“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” — Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
The Art of Conflict
In life, conflict with others is practically unavoidable. It happens in our jobs, at our homes and yes, it happens a lot in sports. An owner disagreeing with a player. A coach and umpire arguing on the field after a call was made.
As much as we may want to live at peace with those around us, there are too many personalities, opinions and life agendas to never rub someone the wrong way. Not to mention our sin that is ever before us, waging a war against peace amongst our relationships with others.
Perhaps you have become internally bitter toward a close friend because of an action they committed. Maybe you have wronged or hurt someone in your family. There might have even been an argument between you and a co-worker that went just a little too far. Whatever it is, you don’t feel “right” with that person.
You want to reconcile, but sometimes further problems arise when we go about confronting these conflicts the wrong way. It seems that we as people typically live on polar opposites of the spectrum when it comes to handling conflict with family members, neighbors and strangers.
For example, some may say they love conflict, and therefore seek any opportunity to be blunt with someone and share their thoughts unfiltered. Some may say they hate conflict, and therefore seek any opportunity to bottle up their feelings and thoughts if it means there won’t be any more fighting. However, both can, and usually are, unhealthy forms of handling conflict.
The reality is: Those who are truly good at confrontation are the same people who usually don’t like taking part in it. But they know the necessity of it in relationships. Think about it: It’s not enjoyable to admit to a family member about how you faulted them. And pointing out the mistakes of a friend to their face isn’t fun (if you truly care about the person).
Thankfully, God tells us in His Word how to handle conflict in the healthiest forms. He knows conflict is difficult. But He also knows that the fruit that comes from wholesome confrontation has the opportunity to bind relationships stronger together and grow us individually. When you’ve gotten to talk to a close friend about hurt in your relationship, doesn’t it then feel like you got closer to that person?
Maybe you haven’t experienced that joy. Regardless, here’s three key points to healthily handling conflict with someone in your life:
1. Use the Bible
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” — 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
If we are not using the Bible for a basis to call someone out for a certain sin or fault, or show them why we ourselves have messed up, then what standard are we holding them or ourselves to? In a society built on relative truth, we need the Word of God to be our basis to any claim, otherwise we will have no common ground to stand on with those we are dealing with. God’s standard of love and care for each other needs to be our standard.
2. Speak in love
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” — Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
Speaking the truth to someone is only half of the method to confronting someone. We need to speak in love. Remind the person you are speaking to that you love them and are on their side. We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 13:2 that anything done outside of love is useless. Read Jesus’ interaction with the women caught in adultery in John 7 as an example of speaking the truth in love.
3. Own your faults
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7: 3-5 (ESV)
Many times when someone has wronged us, we have wronged that person before, or later will do so. And even in the times we have been wronged and it seems like we hold no fault, we need to ask God to check our hearts again. Have you been acting out toward someone in bitterness or giving them a cold shoulder because they have hurt you before? Feeling hurt is understandable, but harboring that hurt into a grudge is not justified.
— Chris Pennington
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