Every once in a while I have the cause to muse about the applicability of Matthew 18 to personal difficulties . As someone whose mental (and sometimes even emotional) life is largely out in the open, I find myself dealing with a delicate but hardly unusual dilemma that I’m sure many people can relate to, especially in this age of online oversharing. The dilemma is in finding ways to share one’s own thoughts and feelings and (for me) to make sense of them by responding (or simply refraining from responding) in an appropriate matter while also respecting the thoughts and feelings of others, including the understandable desire for others to be private. Not everyone, after all, likes any part of their life in public, much less highly delicate and uncomfortable matters that may reflect poorly on us.
What is the point of Matthew 18? As Christians we are all supposed to desire peace insofar as it is possible for us. We are also supposed to respect the sensitivities of others, and to prefer to build up others rather than please ourselves. This is far easier said than done, though. I know I struggle to understand the sensitivities of others, and how to best respect those sensitivities while trying to keep my own under control. From what I see, many other people struggle with these difficulties. We struggle to understand others as well as communicate with others, and being someone who struggles with these things (one of the reasons I write so much), I tend to be very empathetic with others who struggle, as long as they show the desire to resolve difficulties rather than merely speak their own mind without any interest in what others think and feel.
How do we go about setting up the right environment for resolving difficulties? In truth, all difficulties involve two people, usually two people who have for a variety of reasons caused offense and difficulty for each other. Given the differences in personality, difficulties in communication, and complicated personal backgrounds that we all bring to relationships, including bad luck and disastrous first impressions and other complications, it is a wonder that we have as much success as we do in communication when so much can go wrong so often. I’d like to think that I’m not so unapproachable that someone with a personal issue with me can come to me with an honest desire to understand me and be understood. Most of the people I know seem to enjoy reciprocity as well, even if some people are too self-absorbed to realize that other people have their own feelings and sensitivities. I’m not so unapproachable, though, that those who find some fault with the way I live my life, or deal with others, cannot find some way of talking to me. Just remember to come to me before trying to go to others, and remember to come ready to converse, not merely to lecture. I imagine everyone else would want the same respect for me, and everyone else.
 See, for example: