Let's Talk About Conflict
Let’s talk about Conflict
So far in my blogs, I have talked about timing and commitment, and now I would like to talk about conflict.
We will have conflict in this life. There is no getting away from it. Relationships are messy. But conflict can be a catalyst to growth, and greater intimacy if we let it.
Many of us want to run from conflict! We see it coming and we just want to put our tail between our legs and cower because it is downright uncomfortable. It can make us feel bad. When someone is bringing some inconsistency about our lives to the surface we don’t want to hear it. But conflict left undealt with becomes a wall that can grow and come between us, whether the relationship is husband and wife, friend to friend, sister to brother, maternal or our church family, it gets in the way of a deeper more intimate relationship with each other. But if we take that conflict and talk about it, and tear it down it, bringing truth into the conversation, it can be strengthening and draw us closer. We will grow and mature as we deal with each conflict. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
As we open ourselves up to honest conversations about conflicts that surface, we may well find that there is actually some fear behind the conflict. It may have been hidden for a very long time, and as we enter into a conflict, that fear rears its ugly head and a fight or flight reaction happens inside and we either run and hide or we come out fighting. Unresolved conflicts often stem from sin and pride, and it breaks down relationships and builds walls that get harder and harder to knock down, and eventually will dissolve your relationships if left unchecked. Hidden thoughts play havoc in our minds, but if we expose our thoughts and allow truth to rise, conflicts that we thought were mountains might actually turn out to be molehills. A very important piece to this process is that we must be willing to set aside our pride and really listen to the other person and if both individuals go into the conversation with reconciliation as the goal, a resolution will happen much more readily.
When a conflict arises, we might want to ask ourselves, or each other, “What are you/am I afraid of? What is driving my/their fear? When we bring to the surface the actual cause of the underlining fear, we can then deal with the real issue that has created that fear in the first place, which interestingly, may not even have anything to do with the conflict that actually started the disagreement to begin with. It just may be that the conflict is what is causing that old fear to rise up in us again and again, and will continue to do so until we face that fear, deal with it, walkthrough, and overcome it. And we can be overcomers with the power of Christ in us.
Peacekeepers and peacemakers; There is a huge difference. In the area of conflict, a peacekeeper will do anything just to keep the peace and avoid conflict at all costs. Unfortunately, avoidance means another brick in the wall. A peacemaker on the other hand will try to get to the bottom of the issue and work out the conflict so that real peace might ensue for all involved. It takes a lot of hard work to be a peacemaker, and not everyone is up for that.
Another thought about conflict in the arena of forgiveness. Have you ever thought about the fact that forgiveness can happen without actually resolving conflicts in a relationship? As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave us through Christ’s death and resurrection, and though we might forgive from our hearts we may not have actually resolved the conflict. There are many situations where one of the individuals in a conflict has passed on or is quite unwilling to talk and work out the conflict leaving someone in a position where they may have to work out the forgiveness piece without an actual complete resolution. If one person has passed, a resolution will never happen on this earth, but in a situation where all parties are still alive, one person may have truly forgiven the other, but unless both parties talk about the issue and resolve it, trust can never be a part of that relationship again. Forgiveness might but trust won't. Unless they attempt to understand each other and resolve the issue, trust just can’t grow. There will always remain a sense of being misunderstood, and if an individual feels like the other person doesn’t really want to understand them, it is very hard to put one’s trust to the test by sharing the important aspects of your life again, and you will keep one another at an arm's length, and likely that same conflict will surface again especially if you have to work together on some project, committee or family situation. You will tend to avoid that person because it brings up an uncomfortable familiar feeling of, you got it, mistrust.
Pastor Tracy from our church, Nanaimo Alliance, has started a new series about relationships this month. He is talking about different levels of friendship that we have with various people in our lives. Unresolved conflict will get in the way of taking our relationships to the next level. In a relationship with unresolved conflict, we may reach bronze, which is knowing the basic biographical information about each other, and we might have reached silver by knowing some historical background, knowing about significant relationships and experiences that make us who we are, and we may reach gold where you know quite a bit about the other person and you are pretty good friends, or even platinum where you know a lot about the hidden struggles, the blind spots, the things that trigger you, trauma’s and your areas of shame, the real nitty gritty that you are willing to overlook and choose to love anyways, but when there is unresolved conflict, that relationship gets knocked back to the bronze level and we stop sharing who we really are. Dealing with unresolved conflict will allow us to move forward to the next level, and stay there if we keep resolving conflicts as they happen. I believe that as Pastor Tracy mentioned, believers should be moving forward toward a deeper more intimate relationship with each other. God wants us to know Him more and more intimately, Yada, and He wants us to know each other more intimately as well. With intimacy comes real love, and they will know we are Christians by the LOVE that we have for each other. That Bible verse is not talking about a little surface love, and forgiveness, it is talking about a deep love, where we are willing to give our very lives for each other.
I hope I have been successful enough in stressing just how important it is to resolve conflict in our lives in order to grow in our relationships with each other, so much so that you will be willing to do the work and resolve those long-buried conflicts that are holding you back from closer, more intimate relationships. Make no mistake, it will be extremely hard work. Nothing good in this life comes easy, but our relationships are worth it! I believe that one day when we enter into eternity all our conflicts will be resolved because we will know even as we are known, and all those misunderstandings will be fully understood. That will be an amazing day, but in the meantime, I believe the Lord would have us work out our conflicts here and now so the relationships we have will be sweeter and more precious while we remain here on this earth, and then we can be a witness to those around us of God’s great love for all mankind. Why wait, when you can have those deep intimate relationships now? Are you willing to work at understanding your spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, or friend? Your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Are you willing to be honest about your fears, your misgivings, and the fact that you may not know everything there is to know about that other person? Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking we know it all, that we have all the facts, and we have that other person pegged, but we don’t! So open up, listen and really seek to understand. Open your hearts wide to one another! Let each other in. Let them see who you really are! Be willing to accept them for who they really are, and know that you are both deeply loved by the Lord Himself! Allow Him to love in and through you! It will make your life’s journey so much more incredible.
Tracy’s use of bronze, silver, gold, and platinum reminded me of when I was in elementary school and we would have to compete only against ourselves each year to improve our own physical best. There were many activities that we had to do such as sit-ups, ball throws, timed running etc. There were standards that had to be met for each badge. If we met the gold standard we would get the gold badge, which was the highest achievement. I never tried to just get the bronze. I worked hard and tried to do my very best to get as high a score as I could. I went for the gold. So in our relationships which are far more important, let’s go for platinum! Work hard, go deep and deal with those conflicts that are buried and then deal with each one as they come. Be the best You that You can be! You can do it! Allow those conflicts to be a catalyst to growth and greater intimacy with God and with each other.