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How do I get along/build unity with other women?
Ever since I moved into a household with other women, it has been difficult to get along and/or build unity. Do you have any advice on how to get along with other women and establish unity in the home?
The first thing I can say is that you aren't alone. Lots of women in Christian households are surprised by the difficulties they encounter (oftentimes over seemingly simple things!) The good news is that we are created to live in relationship, in the image of God. From the beginning, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were together, living in complete unity—creating together, planning together, and living in perfect unity (John 17:20-21).
What differentiates us from the Godhead is that we enter into human relationships with sinful, and sometime very insecure people -- ourselves included! So, even though God intended for us to live in community, we all need instruction on how to model God's characteristics in our relationships.
Bottom line, I think women living in harmony in a Christian household starts with two basic commitments—acceptance and forgiveness. And if you think about it, these are two of the very things that give us great security in a relationship with God.
Acceptance versus Conditional love
Paul’s epistles urge believers to accept one another just as Christ accepts them (Romans 15:7). In other words, we are supposed to model to each other the acceptance of Christ. The household is one of best places for this to happen, because we see each other at our best and worst.
Conditional love says, “I love her most when she is like me or when she ‘gets’ me… when she treats me the way I like to be treated.” Conditional love often seems easier than accepting people for who they are and where they’re at spiritually. This type of love couldn’t be further from the heart of Jesus, but often, it’s our human nature.
True acceptance, on the other hand, is just the type of love Jesus demonstrated on the cross, when we were powerless to bridge the gap between us and a holy God. By accepting each other, we model the love of God to each other (1 Corinthians 12:21-26). Acceptance versus conditional love boils down to our words and actions. For instance…
- Telling her the truth in love instead of “getting advice” or venting behind her back
- Refusing to show favoritism instead of constantly pulling away with another roommate behind a closed door
- Learning from her differences versus expecting her to become more like you.
You might start with some honest soul searching, “How do my actions make her feel? Am I communicating conditional love or acceptance as Jesus intended?”
Forgiveness versus Nursing Grievances
The dictionary defines a grievance as “a wrong considered as grounds for complaint, or something believed to cause distress.” Another definition describes a grievance as “a complaint or resentment, as against an unjust or unfair act.” Nursing grievances can take many forms, for instance…
Get back syndrome — “She pointed out when I did something wrong, so I’m going to call her out on something!” When we feel put down, our sinful nature pushes us to show her that she’s not perfect either. The Bible says: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing.” (See 1 Peter 3:8-9)
Keep a list syndrome — “Everything you do that isn’t right is going on my list—and that list is getting longer and longer!” The Bible says: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
We can also nurse grievances when one roommate is struggling in their faith—resenting their struggle. Or if we’re insecure, we might take someone’s weak faith personally. Our peace becomes dependent on their peace, so in the name of “helping,” we begin to manage, control, fix or run after the person struggling. This unhealthy dependence makes for great drama.
God calls us to a healthy balance of helping with burdens, but keeping good boundaries. What might this look like?
- Ask her if you can help instead of insisting that you help.
- Inquire what you can pray for her about instead of insisting that you know exactly what she needs.
- Give her space to be human but commit to fighting for her spiritually—letting her know that you’ll be there if she’s struggling.
The truth is that we absolutely need each other. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 beautifully illustrates this principle. It’s important for each of us to remember that just because I’m an eye and my roommate is a foot, doesn’t change anything! Every part of the body of Christ needs the other parts to remain healthy, active and growing.
Being involved in your roommates’ lives doesn’t mean you all have to be each other’s very best friends. But it does mean unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness and the many other attributes of a believer as seen in the life of Jesus.