Conflicting Times: Handling Relational Challenges

conflictsConflict happens. There is no way around it. If you care about someone or work closely with someone, you spend more time with them. If you spend more time with them, you have more opportunity to annoy each other or miscommunicate. If you have more opportunity, conflict happens. So, the question is not whether or not you can always avoid conflict, but how to prevent relational casualties when conflict arises.

Here are a few suggestions to help us wade through the mire of conflict management:

1.  Start with YOU.

Chances are, you are at least partially responsible for any conflict you’re in.  Honestly identify your role.  If you’re a follower of Christ, pray that your level of culpability will be revealed.  Humble yourself to the point where you are prepared to repent and make the necessary changes to minimize the potential for conflict over the same issues in the future.

2. Expect the best.

If this is someone you know well and care for, there is a really good chance that what they said or did was not intended to do you harm.  Sure, in anger, we say things that are intended to sting or offend.  Yet, even in those times, it is usually raw emotion rather than a calculated effort to harm you.

A dog that is otherwise a loyal pet, will often snap at her owner if she has been injured.  Her instinct of self-preservation tells her to protect at all cost, even lashing out at someone she normally “loves” (to whatever extent that applies to dogs).

We often act in the same way if we feel personally or emotionally threatened or hurt.  In those cases, we need to show that person grace.  Even criminals are given the benefit of a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.  Surely those close to us expect at least that much consideration.  Expecting the best takes us off of the offensive and allows us to reflect on what we know about the other person. (Philippians 4: 8)

3.  Forgive ahead of time.

Don’t wait for the apology (which hopefully will come), but determine that the relationship is more important than this incident.  This will put you on a good footing to fight for the relationship.  Even if the other person is not ready to apologize, communicate your hurt honestly but determine to let the offense go.

Any time we harbor bitter feelings, we suffer as much as the person we’re upset with: lost sleep, anxiety, lack of focus on anything other than the offense.  Harboring ill feelings are destructive on so many levels that it is not worth whatever “satisfaction” we get from holding a grudge.  (Ephesians 4:32)

4.  Talk it out!

The most natural thing for us to do when we are offended or hurt is to avoid the other person at all cost.  We wait for them to come to us, which makes reconciliation impossible if there is a stand-off.  Act like an adult, confront the fear, push aside the awkwardness and deal with the issue head-on.  Remember, the relationship is worth it!  Even if you know it’s going to be a lengthy and painful confrontation, the relationship is worth it.  The longer you wait, the harder it gets and the more likely that thoughts, feelings and emotions that weren’t initially a part of the situation will be brought into our thinking which simply makes reconciliation more difficult.

The passing of time following a disagreement rarely, if ever, make the situation better.  Yes, sometimes a “cooling off” period is helpful, but rarely should that take more than a few hours.  Follow the biblical mandate to not let the sun go down on your anger! (Ephesians 4:26; Matthew 5:23-24)

Stronger Than Ever

Working through conflict is rarely easy, but when it’s done and reconciliation happens (which, sadly, doesn’t always happen), you will experience a stronger relationship with that person than before the conflict occurred.  We often find an increased respect and trust in the individuals whose friendship has now been “tried by fire” and proven to be stronger than before.  Yes, it’s hard work, but if it’s a relationship that was worth building in the first place, it is always worth the work it takes to sustain it!

Are there some other steps that you would take in resolving conflicts?  Let me hear them in the comments section below.


The Lord Will Fight For You

Reflex Hammer

What do you do when you feel absolutely overwhelmed by life?  When you are trying to live a life of integrity, like I talked about yesterday, but attacks come from every side?  What do you do when, like David talks about in the Psalms, there are “those who speak evil against my life.”  How do you respond?

I know for me, the first thought is to strike back! Been there?  Yeah, I think it’s just our nature.  The question is whether or not that is the right thing, the noble thing, the godly thing…even the helpful thing.  I know that the times I have reacted have been the times that things have been the most chaotic and destructive.  Most of the time, I have to go back and apologize and hope for a mulligan.  The key, then, is not to react, but to respond.

A reaction is like being tapped below the knee cap, causing an involuntary, thoughtless jerk.  “Jerk” is probably a good word to describe us when we simply give a “knee-jerk” reaction to attacks and circumstances, isn’t it?

A response, on the other hand, implies calculation, thought, intentionality.  At least it does to me.  When I react, I lash out.  When I respond, I take the time to think it through and then conduct myself according to those plans.  It’s harder, but most definitely better.  In the end, it takes less time because I don’t have to go through all of the pain of fixing what I just made worse.

There are certainly times when a response may call for firmness and directness.  There are times when confrontation (even sometimes heated) is required.  However, this kind of exchange as a thoughtless reaction will hardly ever (if ever) provide satisfying results.

There are other times, though, when the best response is no response. Sometimes, people act in ways that are so ludicrous that it doesn’t even justify a response.  Attacks that are based on and built upon lies will not, in the end, stand.  Sure, they will hurt for a while and there may be some people who believe them, but fighting back just plays right into the hands of the Enemy.  Sometimes, the very best approach is to just sit still, place it in the hands of God and let Him deal with it as He wants to.  He’s big enough to do that, you know.

I was exploring this subject more in depth this morning and came across the following excerpt from a post by John Piper from way back in 1981.  It was an incredible encouragement to me.  Hopefully, it will be to you.  Let me know what you think on the subject.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king. So Hezekiah gathered the people and the commanders together in the square at the gate. If you memorize what he said to them you will know the power of God in a new way. He said:

Be strong and be courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with them; for there is one greater with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.

Then the writer adds, “And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8).

I want it to be said of me, “The people took confidence from the words of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.” That’s my goal: “the advancement and joy of your faith.” What is the “King of Assyria” in your life? Whatever it is, remember: “there is one greater with you than with him!” If you trust him, the LORD almighty is on your side and will fight your battles! “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still” (Exodus 14:13, 14). (emphasis added)

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