“Fight nice,” is something my Dad used to always say. He said in a teasing manner. Many times it would be when we’d be play fighting, tickling or wrestling. And then we’d jump on him.
Of course we weren’t fighting, really. His intent was to remind us that even when we’re having fun we need to be mindful of the other person.
In Jeremy Risner’s message, May 19, at Christian Chapel, he talked about the inevitability of conflict and how we should approach it. He encouraged us to consider the root of the conflict, where it comes from and if it is really something that necessitates a conflict.
Although many people avoid conflicts, sometimes they are necessary and lead to a deeper relationship if we are willing to go through the difficulty to get to the resolution.
Where do conflicts come from?
James talks about conflicts and where they come from. In James 4:1-2 he says that they come from the desires that battle within us.
Personally, this scripture has been foundational to me through the years. The battle I had was compulsive overeating. That scripture was one God showed me time and time again. The quarrels were with myself and the battle was within me.
The same is true of quarrels we have with others. Many times they start from something inside us. No one makes us mad. We get mad about what another does sometimes. We choose our reaction to the situation.
Risner asked where our greatest conflicts come from. The list included family, friends, significant others, work or other. I guess my battle with myself would be categorized as an other.
After hearing this sermon, I realize I do need to put to rest the things that really don’t matter any more. They are behind me. It’s time to embrace the part of me that has been rebellious, let God harness it and move on to the next level. Actually, I am there and I have done that. It’s just good to recognize where my battles originate.
I can see these same principles at work in conflicts with others. Our conflicts and issues can hold us back and keep us from taking any other steps forward. It’s time to embrace the conflict. Yes, it’s scary but you know what they say, insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results. Continuing in conflicts for years (sometimes never even knowing where the conflict started) is a definition of insanity in my book.
Ways of resolving conflict
Risner explained people resolve conflicts in different ways. There are those who are passive-aggressive, avoiders, stuffers, whiners, pretenders, gossipers and destroyers.
“In essence, we are not taught how to fight well,” Risner said. “We do not deal well with conflict. We think we are called to be a peacekeeper and avoid conflict to keep the peace.”
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus called us to be peacemakers. There is a difference. “Peacemakers will embrace conflict or move through conflict to achieve true peace,” he said quoting Craig Groeschel. “Conflict is not the issue. It’s what’s inside of us that is the beginning of conflict.”
What about motives?
To understand our motives, we should think of preferences vs. offenses. Sometimes we want something done a certain way because of our preference. When another doesn’t do it that way, we get offended. We are actually getting offended because we didn’t get our way.
“We need to look at the reason we were offended. We should be offended by things based on whether or not they are biblical,” he said.
Another aspect is expectations vs. reality. We may expect things but do not voice our expectation. The reality is someone can never meet our expectation if we don’t voice it. And then we need to think if our expectations are realistic.
Intentions vs. perception is where we read a motive into an action another does. “We perceive things to be a certain way. We assume things that may not have been their intention. We guess their motives. We attach offense to that.”
Our personalities contribute to offenses we feel. It’s personality vs. personal. “My personality may read an attitude differently. The person may not be meaning what I think they mean. They are not attacking me personally. I have to understand it’s just the way I took what they said.”
To me personally, it is helpful to think about all of these possibilities, especially if I am just perceiving an offense which really isn’t what someone meant. I see this all the time in myself and in my friends. We think we know what was meant by an off-the-cuff remark or by someone not speaking to us in the grocery store.
However, I don’t know how many times I’ve walked right by a person without noticing. I’m in my own little world. I’m not angry or upset, just spacey. There are times I am aware of it because they stop me and say hello. I’m sure there have been times when it has happened and the other person thought I hated them or had it in for them because I didn’t talk to them.
I need to know this can be the same in reverse regarding to how I perceive other people. I can fantasize an offense really quickly. Side note to Jeremy: Women do this so much better than men. We are pros at dreaming up an entire scenario just based on a look.
Plan for handling conflict
If there is a legitimate conflict between two people, the Bible offers a plan for handling it, Risner explained.
Based on Matthew 18:15-17, that plan includes: 1. Go to the person privately to discuss the issue. 2. If that doesn’t work, take another person or two with you and go again. 3. If that doesn’t work, take it to someone in authority. If it’s in the church, go to the pastor, ministry leader or church board. 4. If that doesn’t work, leave them to themselves.
Conflict needs boundaries. It only works well if you fight within the rules. Risner said these include: Do not use universal language like never, always, every. Don’t let issues reach the last straw status. Words are important so don’t use coarse language. Don’t bring up past issues. Don’t assign false motives.
In order to bring conflict to a resolution, Risner used some suggestions from Peacemakers International. Define the problem and stick to the issue. Pursue purity of heart based on Matthew 7:5. Affirm the relationship. Listen carefully. Forgive. Pick your battles. Propose a solution.
James 4:1-2—Where do conflicts come from? Can you trace all conflicts back to this?
Matthew 18:15-17—Have you ever see this work in a church setting? Discuss how it might work in your church. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this plan?
Why is it best to go the individual directly? When have you done this and had it work well?
Why does conflict need boundaries? When have you see conflict work within boundaries and when have you seen it not work when boundaries are agreed upon?
Why is it that we want to include everything under the sun when we try to define the problem?
Matthew 7:5—What does it mean to pursue purity of heart?
When you are in conflict, how should you affirm the relationship?
What does it mean to you to listen carefully? Does it mean to listen defensively?
Forgiving means to not bring the issue up again, not dwell on it, to not let it stand between us. How do you get to this point?
When is the best time to discuss an issue that needs a resolution?
Philippians 2:4-5—What should we think about when coming up with a solution? How do we do this?
Read 1 Corinthians 13. Think about someone you have a conflict with. When it talks about the various attributes of love, put your name and the other person’s name such as, “My love for the other person is patient.” Do this through the entire passage.
Pray for those with whom you have difficulties or conflicts. Write down your next step to resolve the conflict.