Relationships are hard!
Wherever and whenever you find yourself, you have to work with, get on with, live with, do church with or co-exist with other people. It is inevitable that you are going to run into some kind of relational conflict. It’s bound to happen! I have noticed that when it comes to conflict, different people respond and react to it in different ways.
Here are a few types of people I’ve come across along the way:
Bulldozer Barry – He loves to smash into conflict and will leave a trail of rubble behind him.
Avoider Anne – She will sidestep the problem and avoid engaging in the conflict at all costs. Avoider Ann pretends it never happened or simply just ignores the issue entirely.
Revenger Rosie – Watch out, any conflict is highly personal and will come with pay back.
Passive Aggressive Pete – Snarky comments and bitter undertones are his favourite, he’ll tell you it’s fine, but believe me, it’s not.
Apologetic Ange – Always takes the blame, says sorry over and over, wants to make it all better but doesn’t address the real issues.
Blame Shifter Beth – Puts all the blame on others, it is never her fault. Be careful, if there’s a bus coming, you’re likely to be thrown under it.
Emotional Emma – Cries, gets over emotional and any sign of conflict equals a melt down.
The truth is that no matter who you are, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, you will have relational conflict. The challenge is resolving it and dealing with it in a healthy way.
In the book of Proverbs 23:23 Solomon gives us this advice: “Buy truth and do not sell it, buy wisdom, instruction and understanding.”
In all our dealings, these four things are what we should pursue. Truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding.
In any conflict the goal is to attain truth. What has happened? Why has it happened? How can we see this for what it is and be better for it? TRUTH. Truth is what we want to get a hold of. We have to buy it, it will cost us something if we want to possess the truth. Go after it and do not let go of it.
In order to get to truth we need to also pursue the other three things mentioned in this scripture.
You’ve probably noticed that young people are prone to doing dumb stuff. To be honest, I’m surprised that I lived to see my 25th birthday. I did so many dumb things when I was younger. Things that I would never do now that I’m a little older and a little wiser.
The reason young people do dumb things is because they haven’t gained wisdom yet, because gaining wisdom takes time! In order to resolve conflict, you are going to have to be willing to invest time to figure out what’s going on.
Wisdom is about trying to remove the emotion. Wisdom doesn’t have emotion. Wisdom speaks slow. It is not in a rush.
In the book of James, he instructs us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. That’s wisdom.
There has never been a moment where I have sent a quick email in a moment of frustration or anger and it worked out well. Never. It always goes badly. I regret it every time and it doesn’t achieve anything.
Slow down, take time to process.
In our marriage, Becs and I have spent countless late nights sitting up talking until two and three in the morning trying to sort out an issue or a conflict. Why? Because wisdom takes time. It’s not often resolved quickly, sometimes you have to invest the time to gain wisdom.
Wisdom is also about going to the right place for advice. For many of us our default place of advice and processing are places of gossip, not wisdom.
The bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom! Wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord. If I want wisdom on a situation, I need to go to someone who fears God!
I hate following instructions. I hate it with a passion. I don’t like flat pack furniture, there are too many instructions. I don’t like following recipes to make dinner, again…instructions. Let me be free from the tyranny of your rules Mr Instruction Manual!
Dealing with conflict requires a lot of grace and even more humility. Many conflicts don’t get resolved because we can’t take instruction. We believe that all the blame lies with the other person and none with us.
Seeking instruction involves a willingness to put your need to be right aside and accept that in every relational conflict, you had a part to play in it. Even if you don’t see it or agree with it!
If you want to be able to deal with conflict then you will need to be ok with correction.
Always be teachable, always be correctable, always seek instruction. Own your bit. Say sorry.
Don’t insist on being right. You don’t have to be right. In fact, if you need to be right then, relationally, something will always be wrong. The goal is not necessarily to discover who is right or wrong, the goal is understanding.
If there is a winner and a loser then there will be two losers.
When facing a conflict, here is my advice: Seek first to understand, then to be understood!
I hope that something of what I have shared gives you some tools to grow and further develop healthy relationships – even in the more difficult seasons!