Stop Lying to Yourself and Start Reconciling with Others.

Ten Guardian-Lies 

or "Why I do not have to reconcile"

Disclaimer:  There are interpersonal conflicts that are sometimes intractable based on criminal felony offenses, years of abuse, deep emotional wounds, and the like.  I am not writing about those types of complicated conflicts.  I am writing about the normal routine conflicts that people bring into New Path Center every week.


As a result of serving as a mediator over the last 20 years, I've noticed a pattern.  Sometimes, when I invite conflicted clients to enter a reconciliation process, the clients, along with several other clients, give amazingly similar irrational responses.  I hear the following responses over and over again.  Hence, I have learned to recognize these repeating phrases as "guardian-lies."

A guardian-lie is any belief that hinders a person from moving forward.  People are stuck NOT because of any outside force beyond his or her control.  People are stuck due to their own belief and choice.


Here are some of the most common guardian-lies that I hear.  These lies keep people from moving forward to reconciliation.

I choose to remain stuck in conflict because:

  1. I know the other party will not want to reconcile.
  2. Even if the other party says they want to reconcile, they are not showing enough sincerity, remorse, humility, forgiveness, (and so on).
  3. Reconciling will only be a waste of time.
  4. We have tried to reconcile in the past but it has never worked, and it won't work this time.
  5. Any more contact with the other party will only make it worse.
  6. There is nothing we could possibly do to make it better
  7. The other party knows what they did wrong, they need to come to me.
  8. If I have wronged someone, they have the responsibility to come to me.
  9. I'm just going to avoid being around the other person.
  10. The other party is "crazy!"

1. Dr. Ed Smith, Theophostice Prayer Ministry, adapted by Tony Redfern

Sexual Misconduct vs. Redemptive Pre-Activity

When our kids were much younger, Bonnie and I would practice a pre-activity talk with Amy and Scott prior to entering an outing or event where they might be tempted to misbehave. In essence, we talked about what we were about to do and the consequences of poor decisions. Most of the time our children made us proud! I think the pre-activity talk made the difference as they were empowered to redeem the moment and not yield to behaving badly.

Honestly, I think church leadership needs to have more pre-activity talks. I have had too many experiences hearing about, ministering to, or mediating conflict centering around leadership misconduct - specifically sexual misconduct.

The following letter comes through Don Byers, a friend and a wonderful part of the family. Don writes, "I share this unusual blog from a fallen pastor because such repentance appears to be the exception these days, rather than the norm."

Open Letter to the Elders and to _____________ Church of ________________ in the State of _______.,

One year ago today, I spoke for the last time at _________ Church. For the first time since ________, I have gone a year and have not spoken in a church, not served in a church, not volunteered in a church, and have not been asked to...just months ago, I began attending a church again (sit in the back, head down, anonymous.)

It seems like the one year mark would be a good time and place to write this letter. I am so sorry for the pain and emotional upheaval my life and actions have caused you and the precious bride of Christ.

I'm sorry for the deceptions, the irresponsibility, and the sin of adultery that came from my life and infected others. I assume full responsibility for my actions with no excuses and no rationalizations.

As you can also attest, this has been the hardest two years of my life, with this past year especially crushing. With the help of our Lord, a dear Christian counselor, some medication, and a few close people in my life, I am seeing light at the end of a self-inflicted tunnel.

This is not the life path I would have chosen for myself or dear one wakes up and decides, "Today I will destroy my life and do harm to those around me." This path was a gradual one with many calls from God to stop, which I did not heed. HE was faithful. I was not.

The Bible says that when sin is fully formed, it yields death. So much has died in and around my life. What I cling to these days is the belief that God specializes in resurrections. He brings life to places there was once death.

_______________ Church, I loved you; and in many ways, served you well. My legacy, however, is one of failure and sin. I can't undo that.

I can only walk with Christ in authenticity--no longer hiding imperfections and failures, but living truthfully--honestly and with integrity (inside and outside matching). Will you see sin in my life? Yes. Am I striving to grow in Christ? Yes.

What I MUST do is offer this public confession, my sincere apology and my heartfelt request for your forgiveness.

With Sorrow...and yet with hope,

(signed) ________________

Pre-Activity Questions: If you had an affair, how would would you write this letter? How would you fill in the blanks?

