Just thought I’d get your attention! Seriously though, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that they hate conflict when in the midst of a struggle. It’s often a statement which is actually saying, “I don’t want to get involved.” Who likes conflict? There are certainly people who like to shout their opinions or goad you into a verbal debate, but most of us are not wired that way, or shouldn’t be—especially professing born-again believers!
Conflict. Resolution. How do you get from one to the other? What I have learned…
- Party A does or says something that offends, riles, aggravates, disturbs Party B
- Party B REACTS by becoming angry, cynical, nasty, rude, quiet
- Party A then REACTS against Party B’s reactions. In J. Allan Peterson’s booklet Your Reactions are Showing, he says, “We may at any given moment pride ourselves on right actions and yet be reacting with jealousy, or resentment, or anger, or hatred, or fear or self-pity. To react in one or several of these ways when things do not please us will be very harmful to us.”
Poor reactions are the sand that stops the engine of resolution from working properly. Wrong reactions take the focus away from the real issues and add more conflict. So, before the original problem can be resolved, the reactions must be dealt with. The problem is that the reactions are showing deeper character issues. Peterson explains, “Were a person to watch my actions, he would not really know me. My actions would not reveal to him what I really am, because my actions might be planned and practiced for his benefit. But is it our reactions – our spontaneous, unconscious, unscheduled reactions – that reveal what we really are.” OUCH!!!
If, in the above scenario, all the reactions could be peeled away, the real issue could then be dealt with. It may be as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Perhaps, Party A didn’t realize how important the issue was to Party B. In a situation where a mom is cleaning out a child’s closet after repeated warnings, she may throw out all the “junk” and feel satisfied with a job well done. However, when Junior comes home and finds that all his “treasures” are now in the trash, we have a conflict. A wife who makes a purchase that seems extravagant to her husband, a sister who twits her sister about her looks in front of other teens, a teacher who calls down a student for a wrong answer—all these are potential conflicts with added out-of-control reactions depending upon what is in the heart of each person involved.
Solving conflict is a part of every relationship and the methods of resolution are as varied as the people involved in those relationships, but several things are absolutely necessary for any conflict to move into resolution:
- LOVE—And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 emphasis added). We quote this verse so often, but do you see what it is saying? Love is greater than faith?! How can that be? Love is greater than hope?! I want to “chew” on that a little more, but I’ll try to stay focused! The point is that love is the greatest thing, for out of it comes all the other necessary ingredients:
- TRUST—stepping out on a limb for the sake of the one you love and giving them the benefit of doubt. It is so crucial in every relationship.
- FORGIVENESS—When those ugly words fly and open old wounds, can you forgive? When the only response you can muster is, “How could you?” and the hurt goes to the core of your being, can you forgive? When it happens over and over again, can you forgive?
- CONVERSATION—talk, talk, talk! But be sure to keep the law of kindness in your tongue! That is SO hard to do, but it is possible by the grace of God! Sometimes a little space is needed to cool our jets, but when the motor of self-justification has cooled and the reactions are once again under control, talk… and LISTEN—you need both to call it communication.
- CHANGE—Conflict happens to teach us to change. “No man or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is abiding in Christ, without first passing through Him [God], and receiving the seal of His permission.1” Nothing catches our loving heavenly Father by surprise. Can you accept the conflict as a tool from your Father’s hand to help you to grow in His likeness?
We can learn so much from our Savior and His ultimate conflict on the cross.
- He never complained
- He went willingly
- He was humbled, thinking only of us and making a way to resolve our greatest conflict!
Looking at the cross always puts every conflict of life back into a right perspective!
So, press on, dear reader. Conflict is a part of life. We all hate it, but resolution is so sweet! It is true—making up is almost, ALMOST, worth the fight! 🙂
1The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whithall Smith (p,41)