Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dealing With Conflict

Is there anyone out there who doesn't have some serious conflict going on in your life? We all have pettiness and bickering--to a greater or lesser degree--in our homes, at our workplaces, and in our churches. Many times, the root of the problem is something that is actually fairly insignificant. Yet, over time, the roots of dischord grow and branch out into something that practically threatens all sense of peace and harmony in our lives. Our conflicts yield the bitter fruits of frustration, jealously, and despair. So, what are we to do? If conflict is so prevalent, then why aren't we getting any better at handling it? What are some sound words of counsel for dealing with everyday conflict?

Listen, trying to avoid conflict is a colossal waste of time. Conflict is an inevitability. Now, I'm not encouraging anyone to go looking for conflict. That's also unnecessary. Trust me, experience shows that conflict rarely gets lost on its way to you. You might say, "But, Dan, doesn't the Bible say 'blessed are the peacemakers'" (Matthew 5:9)? Yes, it does. But what kind of "peacemaking" does God bless? Does God bless peacemaking that does nothing more than blatantly overlooking sinfulness? Does God bless the sort of peacemaking that throws any notion of justice or righteousness out the window for the sake of "mutual compromise"? Listen friends, when Biblical truth intersects with an unholy, unrighteous world, then there is going to be real friction...(a.k.a. conflict). Rather than trying to avoid conflict, perhaps our time would be better spent on honing our skills at moving through conflict in a way that honors God and extends God's passion for truth and real peace in His world.

The Bible says in James 4:1, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" What is James telling us? Isn't he saying that the bottom line of conflict has more to do with what's happening inside of us than with what is happening to us or around us. Someone has said that, "The heart of the problem is a problem in the heart." This is so true. What typically "gets your feathers ruffled"? Usually it is when someone else treads on your pet [__________] (you fill in the blank). Conflict occurs when we feel as if we are treated unfairly or are not being heard. Granted, sometimes we are engaged in conflict because we believe someone else is not being respected or we perceive there to be an injustice outside of us. But, I think this is far rarer than the other kinds of conflict which are usually all about us--our rights, our opinions, our wants.

Jesus taught us so many amazing things about the "good" life (i.e. the life that God approves). One thing that he taught us has come to be known as the "Golden Rule". In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." In other words, Jesus said, "You know all those things that you really want? Other people want those things too. And, sometimes your wants are going to collide with their wants. So, here's a key to the good life: Treat others people just the way that you want them to treat you." Paul, the apostle, puts it this way in Philippians 2:3-5, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." One tremendous key to overcoming conflict has to our with our perspectives of 1) God's desires, 2) Our wants/desires/"rights"/needs, and 3) The significance of others. Keeping things in the proper perspective will help to resolve many conflicts when they are still at the seedling level, before the are fully grown and ugly fights.

There are many more things that could (and probably should) be shared about dealing with conflict. But, that will be all for now. I want to leave you with this: The measure of your "blessing" or "success" does not consist of the absence of conflict. Rather, the one who is approved by God is he who has learned the secret of properly handing conflict for the glory of God, the benefit of others, and the promotion of righteousness and truth.

Do you have anything thoughts about dealing with conflict that you would like to share?

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