As I read the letter, I could not help but think of an activity that Dr. James Cecy uses in his profoundly sobering conference on sexual purity, Ambassadors of Purity. This is one of the best conferences I have ever attended. Dr. Cecy does an excellent job communicating the harsh reality of sexual misconduct. He says, "If you decide to have a sexual affair, you better make sure it is the best sex you have ever had . . . because it will cost you the most."

To drive this point home, he uses a pre-activity to bring the notion of falleness to reality. He invites the attendees to ponder the devastating results of immorality. Dr. Cecy asks everyone to do the following assignment using names and stating specifics, "If you were caught in the act of sexual immorality, what would be the effect on your relationship with your Lord? Your family? Your spouse? Your church? The community at large? How might it hurt you physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and economically?" Then he asks, "Considering all the consequences, is it really worth it?"

Thoughtful pre-activities can redeem us from the post-activity's devastating results and brokenness. Pre-activity can create the blessedness and wholeness of no-activity.

Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

VORP: A Story of Redemption

Eric had big career plans but his involvement in a crime undermined his chances of obtaining his goal and a brighter future. He was now faced with a criminal record. It seemed like a minor act of retaliation “because a friend asked.” But a few minutes of "drive-by-paintball" vandalism resulted in a felony with long-term consequences. Eric’s future was unclear and certainly bleak.

I am always moved by the stories I experience while doing mediation work with the community & faith-based Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP). I have been a volunteer VORP mediator since 1992. Serving as a VORP mediator has been both worthwhile and inspirational. It is some of the most important work that I could do for my community as I see the redemptive message of Jesus Christ come to life.

While I have had the privilege of helping a number of juvenile offenders, Eric (not his real name) comes to mind most certainly as a person with a story of redemption due in part because of VORP. Eric’s story consists of many events that contributed to his transformation journey. However, I am pleased to share that a VORP mediation was one of those events that helped him on his journey of character development.

The Fresno County Probation Department referred Eric’s case to VORP. VORP assigned the case to me. I met with Eric to explain how VORP could help with his situation. I told him that if he wanted to cooperate with the VORP program, he would be given an opportunity to make things as right as possible with his victims.

While I could not guarantee that a judge would be any easier on him because of VORP, I did tell Eric that if he cooperated and worked on a constructive resolution to his offense, the VORP program might be beneficial for him at his court time. He would still have to pay his fines, do his community service, finish his classes, and do all the justice system required of him. I could not change any of that for him. I could only offer a program that might help him, his victims, and his community to heal from the offense.

Right from the start, Eric was a willing participant in the VORP mediation process. He arrived on time and constructively added to the success of the mediation as we met with his victims. He also quickly fulfilled his VORP agreement with his victims. In fact, Eric went above and beyond what was expected of him in making things as right as possible. He did practical jobs for the victims, expressed apology, regret, embarrassment, self-assessment, and remorse in addition to being the author of a generous restitution amount. He also paid the restitution in full and sooner than agreed.

The victims’ willingness to participate in this redemptive story is another wonderful feature of Eric’s journey. The victims gained not just payment for damages done, but they also gained an opportunity to become agents of change. Eric was impressed with their “big hearts” toward him, their kindness, and their openness to include him in their community once again. He said their words were healing, but what made the difference was their redeeming actions toward him. I can’t go into detail on their exact actions, but it was a huge step toward healing.

The day before his scheduled court appointment, Eric asked if I would write a letter to the judge outlining all that he had completed with the VORP program. I gladly wrote the letter. Eric said as he stood before the judge all he held in his hands was his VORP letter. He gave the letter to the bailiff, the bailiff gave the letter to the judge, the judge read the letter, and the judge looked down over his glasses at Eric. “Have you learned your lesson,” the judge asked. “Yes,” Eric replied. “Charges dismissed,” said the judge.

Dismissed? What did this mean? It meant that Eric would not have this felony on his record. In essence the judge had forgiven him and, thus, no longer held the offense against him. Eric’s future all of a sudden became clear and bright.

Today, Eric is not only enjoying a brighter future but he is also growing in his faith, attending both church and a young-adult Bible study, planning on going on a mission trip, and learning to choose better friends.

This is Eric’s redemptive story which continues to this day toward a brighter future.

