Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
It can happen anywhere and at anytime. From the school playground through to international gatherings. And I’m talking about conflict. You can have a disagreement which turns nasty, turns into a conflict.
But in actual fact conflict is part of life, and we can’t really avoid it. Two people, for example husband and wife, can’t be expected to agree on everything all the time. So, I want to share some ideas on this theme today and tomorrow. Conflict is such a tricky word for many people. To some it is an absolute negative and something to be avoided at all costs. To others it is a power play to show who is in charge.
Many of us feel uncomfortable and awkward when we have a problem with someone else. I think that most people do not like or enjoy conflict with others. We want to feel peaceful and happy in our interactions with others. And this is important because every relationship can potentially be destroyed by conflict, and who wants that? It can be very painful. But we belong to the human race. We make mistakes and we change. That’s why conflicts happen. They happen in the home setting with a verbal outburst: “I hate you.” “I wish I’d never married you.” “You are really stupid”. Sometimes those relationships go terribly wrong.
The deepest hurts are from people we love
People have the power to wound and scar us. The more we love someone, the deeper they can hurt us. And we have the same ability to hurt others. When the unity of a relationship is disrupted, we call that disruption ‘conflict’. I don’t know anyone who likes that word. I certainly don’t like being in conflict with another person. Other times there is a response of retreat and silence, when it’s easier to say nothing. We wish the problem would go away—this is called denial, sidestepping or withdrawal. And that response only solves the problem for a while. When I think of the reactions we have to conflict, I think of anger and frustration. It’s easy to become angry and react, and realise later ‘that wasn’t a smart thing to do’.
Failed and broken relationships have a drastic effect on our lives, and the lives of those involved. I guess you know about this in your own family or circles of friends. Of course there will always be different points of view—it’s normal to disagree with each other from time to time, especially in a family. The problem is that mostly we want to win the argument rather than resolve the conflict—stay calm, don’t interrupt, be honest, and stick to the topic. Don’t bring up other issues, and try not to make it too personal.
Go after the problem, not the person
I know that’s easier said than done—but people are allowed to disagree with you, just as you can disagree with others. But it doesn’t mean you come with ‘all your guns blazing’, in a rage aiming to verbally destroy the other person. Remember to go after, to attack the problem and not the person. Lucy said in a Peanuts cartoon when she was talking about this, “If I can’t be right, I’m going to be wrong at the top of my lungs.” Sometimes we do that. We start to attack more and more. How better it is to explore your own feelings when the heat has gone and you’ve cooled down.
The Bible has some tremendous advice in Romans 12:17,18: “…Try to earn the respect of others and do your best to live at peace with everyone”. You can’t get on with everyone, but you can ask God through Jesus Christ to give you insight and stability, because sometimes our own insecurities get in the way and cause trouble.
If we feel insecure, it’s more likely we will become judgemental, or, to make us feel better about ourselves, we criticise others. But if we are at peace within ourselves, good relationships will be natural.
(To be continued in How Do You Handle Conflict? – Part 2)