Formerly harmonious relationships may now be fractured, leaving us more frustrated and isolated than ever.
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If you polled your social media followers, I bet you’d find “strained relationships” to be one of the big fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic. As if the 2020 election season in the U.S. weren’t enough to draw battle lines, the Age of COVID has further created tension and division among even the closest friends and family. Whether it’s disagreements about mask wearing, what social gatherings are appropriate, the safety of the new vaccines, or various other aspects related to navigating the virus, we may find ourselves at odds with many we love the most.
What can we do about it?
First, as with everything in our lives, we should take it to prayer. The Holy Spirit can do what we cannot. Pray for healing in those relationships that are strained. Ask for guidance, wisdom, gentleness, compassion. We are promised that when we turn our troubles over to the Lord, in prayer and with thanksgiving, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) The more rooted you are in prayer, the more you will be able to keep your peace — which helps us be less reactive when dealing with others with whom you differ.
Second, the next time you feel angry or frustrated with a loved one about something related to the pandemic (or anything, really), ask yourself the following question: What is it that each of us fears most?Chances are you both have different underlying fears that motivate your positions. These fears may or may not be based on factual information, but being aware of what deep fears are at play make it easier to be understanding and compassionate.
Many people are living in tremendous fear these days. Sure, there’s plenty to be afraid of — including a new virus that’s taken too many lives and changed life as know it. But as Christians we are commanded to “be not afraid.” In fact, this directive is repeated in the Bible more than 360 times, and Jesus himself tells us many times in the Gospels to not be afraid.
Easier said than done, of course, but St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:38 that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In other words, you are safe in the Lord, no matter what happens. Nothing, not even a global pandemic and all the stress it brings, can separate you from the love of God.
The more we ground ourselves in this truth, the better we can approach our loved ones with peace and kindness when we don’t understand their reasoning or decisions.
There is no quick fix for tense or ruptured relationships. And we are still navigating this pandemic; it may be some time before life consistently resembles something “normal.” Some relationships may take a long time to repair. Others may require new boundaries. New friendships may bloom; older ones may fade away. You are probably learning new things about yourself and others. You may realize that some of the differences you have with loved ones were always there, but the pandemic has just magnified them. Regardless, if you stay rooted in Christ, and approach everyone in your life from a place of peace, compassion, and understanding, it can go a long way.