrior is often left feeling completely upside-down; knowing that he or she has failed miserably in life. So, what is the correct approach to resolving relationship conflict when approaches #1 or #2 simply don’t work?  Jeff, you ask; what is Approach #3?

Approach #3 is the Romans 12 approach…
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord.” Romans 12:17-19
… In the Romans 12 approach, we agree to disagree with our difficult person.
… In the Romans 12 approach, we recognize that everyone won’t like us all the time.
… In the Romans 12 approach, we understand that we don’t have to win every battle.
… In the Romans 12 approach, we don’t have to be right, we don’t have to fix everyone and we don’t have to educate or convert the world to our way of thinking.
… In the Romans 12 approach, we can relax and let other folks figure life out for themselves, knowing that God is on the throne, and He has it all figured out.

In necessary relationships like marriage and family connections that aren’t working, we handle those relationships carefully, but we still don’t become emotionally overwrought if the other person isn’t crazy about us right now. We simply decide to be confident because our God is confident. We can be willing to give the situation a rest, because we realize the other person is not our project; they are God’s project. So we quiet our hearts, we pray, and we let God figure it out.

In unnecessary relationships, like former spouses, co-workers and road warriors, we can afford to give these folks a little more distance to let God work out the details. The battle is simply not ours to fight. And if we need to separate ourselves from these people, relegating them to a level of relationship that works for us and them, then that’s what we do.

Dear friends, that is the Romans 12 approach, and the Romans 12 approach is the one that works every time… “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans” 12:18  Well, those are our thoughts, we’d love to hear yours.

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