Conflict seems to be naturally occurring in our world, right? We are all drawn to it – hence the reason most stories (books, movies, etc.) have some form of conflict that requires resolution. Ironically, it’s quite entertaining for us! We face conflict daily yet I would say it is safe to assume most would not see it as enjoyable or entertaining when we are personally involved. As a leader, you will not only experience conflict personally, but will oftentimes have to mediate for others.
We all respond to conflict, the question is: are we responding the right way?
There is a fantastic, practical book written by Ken Sande called “The Peacemaker”. You may have read it already. If not, I encourage you to do so as it is one of those books you will refer back to often. Much of what I am sharing below is built on the concepts outlined in this book (which are all biblical, by the way). In addition, Daryl Largis (one of my fantastic co-workers) has developed and used the same outline to share this content with not only our staff team but some of our partners we work with.
In short, God expects His people to handle conflict well.
How we handle conflict is a good gauge for our spiritual maturity. As with most areas related to our maturity, we need to look inward first. Let’s start by asking two questions:
1. How much conflict do I cause?
2. How much unresolved conflict exists in my life?
Don’t just breeze over these questions…really take some time with these as a deep dive here will pay dividends. For those of you who value the wisdom of scripture, you may want to read and meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, James 3:17-18 and Matthew 5:9.
Furthermore, conflict among Christ-followers can be catastrophic to the faith of others. Do others see a picture of Christ in how I handle conflict? If married, what does my marriage reflect to those around me? Does it look like Christ’s relationship to the church – a sacrificial one? These are questions worth your time and introspection!
Most will respond to conflict in one of two ways (with some variation) – fighting or running. Neither is helpful.
Without question, the best thing to do to avoid conflict is to overlook an offense. This is different than avoiding or running – it is intentionally overlooking. Think of it this way: every little inconvenience shouldn’t be an opportunity to fight. Scripture says “a fool is quick to quarrel”.
When you can’t overlook an offense, how should a Christ follower go about approaching conflict resolution?
One point that needs to be assumed is – no gossip or unnecessary escalation. Conflict should always be addressed one-to-one first before bringing anyone else into the discussion.
When addressing an offense one-to-one, here are a few questions to ask yourself in the moment:
1. What outcome best demonstrates the gospel and gives God the most glory?
This is the most important question to ask and requires much thought, not 30 seconds of contemplation…and the answer is not to be manipulated to get our way!
2. How do I need to own my contribution?
I need to recognize my part first. No more passing blame and focusing on the faults of others.
– own your contribution before you speak out
– proactively lead with humility
– genuinely apologize (“I’m sorry, but…” should not be a part of the apology)
3. How do I proactively seek to restore the relationship?
You can set the tone for the conversation! Lead with humility and love and, thereby, affirm the value of the relationship.
4. How do I pursue lasting peace?
Lasting peace requires reconciliation, not just resolution of the issue at hand. We need to forgive fully (Ephesians 4:32). We need to agree and commit to a solution that creates lasting peace (which is critical to allow for trust to develop again).
You may be saying “hey, that’s great in theory, but sometimes it doesn’t work.” I agree…sometimes you can’t reach reconciliation. So, what do you do as a Christ follower who is desiring peace?
1. Pray (Matthew 5:44)
2. Guard your heart (especially to bitterness and anger)
3. Get and keep Godly counsel around you. Allow the right voices to influence you (Proverbs 13:20)
4. Keep doing what is right (Romans 12:21)
Doing these things ensures reconciliation can occur at any time and you are doing everything you can to make it so.
I’m not saying this is easy. If it was, conflict wouldn’t be such a major hindrance to our relationships. My goal is to share what God says will best position you to live at peace with everyone around you. Sometimes counseling helps and, at times, mediation may be needed. Either way, so long as it depends on you, pursue peace!