When all you do is try to avoid conflict in a relationship, you are only allowing it to get worst. The longer you wait or the harder you try to avoid it, the worse the conflict will become.
I recall a conflict with a colleague when I worked as a manager at a call center. Rather than dealing with it immediately, I started avoiding it. The end result was that I distanced myself from my colleague and our relationship became rather awkward. Lacking the tools to manage the conflict, I chose to avoid it. I now know better and have since developed some tools. I always try to deal with conflict as soon as possible because I value relationships.
The challenge is greater when the conflict is within our family. In some cases we are more ready to resolve conflicts with co-workers, friends and neighbors than we are with our own family members because the hurt runs deeper.
Let me suggest three steps, supported in scripture, which will help you manage your conflicts in healthy ways. As followers of Jesus we are all called to honor Him in all of our lives, and that includes how we manage our conflicts.
In Ephesians 4, Paul gave instructions to the Christian believers on how to live in unity and as children of light. He concluded his instructions with this exhortation: “. . . be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph.4:32, New Living Translation).
Step one: We must show kindness to each other.
When you think of the person you are in conflict with, what would happen if rather than all the anger, fear and bad feelings you are holding toward the person, you try being kind to them? How can you be kind in words, thoughts and deeds? How about giving them the benefit of the doubt by believing they are doing the best they know how in relating to you.
Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote: “Kindness is love expressed in practical ways; it is putting the needs of others before our own. It is intentionally considering ways to meet other people’s needs.” (Experiencing God, Day by Day, Aug. 13, 2014)
Showing kindness and mercy when we are hurt is possible only when we seek first to honor Jesus rather than giving in to our feelings.
Step two: You must be tenderhearted.
When conflict arises it is almost natural for you to become hardhearted and judgmental, wanting justice for the wrong done to you. Wanting justice for yourself is a human thing. Yet Paul instructs us to be tenderhearted rather than choosing other options we may have.
To be tenderhearted is to be keenly aware of the other person’s feelings. When you are in conflict, generally the only emotions you are concerned about are your own. What might happen if you take the time to understand the emotions of the other? Offer to talk about your differences. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Lord grant that I may seek rather . . . to understand, than to be understood.”
Step three: You must be willing to forgive.
Without forgiveness there will be no conflict resolution. God in Christ forgave you and me to resolve the conflict in our relationship with Him. He did not wait on us, rather He took the initiative to bring about resolution and reconciliation.
In the same way we must take the initiative in conflict resolution by a willingness to forgive. What would happen if rather than focusing on all the wrong done to you in the relationship, you decide to forgive the other person? How would forgiving them change your view of the other person and contribute to a resolution?
After reading these three steps, you may be asking, “What if the other person does not respond to my attempts to resolve the conflict?” Remember that you are only responsible for what you can control. Your responsibility is to do all within your power to resolve the conflict. If the other person does not respond to your attempts then you know you have done all you can. You cannot make them do what they do not want to do. You will have to leave the person and the situation in God’s hands.
Is there a conflict you have been avoiding? Or perhaps you’ve attempted to resolve a conflict without adequate tools. Why not commit to resolving it beginning with applying these three steps.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation. copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.
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