We all face it, as long as we live under the sun. We can find conflict with others in our homes, at our jobs, in our churches, and even on social media. Conflict is all around us.
I have wanted to make a short lesson to teach my children how to deal with conflict, since it seems to happen to the best of us, and, if inappropriately dealt with, can make the worst of us.
First, lets define what conflict is – a struggle or clash between opposing forces; battle. A state of opposition between ideas, interests, etc.
Leadership coach Samuel Chand once said that, “conflict is the distance between reality and expectation.”
That is very true. I have an expectation that isn’t being met with my (insert person/business/ministry), and because I am unsatisfied with my reality, we now have a problem.
So, as Christians, how do we deal with people we disagree with? Here’s some thoughts:
•Pray before you say anything.
Even if you only have a second before saying something, pray for graceful words. The bible says ‘gentle words still wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’
•The Process for Discussing an Issue:
Our marriage counsellors gave us a wonderful game to play to help discuss issues that:
a.) Take the emotional aspect out of the argument and b.) Help the other person remember what the other one said. Here’s how it goes:
1.) You get several laminated pieces of paper, each one with these words written on them:
A.) The Issue
B.) In a Perfect World
C.) I Think
D.) I Feel
E.) I Propose
F.) Love and Covenant.
2.) You start by reading the first one: the issue. State your problem, and then move on to: in a perfect world (ex. We would never need to clean the laundry), then to what you think, how this issue makes you feel, what you propose to do about it, and end by reminding you both of your love for each other and your covenant together.
I can’t tell you how powerful this little game has been to my marriage. It may seem trivial and beyond you, but it works.
•If you can’t talk to eachother without heated words, then try to take a short break.
Sometimes you just need to cool down before coming back into it. But don’t wait too long. Try to resolve your issue as quickly as you can. Otherwise, your issue can start sinking a root of bitterness in your souls.
Use words like, So you’re saying, I feel, I think instead of you do this or you always or you never. That way you can get your thoughts and feelings across without making the other person out to be the bad guy, even if you think they are the bad guy.
Our marriage counsellors wrote this book:
•Keep in mind while talking:
*The first one to the cross wins. Focus on what goal you want to achieve. It is a pretty selfish goal just to win an argument. If you are a Christian, your main goal should be to bring glory to Christ in all you do – that includes relationship conflict. See how far you can go in humility every time you have conflict, and in His eyes, you win every time.
*If you are both Christians, you’re on the same team. You might be angry. They might have said some hurtful things. But they are not your enemy. You have another who is watching your discussion, wanting you to give in to your emotions and give up. That one is your enemy. He’s come to steal your unity with each other, kill your love for your brother, and destroy your influence together in this world.
As one who belongs to Christ, we must get used to taking our hurt feelings, our brokenness to Him, and let Him do the work on us and them. And not run to our chat groups, our friends and family first. Go to God first, the person who offended you second, and then, finally, if that one will not work it out with you, a trusted person or counsellor.
I want to mention here that we live in a culture that doesn’t like to submit. Whether it’s to a spouse, a pastor, a boss, or the traffic regulations, we sometimes believe we deserve our own interpretation of justice when we feel wronged. As a result, we wind up taking a worldly and fleshly approach to responding to our problems instead of doing what is necessary to work it out in a godly way. We walk away from the marriage with irreconcilable differences. We leave that church – again. We storm out of the office and quit. We speed off. And we roll our eyes and refuse to pay the ticket. And then, we cry out to God, saying, can you believe what they did to me?!
And He answers back, can you believe what they did to me? He shows you His hands. You place your hands in His side like Thomas. And you remember that He is the Lamb who was slain before the creation of the world. And that is the image we are to become.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” Phil. 2:5-9 NIV
“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” 1Corinth. 6:7 NIV
This is not an invitation to become someone’s door mat. There are plenty of unhealthy people out there, and I’m not suggesting fostering and enabling an unhealthy relationship. What I am saying, is that we need to apply what the holy, holy scriptures actually say for our relationships. Otherwise, we truly are only living by our own standards. And, as Christians, we cannot live by that. We must live by what the bible says is true, not deciding which scriptures we’d like to live by, while ignoring the rest. Believe the whole bible and what it says for you to live by.
Regarding conflict, Jesus said:
Matthew 5:22 NIV
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Matthew 5:23-25 NIV
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.”
Matthew 612-12 NIV
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 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 7:3-5 NIV
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Luke 6:29 NIV
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”
Matthew 18:21,22, 35 NIV:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times…
Matthew 18:35 NIV
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Mark 11:25 NIV:
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In Matthew 18:25 NIV Jesus talks about going to a brother who has sinned. He says:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
I noticed he says to treat him like a pagan after they have gone through the process of talking to you, two others, and then the church. This is not forgiveness that ignores the problem, or even giving the benefit of the doubt and letting it go. This is a real process with the goal of restoration in mind.
So, what do you do when you’ve done all you can and the other side just won’t agree? Sometimes, when all is said and done, and its not a big issue, we allow for the disagreement. And it stays unsettled. It is not perfect but we do that for the sake of love. If it is a sin issue that the two of you cannot agree upon, then at that point it’s time to get some help involved, just as Jesus said.
What do you think? I would love to hear some of your thoughts on how you deal with conflict. Leave a comment below and let’s talk it out.