Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. (I Peter 3:8-11)
We improve our relationship to Jesus through time in the Word and in prayer. We can get down to improving our relationship with others only after we get our relationship with Christ right. Mom always used to say I was to treat others as I wanted them to treat me - the Golden Rule. The only way to treat others right is to be sure the 'rightness of our heart' is maintained through time with Jesus. Try as we might, we cannot control what another says or thinks - even though we may be trying to do that for them. A wise counselor once told me I could never be another person's conscience, nor could I ever improve their behavior or attitude - that was the work of the Holy Spirit, not me. I could focus on the attitude I maintained and the behavior I exhibited - period. I will say there is power in being a positive example, though!
If you have ever tried to be kind when someone else is being a little bit of a bugger, it isn't all that easy! In fact, you might just want to be a bugger right back! It took me a long time to realize my attitude was all I could control. The more I took it to Christ, spending time exploring what he said in his Word, and what he was saying to me, the less I wanted to correct that other person's behavior. Why? Mine was enough to handle! Is it difficult to respond to criticism with grace? Yes, it can be, but when we listen 'between the lines' of what is being said, we sometimes find elements of truth that expose just a bit about ourselves or the circumstances we didn't really see on the surface. Some of the worst arguments have begun in my life because I never stopped to consider if there was any truth to what the other person was saying!
It is hard to stop to listen when an argument is beginning to raise your hackles, but somewhere within the two worlds that are colliding in a barrage of words and attitudes, there might be a little bit of truth we need to hear. It took a lot of time with Jesus to change my attitude toward some individuals - time well spent, I might add. When I allowed him to point out things I needed to work on instead of always focusing on why the other individual was 'wrong' or 'misled' in the situation, my attitude began to change toward the other individual. Gracious words began to replace hateful ones. Acts of service began to replace begrudging duty. Change like this within relationship is only possible when we get the first part of all relationship correct - Jesus in the center. The other individual may not even know Jesus, but your example may be the exact thing that draws them into a relationship with him of their own. Just sayin!