Repairing v. Rebelling: Stomping Plants and Slashing Tires

Uncategorized Mar 28, 2024

The lady planted a garden in her backyard, which started it all. It was a small plot with a few plants—no big deal.

But the neighbors exploded. They claimed the garden encroached on their property line (about six inches!), so they threw a royal fit. They threw things. They screamed. Their kids came over and stomped her plants into the ground. It was quite an overreaction.

So, she decided to research the property line. It turns out that a few years before, the previous owners of her house had bought back 30 feet of the neighbor’s property line, so when she bought the house, she bought that 30 feet, too. She sent the neighbors a notice of a property line dispute. She provided evidence and gave a 24-hour notice, as required by the law, that someone would be coming to dig post holes for a fence according to the correct property lines.

The neighbors went even more crazy and slashed her vehicle's tires. But she caught it on video and sued them for damages. At the first court appearance, they decided to slash the tires of her car again. However, the courthouse parking lot also had cameras, and the second act was caught on video.

Only this vehicle did not belong to her. It was loaned to her by a friend, who also decided to sue the neighbors for damages. On top of this, the vehicle was a van loaded with equipment, which made it too heavy for the rims to support the weight once the tires were slashed. The damages included replacing both the tires and the rims for the van.

So now the neighbors have two lawsuits against them for the same action of tire slashing. As if the situation needed to become more complicated, both lawsuits were being heard by the same judge.

What started as a complaint over six inches of their yard turned into a loss of 30 feet of property use and a series of stupid choices that cost them several thousand dollars (adapted from Matt Gilligan, “People Talk About True Stories that went from Bad to Worse.”, Aug 16, 2020).

I read stories like that and wonder what is inside us that makes us think that the solution to relationship problems is outright rebelling instead of trying to repair the breach. The word “rebellion” conjures up images of teenagers resisting the authority of their parents and cultural norms, choosing to wear their hair in strange ways and pierce themselves in odd places. Or perhaps it brings to mind protests of people gathered outside of some government facility yelling about an injustice of some sort.

However, I would like to point out that rebellion often reacts to a relationship issue. Rebellion is not necessarily an issue against authority. Instead, it comes into play when there is a problem in a relationship between people. And by “relationship,” I’m not referring only to familial or friendship relationships. Even superficial interpersonal relationships between neighbors or the clerk at the store are included. When we have problems with other people, it gives us a choice to either rebel against or repair that relationship.

Much like the real-life example of feuding neighbors, the choice to rebel is usually less neat a solution than one might think, even though it might seem like the easier option. Telling a person off, unfriending them on social media, snubbing them at work, or slashing their tires can seem like justified actions and feel-good quick fixes.

Please take my advice: rebellion is not the best solution for interpersonal conflict. Here are three great reasons not to choose rebellion.

First, when we rebel against relationships, we typically do not think about the consequences of those actions.

Interacting with people is something that we must do in daily life. When interpersonal relationship issues occur with people we see and interact with often, rebellious choices create a history that will carry over into future interactions. Telling that coworker what you think of him might seem like a good idea, but you will need to interact with him again at some point. The same actions and attitudes that triggered your previous exchanges will have to be resolved, and the negative consequences of your last rebellion will be added on top.

The closer your relationship with someone, the deeper and more hurtful the consequences of rebellion can be. Problems with a store clerk whom you might see occasionally are not necessarily a big deal in the grand scheme of your life. But rebellious choices in your relationship with your spouse or children can drive wedges between you that may become chasms over time.

There will always be consequences to relationship rebellion. Before you attempt a quick-fix rebellious action, consider what results your actions may cause.

Next, even if we consider the consequences of rebelling, we often assume we will be immune to those consequences, especially if they are not immediately apparent.

There is something about the human spirit that becomes stupid when consequences are not immediate. When we think about emotional or relational repercussions, it is all the easier to deny potential consequences as we believe we can bury them under the surface of our hearts and not be affected by them. So, we reason in ourselves that little relational issues will stay little.

It is important to understand that the consequences of relational rebellion might not be immediate, but they will be very real. Relational consequences will affect us. They will surface even when buried. And they will always grow bigger over time.

You and I are never immune to the consequences of relational rebellion. And remember, those consequences will be more severe and heavier the closer we are to the person with whom we have the relationship.

Finally, we usually do not think about how permanent some consequences will be.

The sad truth is that some consequences of rebellion never go away. When an action of rebellion creates a new dynamic in a relationship, those actions cannot be undone. So, certain consequences will be permanent.

By the way, I do not intend to suggest that relationships cannot be healed. I will state the opposite and say broken relationships are always better when there is repair rather than rebellion. I can hear the hypothetical objections running through the minds of some folks. “What about this situation?” “What about that unique circumstance?” Relationships are complicated, and a simple statement like “all relationships are better when healed” might seem naive and overly broad. But I stand by this claim. When we heal relationships, whatever the pain endured and absorbed, the relationship will be better after the fact. While it is true that ending some relationships might be a better choice in some situations, the hurt and pain of such an end will not necessarily be less than they would be if people chose to make an effort to repair the relationship rather than end it altogether.

But the point is that when we allow certain elements, words, actions, and choices to enter into a relationship dynamic, the consequences of those things are often quite permanent. Examples that come to mind are major things like affairs, abuse, manipulation, and seasons of abandonment. When we choose such rebellious actions, the baggage will permanently be present in the relationship, even after it is healed. People can choose to overcome such incredible hurt, but they will have to make that choice over and over again to maintain a healthy relationship.

Rebelling in a relationship is costly. No one is immune from the consequences of rebellious actions. And many of those consequences are life-long and cannot be removed from the relationship dynamic once they enter.

Take it from me. Before you rebel, think about the consequences. 

And what about the consequences of repairing a relationship? More on that next time.


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