Title: Confronting Conflict the Healthy Way
Artwork by: YMI X Amy Domingo (@amy_domingo)
Description: Imagine a life devoid of conflict, disagreements, and hurts. And even if any one of those arose, we can happily shake on it, and agree to disagree. How happy and enjoyable our lives will be!
Unfortunately, because we’re all sinful beings and we live in a broken world, conflicts do and will arise in our everyday lives.
But while conflicts are uncomfortable, they can help us grow and mature to be more Christ-like if we resolve them in healthy, biblical ways.
So, how should one respond to conflicts that don’t involve prattling snippy remarks, doling out a cold shoulder, or dishing out passive-aggressive replies?
As hard as it is, we should try to respond in love, which means not being easily angered or keeping any records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Scripture also reminds us to be tenderhearted, kind, and to bear with each other and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13).
Here’s a helpful list of dos and don’ts to consider when conflicts arise:
Sometimes it seems easier to avoid the person who has hurt us than face them. So, we remove ourselves from their lives altogether, and stew in our emotions in private.
While it’s okay to take the time off to recover from our hurts, holding on to unresolved anger or unforgiveness can eat away at us, and eventually erode what might be a salvageable relationship.
Whatever position we’ve found ourselves in, Scripture says forgiveness is the best way forward to resolving this conflict.
It can feel hard (and almost unjust) having to forgive the person who’s hurt us, but we’re to forgive the way Christ has first forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). And if we’ve hurt someone, let’s seek them out to ask for their forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24).
The hurt they’ve done to us runs deep. Anger and sadness wells up inside of us whenever we recall the incident. And now they’re trying to talk to us, what nerve! Let’s just stonewall them, that’ll teach them!
Stonewalling, or giving the person the cold shoulder, can give us the illusion of being in control, but it doesn’t ease the anger in our hearts, neither does it leave room for the other person to explain themselves or give them a chance to apologize.
If talking to the person in the heat of a conflict is too hard, we can politely tell them that we really aren’t in the head space to deal with it right now, but assure them that you’ll carve out time to talk about it once you’re ready to do so. After all, Scripture says a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1), so it would be wise to let our anger cool a little before seeking reconciliation.
Instead of resolving our conflict with the other person, a mini-conflict has erupted because we’re adamant to have things done our way, unwilling to hear the other person’s perspective.
Bulldozing our way through a conflict is always a bad idea. It also discounts the other person, as if what they’ve to say isn’t worthy of our consideration.
To avoid repeating this, we can reflect on why we’re insistent on having things done our way. Is it our pride speaking? Romans 12:16 says we’re to live in harmony with one another, and we’re not to be wise in our own eyes. We can ask God to peel away our layers of pride, and to give us the humility needed to handle conflicts with grace.
We may have accidentally overstepped the line and offended a close friend or a workmate. We hope the other party’s able to write it off as a “just a joke”, but they’ve called us out on it, and we find ourselves getting defensive. “It was just a joke, there was no need to get angry about it,” we fume.
Even though deep down we know we’re in the wrong, we make up a bunch of excuses to save our faces, and instead, accuse them for not being able to handle it.
It can be uncomfortable being told what we did was wrong, but Proverbs 28:13 encourages us to confess our sins because we will obtain mercy . In this instance, this could look like trying to put ourselves in their shoes, acknowledging how they feel, and offering an apology.
We can’t believe what the other party has just said to us. “How rude of them to accuse us of doing such and such!” we think. In return, we lash out at them, carefully measuring each word with spite, giving them a taste of their own medicine.
Our flesh might feel good for a short period, but the venom we’ve let out could spark a heated argument or further poison a relationship.
Proverbs 18:21 says death and life are in the power of the tongue, and while it can be easy to lash out in the heat of the moment, we can pray for God to guide our tongues and for us to speak graciously (and not spitefully) when we’re angry.
Oh wow, someone’s done the most unfair, most unjustifiable thing to us, and we’re reeling in shock, anger and betrayal. And we’re now itching to tell others what has happened…
While it’s not good to bottle up our emotions, and ranting does help clear our thought process, let’s be careful with what comes out of our mouths—we wouldn’t want to regret the things we’ve said in the heat of the moment.
Proverbs 19:20 encourages us to seek wise counsel (Proverbs 19:20), so let’s share our situation (once we’ve calmed down and reflected on the situation) with a group of trusted close friends. This allows us the safety of being heard by those who know us best, while protecting the reputation of the other party.
An incredibly heated argument has us bringing up past mistakes to throw at each other, in a bid to have an upper hand. “Do you remember the last time you did this and that?” we sputter.
Slinging mud at each other, especially holding someone else’s past mistakes against them, can make us feel superior—just for a bit. But most of the time, we end up regretting what we’ve said. By then, it’s too late and we can’t take it back.
Let’s remember that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5), and that destruction is in the tongue, because it’s “a fire…it corrupts the whole body” (James 3:6). Instead of finding past faults, we can try to rein in our tongue (James 3:19) and choose to season our words with grace (Colossians 4:6).
“Dear anon, I cannot believe you’ve said…..,” in our moment of anger, we’ve typed up and posted an angry message on social media shaming the person who has offended us. And now, we wait for messages of sympathy to come pouring in…
Ah, sweet revenge! Our flesh might feel temporarily comforted by airing our offender’s dirty laundry, but who knows what irreparable damage this would have on our relationship!
As 1 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us, love does not dishonor others, neither is it self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5), so instead of publicly shaming the offender, why not take it offline by writing it down in our diary, or spill your thoughts in a letter to them (which we can tear up after) if it releases a bit of steam?
Their callous words have triggered us, but instead of being honest with them, we’ve decided to go on a passive-aggressive tactical war front. “You should know how I’m feeling,” when asked about how we feel.
We think they should know how we’re feeling, after all, they were the ones who insulted us! But most people can’t read our minds, and sending cryptic messages, or playing mind games, could potentially lead to more misunderstandings or build up resentment towards the other person.
Proverbs 24:26 says truthful speech is the mark of friendship. Therefore, it’s better if we tell the person in an honest (but tactful way) about how they’ve hurt us, instead of hoping that maybe they’d be able to read our minds and figure out what’s really bothering us.
Of course, it’s easier to read about how to resolve conflict than it is to actually carry them out.
But the good thing is that we don’t need to rely on our own strength. God will give us the wisdom (James 1:5) to handle the situation, and if we’ve been hurt, let’s ask Him to restore us. We can also ask God to remind us that conflicts aren’t always a me versus them situation, but can be an opportunity for us to work on a solution together, and the outcome could be a stronger relationship.
So, the next time you find yourself faced with a conflict to resolve, don’t react instinctively but consider how to respond to these tricky situations in a godly way!