When I have conflict with my wife, my kids, or with people at work, I want to retreat and just pray the tension will go away. But that never solves the problem.
Most people hate confronting conflict. But that often adds to the crisis. Conflicts rarely get better simply with time. They must be worked through in order to reach some understanding and ultimate resolution.
In today’s post I want to give you biblical principles for working through tensions between you and others. I use these principles to work through conflicts in my family and at work. As a Pastor, I am often asked for advice on such matters. This is what I tell them.
Principle #1: Sooner rather than later. Jesus said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary.” (Matthew 5:25) It is usually best to address an issue sooner rather than later. Putting things off only makes things worse, addressing them quickly values the relationship and communicates you care.
Principle #2: Face to face is often best. Working through relational conflict or misunderstanding is a tender process. It involves sensitive communication and listening skills. This is not often achieved through the phone and even less effective when done through texts or emails.
It is often said that only 7% of communication comes through words, the rest is accomplished through voice tone and body language. Obviously, face to face communication will accomplish so much more. Texting through conflict almost always cultivates ground for deeper misunderstandings.
Principle #3: Know why you are meeting. It is good to know why you are getting together to resolve the conflict. Here are three good reasons for meeting to work through an issue…
- When I know I am in the wrong. Jesus says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there…first go and be reconciled to your brother.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Too many people, even when they know they are in the wrong, fail to make it right. Many conflicts could easily be resolved by coming and saying a heartfelt, unqualified “sorry.”
- When I believe I have been wronged. If we think we have been wronged and that it needs to be worked through for the relationship to be healthy, go and work through it. Don’t go talking to everyone else about it. Go to the person with whom you have become crossways.
- When I am not sure what is wrong. This can happen a lot. You are not really sure what has gone wrong, but you know it is something. It is good to meet with the person to ask if something is wrong.
Principle #4: Humility is a necessity. Don’t expect relational conflicts to resolve without a humble demeanor. Arrogance and self-righteousness causes the other person to put up defenses. When we fail to be humble, often we miss just how much we might have contributed to the issue at hand.
Do these three things to approach the issue with a humble spirit…
- Do a self exam. Jesus says we are to “get the plank out of our own eye.” So often we are a part of the problem. Take an honest look at yourself and the part you played in the relationship that is currently hurting. Sometimes the opening line of a meeting to work through conflict can be, “I have seen that I have contributed to your frustration. I am sorry about that and wanted to talk it over with you.
- Choose not to be easily offended. Assume the best from people. Rarely do people seriously seek to hurt those around them. Sometimes it is very unintentional. Cut some slack and try not to take everything personally.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you are upset with them, but what if you were in their situation. Think about it. Sometimes that will provide just the insight you need to feel better about the situation and give you the empathy you need to forgive them.
Principle #5: Communicate for clarity. There could be a lot more said here. I will write about it in future posts. But suffice it to say you have to share your thoughts, perceptions, concerns, hurts, fears, and wants. It is the only way to be understood and eventual work through the issues that have you in conflict.
Question: Do you have other principles for conflict resolution that have helped you. Share it with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.