Conflict is a topic that affects all of us. Conflict is a given in life. We see it in our families, friendships, communities, and churches. It’s important for us to think about how to handle conflict.
Fortunately, the Bible has a lot of advice for us. James tells us that conflict comes from desires gone crazy, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1)
When desires become demands the natural result is that we begin to pass judgment on the people we are angry with. Judgment then leads to various kinds of punishment. That punishment might be silence, angry words, cutting off of relationship, or even violence in some cases.
Desires and Demands
Most of the time the desire that we had, in the beginning, was a good desire. There’s nothing wrong with wanting respect from the people around us. There’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to treat us well. But when that desire becomes a demand, it can easily turn into an idol. An idol is something that we can’t be happy without. It’s a desire that has turned into a demand.
How do we deal with conflict?
Looking Inward First
When there’s frustration, anger, or hurt that is the result of other people’s actions, the most important thing we can do is look inward first. Asking questions is a good place to start.
- Why am I so hurt by this person’s actions? Is this the result of differences of opinion, misunderstanding, or actual sin?
- What can I overlook?
- What is too serious to overlook and needs to be addressed?
- How might I be magnifying the other person’s sin? How might I be overlooking how I have contributed to the conflict?
- How have I responded to the other person inappropriately? How might I be punishing them? (silent treatment, cutting off the relationship, anger, gossip)
- How can I address my own hurt, anger, frustration, or sin before going to the other person?
- What might I need to apologize for? How might I need to ask for forgiveness?
It’s important to remember that when we look inward, we are not ignoring the fact that sometimes other people really have done things that need to be addressed. We don’t have to ignore the real things people have done, the sins they have committed that have hurt us or other people.
It’s just good to address the judgment in our own heart before dealing with the actions of the other person.
Jesus said it this way (Matthew 7:4-5). 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The questions above help clear our eyes before we try to clear the eyes of another person.
Clearing the Fog
Florence Chadwick was the first women to swim the English Channel. After that success, she decided to swim from the shore in Southern California to Catalina Island a 21-mile journey. The water was freezing. The fog was thick, and the visibility was almost non-existent. The exhaustion was just too much. She was done. She reached out for her father’s hand in the boat next to her. Her father pointed at a break in the fog. When she looked she realized the shore was just ahead and she was able to press on. With new vision and clarity, she finished the swim.
In the fog of conflict, it’s easy to want to give up, but it’s important to push through the fog by looking inward and pressing on toward the goal of reconciliation. Even if the conflict isn’t resolved perfectly with the other person, at least, we will have done what we need to do to remove the fog of conflict in our own heart.
It needs to begin inwardly, in our own heart, before we address the other persons failures and faults.