There are times when I am sitting in front of a couple, locked in a power struggle, emotionally stuck, and obviously in pain. And I try to understand what is holding them back – fear or pride. In this context I would define fear as not wanting to make a mistake, and pride as not wanting to surrender and do the right thing. Sometimes I think I am confronted with one of each – pride in one person, vs. fear in the other.
Fear and pride holds us back from taking a reasonable risk, even when it might accomplish the relational goals that God would ask of us.
Consider these inner dialogs that you might have had.
“What if I ‘turn the other cheek’ and he does the same thing again?”
“What if I offer an apology and she rejects it and won’t forgive?”
“What if I admit my part of a conflict and it is used against me?”
It is obvious that pride is a sin against God. What about fear? We are told to fear (God – be in awe of Him), and we are told not to fear (to be courageous). I guess you could say the context of fear has everything to do with how you answer that question. It would seem that God would want us to take some bold stands, and not to do so would be considered sinful.
I would offer that both pride and fear are understandable. They both share the risk of losing something – a part of self. It is very hard to move in the direction of loss – it is counterintuitive. But sometimes solutions can only be found when we move against our feelings.
What Nan and I recommend to break a relational stalemate is for each person to make a small step towards the other person – called a repair attempt. When we encounter a repair attempt from another person we must acknowledge and accept it as genuine – and not criticize it or minimize it (too little, too late). It is difficult to do when we are emotionally on high alert, but if we can remember to keep the big picture in mind it makes self-soothing and calming ourselves easier.
I believe our personality and temperament may determine which side of the line we are likely to fall on. Probably anxious people will drift toward the fearful side and stubborn people towards the prideful region. Either area is dangerous in a relationship, because it prevents God from doing a healing or even miraculous work in our lives.
I know that Nan and I have experienced both pride and fear when dealing with each other. Over the years we have probably traded positions depending on the season or the situation. It still shows up time to time. What makes “now” different from “then” is the amount of time we are willing to invest in a power struggle. Age can have its advantages.