Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I was asking the question, How do You Handle Conflict? And I that sometimes, if are feeling insecure, we become judgemental, or we criticise others just to win that argument. But as Christians, we can find God’s peace to help us through.
You may need to admit, Yes, I was wrong. Don’t hang onto your position just for the sake of wanting to be right—that’s a waste of time. Saying I was wrong is sending a message of integrity and that you’re willing to take on new ideas, listen and respect their point of view—have a healthy respect for their position even if you disagree. Careful listening says, I take you seriously. It’s far better than yelling!
Christians believe our goal is not to engage in conflict just for the sake of it—but it’s far better to build and preserve our relationships. We can pray to God for guidance and wisdom in those times of conflict, and he will help us. Sometimes we get frustrated at other people because they’re not changing fast enough to suit us. But God can intervene and show us in a flash of inspiration what to say. You might be surprised how it all works out. His peace can be yours in spite of what is happening. Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God no matter what the conflict. With God in our lives, conflicts do not have to be destructive or painful.
So, how do we respond to conflict?
Let me remind you of the verse in Psalm 139:23 (TLB) when David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart and test my thoughts.” It’s a good thing to pray in a time of conflict: “Lord, would you help me to understand myself. I realise I don’t understand myself a lot of times. I need your help.” These are the ways you can respond to conflict:
- My way: That’s when you say, When I face conflict, I’m going to get my way. I’m 100% right, 100% of the time. I’m going to fight. I’m going to do whatever it takes,whatever battle I have to go through to make sure I get what I want. I have a feeling many of us respond in that way.
- No way: When conflict comes into your life, you just start to back off: I don’t want to face this conflict. You’ll do anything and everything you can to make sure that the argument doesn’t happen. Your rule is to avoid conflict at all costs. But you still have it, you still face it. Eventually, the result of this is that nothing is ever resolved and eventually it will catch up with you.
- Your way: Whenever we face a conflict we just say, Have it your way, I’ll always give in to you, I want your approval, or I hate conflict. You sort of roll over and play dead. Whatever they want, they get. If you use this method in dealing with conflict, there’s a good chance there is a swell of bitterness growing day by day. It can grow for days and months and years. But eventually it’s going to explode.
- Half way: OK, you’ve got your idea, I’ve got my idea, let’s compromise. You win some of the time, I win some of the time. We’ll try to meet half way. Win some/lose some. This is better than the first three but it’s still not the best way to deal with conflict. And then there is
- Our way: We recognise that I have needs and you have needs and there is a way for us to talk together so that our needs can be met in ways they never could have been met before. Instead of just taking half-and-half, we try to put our everything together and find something better that we could have ever found before. You could also call this God’s Way. God taught us through Jesus Christ how to care about another person’s needs and how to care about a relationship enough that I’m just not trying to get my way and meet half way, but we work on it together.
The best answer to conflict
As long as you live around other people, you are going to find your opinions and actions bumping into someone else’s. They can be small disagreements or major conflicts, arguments around the breakfast table or that difficult boss at work—whatever it is. How do you handle those situations? If you add strong emotions to these, then you’re heading for very messy and painful conflict. It does so much damage—robs us and others of time, energy, money and opportunities. It can be very destructive.
But I want to add something important here. With the help of God we can learn to see peace come, even in the most terrible conflicts. This is not peace at any price. Instead of hate and frustration, there can be love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, integrity and wisdom. Doesn’t that sound like a better alternative?
Conflict does not need to ruin your life, because if you take the Bible seriously, you’ll see its main message is about reconciliation. God’s plan was to reconcile the world to himself, and it then follows we can be reconciled to each other. Ephesians 4:3 says, “Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace”. Jesus said: “I’m giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
That’s the best answer to conflict—love the person with whom you’re having trouble. Look at them through the eyes of Jesus. No, we don’t have to always agree with them, but we can learn to love them nonetheless, and to respect their opinions.
Remember, conflict may not be pleasant, but it does not have to be bad.