I don’t like conflict. In fact there are times when I just despise it. It almost makes me physically ill.
But despite that, God has purposefully opened doors of leadership for me that have forced me to deal with conflict, you know, like it is part of my job description?
Whether I am mediating conflict between two or more people or between myself and another, I have had my share of botched jobs. And usually it is because I come in thinking I know all of the facts or determined that I will drive a certain agenda.
Last week I posted about 3 Steps to Being a Better Communicator: OIC – An Amazingly Powerful Tool. This week is basically a “Part 2,” but it speaks to the mindset we must have in resolving conflict. It is not always natural, nor is it easy, but I have seen it work time and time again.
Our tendency to avoid conflict
So why is it we avoid resolving conflict like we would the plague?
For me, it often centers around that I have already had multiple conversations with myself, instead of with God, about how I think it is going to go. And most of the time, my ending scenario ends up bad…really bad. And so I avoid handling that conflict. Or it revolves around my own fear or resentment of the person or event and I question if I even want to resolve the conflict.
Whatever the reason, I am usually forgetting the fact that the Gospel of Jesus is so grand and so big…so big that I do not have to be right. Fancy that. The Gospel is, whether we admit it or not, all about reconciliation. It is a message of reconciliation, its purpose is reconciliation, and its end goal is reconciliation on many different levels.
Do I believe this? Yes, but not always in the moment of a conflict. To me, the Gospel often pales when standing side by side with my ginormous issue. Somehow what I know to be true and what I perceive in front of me to be true are very much at odds with one another.
A better way
I want to offer you some encouragement today because many to most people I know want to speak around conflict but seldom to conflict. And so mental stumblings continue to occur. Relationships stay frayed. Thoughts drift from truth.
I recently was working with an individual through a conflict that this person had with another. And in being a mediator, some of my body language and responses came across in a manner that began to drive a wedge between me and the individual.
Now, allow me to stop here and speak to these three must-have mindsets before I tell any more of the story.
I heard a message on these three traits in a message on humility by C.J Mahaney. And they stuck with me and, over time, became more and more a part of the fabric of how I handle conflict. And please do not misunderstand that I am somehow saying I have mastered conflict, only that I deal with it differently now.
Three character traits that God notices
These three characteristics come from the text of Isaiah 66:2:
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
That is an interesting phrase that God uses – “this is the one to whom I will look.” God sees all. He is omniscient, He is omnipresent, and He is omni-aware.
Yet God says He takes note of the one who exhibits…
- a quickness to repent when wrong
- an adherence to what God commands
Do you want to dramatically increase the odds of dealing with conflict successfully? Then ask God to forge these into your character. Because they transcend just dealing with conflict. They will change many paradigms, but today I want to specifically discuss how they alter the arena of conflict resolution.
In the instance I was sharing, I came across in a way that was offensive to this person, but I did not even know it. Later, we were texting and some of the language used led me to believe that there was some ill-will towards me.
Poor reasons that do not resolve conflict
So here we have it. Conflict. It would have been easy in the past to have gone down any of the following roads:
- I was clear. How could I have been misinterpreted? They obviously read me wrong.
- I am just trying to help them out and now I am part of the issue? What?!
- Do not deal with it – instead have my own mental conversations about why they are in the wrong.
- Defend myself.
This passage in Isaiah has begun to transform my thinking, because my first thought was, “I need to call and we just need to work this out.”
And I did. And sure enough there was an offense against me.
So instead of defending myself, I prayed and asked God to do through me what I could not on my own. I came into the conversation just desiring to serve the person. I brought up that I sensed something was wrong, and there was. In humility I opened the door for them to speak freely.
I did not like what I heard. It cast me in an unfavorable light. But I let them speak without defense or cutting them off.
Humility always wins the day
Please hear me when I say this – humility always wins the day. I have handled conflict incorrectly in a number of different ways, but that day, God gave me grace to respond humbly.
And when they were done, I explained things from my perspective and what was meant by what I said. But I also felt inclined to quickly repent and ask forgiveness for how I came across. In my mind there was nothing wrong with what I said, but it caused this other person to stumble. And so I asked for their forgiveness.
And the door swung open more.
And as the door swung wide open, grace flowed through it. And in a desire to serve them instead of making sure I was perceived in a right way, I feared God enough in that moment to just be transparent and vulnerable.
I simply did, by His power, what God says that He notices.
And the door was fully open and our relationship was not just put back to where it was, but it was better and deeper. It was as if God took the ashes of the situation and made something awesome that reflected back to His awesomeness.
Please do not take my story the wrong way. I do not bring it up to cast myself in a favorable light. There are many instances where I chose to handle a conflict in a manner resistant to what God says He notices in Isaiah 66. Rather, I tell this story to cast God in a favorable light and to offer you a better path than perhaps the one you keep choosing. These principles are powerful and God has affirmed them in my life.
Conflict can stifle us. Or conflict can blossom a relationship and put us ahead of where we were even before the conflict happened.
Remember the person of whom God takes special note. And then by His power be that person.