Umm…I’m pretty sure it was your turn to take out the trash. Now the truck has already gone through and we have that huge pile of boxes sitting in the can. You are always bailing on your responsibilities. Why can’t you just get it together!?!
Yeah, and YOU are always blaming me for stuff that’s not my fault. You turned my alarm off and I didn’t get up in time to take the trash out. You are so inconsiderate of what I have going on…just because you are lazy and sleep til noon doesn’t mean I have to too.
We have all encountered conflict with a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a family member. A problem arises and two sinful people are left to fight it out. Whether you seek it out or you run from it…conflict is an inevitable part of relationships. How do you deal with conflict without losing a relationship?
1. Face the conflict head-on…but not hard-headed. If you have frustration with a person, it does no good to constantly avoid talking about it because in your mind you are talking about it to yourself a million times over, gathering fuel for when you explode…whether it is internal (through overwhelming anxiety or bitterness) or external (a catastrophic tsunami of complaints and petty irritations finally voiced in a painful and destructive manner). Pray over the frustration and lovingly address it with the heart of one who genuinely wants to see the relationship repaired. It is selfish to avoid conflict. Resisting a discussion because you don’t want someone to be mad at you is saying, “My relationship with you is not as important as my own fears and feelings so I am going to allow it to deteriorate while I avoid talking to you about my frustrations” On the other hand, it is also selfish to attack someone. Though you must face a conflict, you should not address it as if your opinion is the only one that matters, shouting and belittling until you back the other person in the corner. Then you are ultimately saying, “My opinion matters more than my relationship with you. I am going to yell at you until you see my side and then leave you behind to clean up your own mess.”
2. Realize that conflict is actually a way to make us more like Christ…and make our relationships stronger. Facing conflict with a true desire to change yourself and not the other person will help you discover where you have room to grow on the path of sanctification. God uses conflict to point out our sinful habits and to draw us back to Him. For example, I continually picked fights with my husband about the quality of our home. The bathroom wasn’t the way I liked it. The drawer kept falling off in the kitchen. God used these fights to point out to me that I had built up a pretty large pile of discontent and through repentance and turning from my HGTV watching I was able to gradually shovel out that ungrateful attitude so that I could truly enjoy the wonderful home that God had given me. And along the way my husband and I began to understand each other more…we talked through concerns and passions in order to dissect the problem. And because we dealt with the issues that were bothering us we were able to clear the air of anger and bitterness so that only love was left.
3. View conflict as if it is your fault…because it probably is. James 4:1-3 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So according to these verses, the reason that we fight is that we have our own selfish desires in mind. We are concentrated so much on meeting our needs that we fail to see the other person at all. We cannot change how another person is acting or feeling, we can only change ourselves. So I should search my own heart, deal with my own selfish desires, repent of my own sin and take the initiative to start the journey back to peace. A relationship is too fragile to leave it up to someone else and if it is that important to you, you will step up and take responsibility for it.
4. And finally, don’t be afraid to get a referee…find a pastor, a mutual friend or another unbiased, godly person to step in and see the situation with a much clearer perspective. Often we can get so wrapped up in the situation that we miss something obvious or we are so concerned about winning that we are unwilling to give in at all even if we might suspect we are wrong. Having a third party helps you to get advice and gain perspective and may help to create a better plan for discovering an agreed upon solution.
Conflict doesn’t have to be the end of a valuable relationship if we unselfishly take responsibility for our side of the disagreement. And if we use a fight not as a change to win but as a chance to grow we will not only have healthy thriving relationships but we will become sanctified along the way.