"And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." - Hebrews 11:4b

I am one of five, four brothers and one sister. Here's a picture of three of the brothers. Yes, I am the little guy sitting on the crossbar of my oldest brother's bike.  Jerry was thoughtful enough to provide me with a blanket to sit on. It was probably my na-na.

None-the-less, I want to talk about Marshall, the brother in the forefront. Marshall is a very important person to me. Marshall led me to my first concepts of God and in a way . . . he led me to Jesus when I was seven years old. That doesn't sound too strange until I tell that Marshall died when I was just under two years of age. He was almost five when he died. Yes, I did say he led me to Jesus when I was seven.

You see, through the years, I visited Marshall's grave many times with my bereaved mother. One time I started asking myself questions about eternity. Where was Marshall? And the bigger question for a seven year old - Where will I be when I die? Talk about coming face to face with death.

I grew up in a house of grief and I seem to understand the verse that says, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." Was I wise at such a young age? I don't know, but I am thankful for the questions I struggled with at my brother's graveside. Why? Because the redemptive value in my brother's death was the very fact that through my brother my heart was touched in such a way that made me ask the hard questions.  The answers would change my life forever. Was death the end?

Thank God my mother took me to church. One day my Sunday School teacher (Thank God for SS teachers!) told the class of boys about Jesus and eternal life. This was the information that I was looking for - talk about good news. This was the gospel! God's gospel for me! This is what Marshall was showing me. You see, he led me to this point as the destination of all those countless times I visited his grave and stared down at his grave marker with so many deep questions. Marshall, though he was dead, spoke to my heart and led me to my Savior and Lord.

Is there redemptive value in the death of a child? I have to say yes. God works with us in all situations to bring good - even in a situation like Marshall's.

Oh, my dear brother, I had to say goodbye before I even said hello! Marshall, how sweet the reunion will be!

Searching for a redemptive moment . . .

"Children's children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children."
Proverbs 17:6

Searching for a redemptive moment is a precious and yet seemingly a futile activity when looking at my 88 year-old mother's health fading away. Even so, with eighty years between them, this picture of my now frequently-dozing mother with her loving great granddaughter, Kaitlyn, captures one of those moments. When confronted with the reality of pending death, it is good to remember there are moments to celebrate, meaningful memories to make, hurts that can be healed, and a great sense of God's grace. It is good to trust in Christ - and where else would we go?

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
John 6:68

Sunset Forgiveness

(Scott full of life!)

Today is February 4th. This date remains one of the most important redemptive days in our family’s life.

February 4, 1996, a Sunday, to be exact. Amy was away at Biola University, beginning the second semester of her freshman year. Scott, a sophomore at Immanuel High School in Reedley, was not having a good morning. He argued with his mom all the way to church. He was relentlessly unapologetic about wanting his own way on some issue – neither Bonnie nor I can remember the issue, but we do remember the argument well.

As we arrived at church, Bonnie stayed in the car with Scott, hoping to reach a point of reconciliation. It was to no avail. Scott was determined to remain angry and eventually left the car in a huff.

We remember how troubled we felt as we sat through church, knowing all the while the lack of unity in our family that morning. We went to the New Life class (I taught the class at the time) and again this burden for reconciliation weighed heavy on us.

Following the class, Scott came down stairs to meet me, as he often did at the end of our time at church. I reminded Scott how "vitally important" it was to make things right with his mother - today, now, immediately. Scott stated that he knew he was wrong and he would talk with her as soon as we left the building.

Scott did make things right. He apologized for his anger. He asked Bonnie to forgive him, and she did. We went on to have a great day together, fellowshipping with one another, enjoying laughs and talking about the plans we had for the coming week.

The next day, February 5th, at 11:26 am, God called Scott home. At 11:36 am - I was paged as I pulled off northbound Hwy 99, Floral Ave., Selma, California, 1996 in the year of our Lord. I called my office. My co-worker said, "Your son has been hurt in an accident." Time and space stood still that day. As the events unfolded, a horrifying dread came over me.

Scott was involved in a fatal accident in his woodshop class. Although he was placed on life support, he was declared brain dead on Tuesday, February 6th. We said goodbye, this side of eternity, to our precious son, Scott, at the age of 16 years old.

Why then, is February 4th, such an important redemptive day to our family? None of us knew it would be the last full day with Scott. None of us knew

This is for why - why we take care of today's conflict today. May your sunsets always include the vivid colors of forgiveness.