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Making it Right

I’ve spent my life with teens and their families. It all started 50 years ago when I was 19. A father asked me if I would help with his son who was struggling a bit. That started a lifetime of being a youth pastor, and Area Director for Young Life, and for the last 35 years, living with 60 different teens a year at our Heartlight residential counseling program my wife and I started in Longview, Texas, the place that I call home. It’s been a lifetime of helping parents and teens restore that which has been damaged, and bringing broken relationships back together.


Recently I was speaking in a Midwest city and after I finished, a man I recognized immediately came up to me with tears in his eyes and a heaviness on his heart. His trembling voice, one that I haven’t heard in over 40 years, spoke these words. “I need to ask your forgiveness.” It was the first thing I’d heard from in four decades. He went on to say how he was angry with me when I ask him and his wife to move out of our house, that we temporarily let them live. His message was simple but so difficult for him to say. It was a simple message that took 40 years of building up courage to say two small words. “I’m sorry.”


We hugged with my explanation that I had sold the house, thus terminating our offer of giving them free rent. He had been “stewing” over that situation all this time, resulting in forty years of no contact, no words, and sadly, no relationship. Not exactly a picture of the scripture that reminds us to not let the sun go down on our anger.


I’ve seen this hundreds of times, if not thousands. Unresolved conflict that lingers. It damages relationships. And those unresolved issues have a weird way of coming to the surface at a later time, usually at significant life events with greater consequences effecting a larger circle of relationships.


But it does more than that. The choice to keep issues “unresolved” keeps all from experiencing the benefit of those relationships that God has placed in our lives, thus, never experiencing the deeper relationship He intended. Just one person’s choice, negative or positive, can have an impact on family members, children, neighbors, and others within communities. Sadly, many choose to remain in the shallowness of relationships.


My encouragement to all is this. Make it right.


Many choose to “not resolve” and believe that this tact is far better than resolving conflict. It’s a choice based in fear of not knowing what to do, or, feeling it’s better to “hold onto the conflict” as if to take control over another. Both choices of neglect are simply selfish, and hardly fulfills the scripture to “consider others to be more important than yourself.”


After 50 years of spending time with teens and families, attending “umpteen” weddings and funerals, and living with over 3,000 teens, let me give you some practical approaches on how to open the door to “make it right.”


Moms and Dads. There isn’t a parent I know that doesn’t have conflict with their teens. It’s normal to have disagreements as conflict is a precursor to change. Here’s some things that might need to be a start to some very important dinner discussions.


  • An admission of mistakes that shows your authenticity and genuineness; two traits of deep relationships.
  • Disclosure of statements that you’ve made that have hurt your relationship and those skirmishes have never been resolved.
  • Divulging your own issues and struggles that shows your humility and humanness. Your teens just might have a fond affection to your display of authenticity and show your faithfulness to the relationship that you have with them. And you might even set an example where they’ll begin to share their battles they encounter.


Your child is hoping you’ll affirm your relationship with them by letting them know that there’s nothing they can do to make you love them more, and nothing they can do to make you love them less. And by talking about those things that are getting in the way of your relationship, you are opening the door to a deeper relationship.


Today may be the day. Make it right.


Husbands and Wives. You’ve committed your life to one another. If you let it, the unresolved conflict in your marriage will eventually destroy your relationship if you don’t act to “tear down the walls” as quickly as it is “constructed. Jan and I have always thought it best to not let the sun go down on our conflicts. And that has meant some very real and direct talks, late at night, and the admission of something that is so hard for husbands and wives to say. “I’m sorry.”


Before you go to sleep at night…..make it right.


Grandparents. You guys are the backbone of your family. Your redemption of any time lost to conflict and struggle can be an example. You’re probably in the 4th quarter of life. The value of your legacy will not be measured by the amount you’ve left in your kid’s or grandkid’s bank account. It will be measured by what you have deposited in their heart. So, take advantage of the crucial time. This may be a time to restore what’s been lost, to make sure there’s no skeletons left to scare your kin in the days ahead, and to “clear the air” with relationships within your family. And it can begin as easy as these comments shared with family.


“I want you to know that I’m not perfect and I’ve done some things I’m not proud of. I’d like to share these with you so you don’t hear them from anyone else after I’m gone.”


“Hey, there’s some issues I need to share about our family that hasn’t been talked about. I think it’s important for you to know so your family can learn from our mistakes.”


“I hope we can have a frank discussion about some things I’ve learned about life so that you don’t have to go through the pain I experienced to learn the same lessons.”


Your family wants to talk about the things that haven’t been talked about, no matter how hard it is to bring certain topics up for discussion. It may be the time to start making some of those statements that open the door to deepen all your relationships within your family.


Make it right. While there’s still time.


I’ve said this for years. “I can always make more money, but I can’t make more time.” My encouragement to you is that you would take advantage of the time, and “make it right” with those around you, and redeem the time that’s been lost.


Ask to get together. Speak the truth with calmness, love, and grace. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger when you hear their feelings and responses. And end the conversation hiding nothing and sharing everything. Your actions today might just have an effect on the destiny of your family.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.