Conflict is inevitable. People are flawed and the world is broken, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we face struggles in all areas of our lives, relationships and endeavors. Unresolved conflicts are like termites to use a metaphor. The relationship, like a tree, can look strong on the outside, but can be eaten away by conflict on the inside. And when a tree is eaten away from the inside, it will collapse under pressure as will a relationship with unresolved conflict. We can’t avoid all conflict, but we can try to endure it and learn from it. Conflict isn’t about the obstacles; it’s about the opportunities.
Something To Talk About:
While conflict can be complex, here are four ways you can address conflict in your relationships:
First, focus on your contribution to the conflict. As a Christian, you owe the other party in any relationship behavior that’s consistently Christian in character. That includes humility. Default to the idea that we may be wrong, that we may be at fault. Instead of attacking others or dwelling on their wrongs, we should first take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts. Then admitting to our mistakes and asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that led to the conflict and seeking to repair any harm we have caused. And if we are wrong, we should apologize for the way we affected the relationship.
Second, listen more and talk less. (Proverbs 18:2) Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” When we do all the talking we are only getting one side of the story, ours. Proverbs 18:13 and 17 says: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. …. In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.” Instead of jumping to conclusions and taking some action that could make things worse, reduce the fear in the other person by letting their voice and concerns be heard. Give them the opportunity to explain the situation. Active listening is essential to developing trust. Only after listening can you truly understand the cause of the conflict and develop a solution.
Third, gently restore the relationship, if possible. If there is someone that you are in a relationship with and in conflict with, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to begin that process of reconciling, apologizing, loving, and restoring the relationship. Make every effort to restore the relationship. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Make the effort, then wait and trust God for the outcome because only God can change the heart.
Fourth, forgive them. No matter how hard you try there will be failure in relationships. With failure comes hurt. Sometimes great hurt. The only ultimate relief for hurt is forgiveness. The ability to do that is tied to each individual’s relationship with God. About the process of forgiveness, Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15). The instruction is clear: God insists that we are to be forgivers, and relationships present frequent opportunities to practice.
1. What is ultimately the root cause of conflict?
2. How would you rate your ability to handle conflict? What is your biggest weakness?
3. Have you ever been in seemingly intractable conflict and didn’t know what to do or how to get out of it? If so, what happened? What went well, if anything? What would you have done differently, if anything?
4. Do you have any relationships that need mending? What is hindering you from initiating reconciliation?
5. If you have attempted restoration, but the other person has refused, how are you responding? In spite of the alienation, what can you do to show love and kindness?
6. What is your initial reaction to the concept of forgiveness? Do you react in denial, anger, self-righteousness, or judgment? Do you perhaps feel hostile toward the whole idea of forgiveness as a necessity?
7. Are there any people who have so deeply wounded or offended you that you feel it may be impossible to forgive them? If so, describe what goes on in your heart emotionally when you hear their names, know that you may run into them, or have to be in the same room with them.
8. What are some of the promises God gives us about His forgiveness? List some words that describe God’s forgiveness toward us.
Take One Thing Home With You:
It was actor Chris Pine who said, “The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.” Let me ask you a question. Do you you need to change your perspective on conflict?
When you find yourself in a conflict what do you focus on? “Why me?…His expectations of me in this relationship are unrealistic, actually they are crazy…I am being blamed for something that is not my fault….she is totally out in left field.” Here’s the thing: You dwell on the conflict from this perspective for hours, days, or weeks at a time depending on the severity of the conflict, and as a result you lose perspective. This internal, horizontal perspective doesn’t “factor God into the equation.”
When you are involved in conflict, you, too, must decide whether or not you will trust God. If you do not trust God, you will inevitably place your trust in yourself or someone else, which ultimately leads to the conflict deepening and remaining unresolved. On the other hand, if you believe that God is sovereign and that he will never let anything into your life unless it can be used for good (Romans 8:28), you will see conflicts not as accidents, but as assignments and opportunities. This kind of trust glorifies God and inspires the faithfulness needed for effective resolution of conflicts.
In other words, what you can change is your perspective. This week, pull the focus off of the conflict itself and develop God’s view.