February 22, 2021
When we hear the word conflict, often we think of the outburst of opinions colliding with others and causing hurt. Social media and entertainment have done a great job of painting us this beautiful picture of the perfect friendships that never disagree. Both parties see the heart behind the decision, and everyone gets along. Sadly, it is rarely like that in real life. This constant butting heads with others has been going on since the beginning of time.
Imagine if everyone just saw eye to eye, and we could all work towards one common goal. We could change the world; and who wouldn’t want that? It’s a beautiful idea, but one thing stands in the way… we all disagree on something.
The Bible shows us the brokenness of mankind through the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. These two brothers fought over what was the proper sacrifice to offer God. Looking back, we can see which one was right, but often when we are in the middle of conflict, we can be more like Cain and Abel that we want to admit. 2021 has already done a great job of showing us that people do not know how to live with someone they disagree with, whether it is political views, a bad roommate, or even something as silly as where to go get food.
With tensions constantly rising, and disputes often reaching a boiling point, universities have started to offer degrees in conflict resolution. Pepperdine University even offers a “Master’s in Dispute Resolution”. Pepperdine stated, “Conflict is pervasive in our communities, yet the competency to manage conflict is rare. Conflict resolution skills are needed to be competitive in our rapidly changing, technologically complex business world”.
The truth is, maneuvering conflict successfully is rare, but why? What if that didn’t have to consume us and we could just find a way to get along? Clarke University has a page dedicated to managing conflict. A few of their many tips include, “accept conflict, listen actively, analyze the conflict, separate person from the problem, and be specific”.
Conflict should be a good thing, and it shouldn’t always have to end in angry fallout. Navigating conflict correctly starts with listening to the other person, and recognizing they worked up the courage to bring up a problem that has been bothering them. Simply separating a person from the problem will start you off on the right step. When someone tells you something that might upset you, stop and take a breath. It is important to understand the heart behind their statement.
If you have to confront someone about a problem that may be hard for them to hear or receive, make sure to deliver it in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. If the person thinks you are accusing them of the problem, you have already defeated your purpose of the conversation. The person will most likely be defensive and any discussion beyond this point could be detrimental to the relationship. If your end goal is to be right, you need to stop and pause for a minute. The goal of conflict is not to be right, but to make peace and grow in unity with the other person.
If a problem is voiced to you, stop and process it. Take a moment to think before speaking, because most of the time we respond from our emotions and completely miss what the person is really saying. Responding from emotion without taking a moment to think can create problems, and will eventually shutdown the other person from ever wanting to open up to share when something is bothering them or worse, they will just leave. The Bible states in Provers 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. When things stay civil it will open up opportunity to understand the real problem.
Try to keep things calm and never raise your voice. Try to reply with statements that show you are not hostile, but want to work towards a solution. Ask helpful questions and add helpful input in the conversation that does not target or tear down the other person. Remember, no one is perfect, and sometimes we have to swallow our pride in a moment to protect what could be a lifelong friendship.
Lastly, when an issue initially arises, there is usually more to the situation that meets the eye, and it is our job to make sure we give every person a chance to share their heart completely. In Matthew 18:15 it states, “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”. You do not gain a brother or sister by winning every fight, but by hearing what they have to say. If we are honest, we all just want to be understood, and when we listen to others, we show them they are worth being listened too. When we work through these problems that appear in our relationships, we grow as individuals.
The next time you find yourself in a dispute with a friend or with your significant other, try to hear them out while remembering the end goal is to show them love and understanding. God constantly shows us grace and love, and as Christians, we should strive reflect that grace and love to others in our lives.
“Master’s in Dispute Resolution (MDR).”, Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.
“Tips for Managing Conflict“, Clarke University.
Written by Riley Anderson
Riley is a junior majoring in Christian Leadership and Church Ministry with a minor in Biblical Studies.