“We should not approach conflict as a nuisance, but as an opportunity to join Christ in his sanctifying work in our lives. God is not busy making us comfortable, making us wealthy, making us happy, He is busy conforming us to Jesus. So we can accept conflict as a tool through which he’s showing us our weaknesses, exposing our sinful tendencies, and training us in love and patience.” — Danielle Sallade
Date: April 2, 2019
Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana
Bibliography for this talk:
- Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson
- The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, www.peacemaker.net
- Relationships, A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
- Good and Angry by David Powlinson
- Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman (see also his four horsemen videos)
- Notes from the Redeemer Presbyterian Church marriage counseling seminar
- Learn How to Disagree Agreeably
- When Your Reconciliation Doesn’t Reconcile
- How to Resolve Conflict and Preserve Unity in Your Church
- Want an Extraordinary Marriage? Be an Ordinary Christian.
Danielle Sallade: When I initially talked with Mary Willson and agreed to offer this workshop, I confess I did stop and think to myself, “You know, Danielle, if you agree to speak about having a good fight, you had better be ready for the months ahead to be extra full of fights so that you will be practiced and fully equipped for the workshop.”
And sure enough, my messy imperfect life has not disappointed. Probably no different than many of you here, the last months I have walked through conflict in every relationship area in my life, whether with my husband with my kids, with my parents, with my siblings, with my colleagues, with my friends, even with strangers out running errands.
When I arrived at the Westin yesterday and saw that incredible check-in line, nod at me if you know what I’m talking about, I was thinking, “Ooh, this is a recipe for conflict.” Thankfully, there wasn’t any. It was peaceful. But through ministry and campus and my relationships at church, I have walked alongside others, supporting them through many conflicts, conflicts with roommates, conflicts, again, in marriages, troubles in parenting, the list goes on and on.
The point is, is that conflict is truly everywhere. We are all sinners with deeply-rooted selfishness and pride. And when you put us near other sinners who also have deeply-rooted selfishness and pride, it is inevitable that we will disagree and that fights will break out. I remember early on in my marriage, I expressed dismay to a trusted mentor about a fight I had with my husband over something really small that became quite big.
And my mentor, she noted how dismayed I was by this fight. And she commented about my dismay, “Danielle, what were you thinking? You married a sinner.” And she was right. That was a light-bulb moment for me. Where I want to start thinking today shows a principle that I think is a great starting point for us as we seek to be women who want to have good fights.
And what do we even mean by a good fight? It means we want to resolve conflict in a way that honors God and results in bringing about his kingdom purposes in the world and in our lives. So here’s the first principle, just to get us going and get us on the right path. Don’t be surprised when you experience conflict.
Don’t be surprised. Think about how you have felt though the last time you faced conflict. When someone has said words that have hurt you or maybe a colleague has dismissed a proposal you suggested or your children have disobeyed, isn’t your gut response so often defensive surprise or self-righteous indignation?
Something like, “I can’t believe this. How could this be happening?” Or maybe, “How could she possibly think that and say that to me? Who does she think she is?” I know I do this and I continue to do it, but really, we should not be surprised at all when conflicts arise.
In fact, think of our Bibles for a moment. Conflict with God and conflict with others begins within the first two chapters of Genesis. Perfect relational harmony destroyed the moment sin enters the world, and that’s on page two of the Bible, and it just continues. It’s an interesting thought exercise to consider how much conflict is recorded in our Bibles.
It’s everywhere. First, that conflict between Adam and Eve, then terrible conflict between their sons, Cain and Abel. Conflict in Noah’s family, conflict in Abraham’s and Sarah’s family. Keep going through your Bible. Every generation you meet, you will see more and more relational conflict. Our Lord Jesus’ family experienced relational conflict, plenty of it.
And this is particularly encouraging actually because Jesus understands exactly what we’re going through when we’re in the middle of it. He can sympathize with us. But there was also conflict among the 12 disciples. Many conflicts in the early church like disagreements between Jewish and Gentile believers with different cultural backgrounds, preferred styles of worship coming together.
There were many different types of conflict in the Corinthian church, some even leading to public lawsuits. And then there were interpersonal conflicts among leaders, whether between Paul and Barnabas or between the two women who were dear friends and colleagues of Paul mentioned in Philippians, Euodia and Syntyche. There is conflict everywhere, and it continues on through Revelation.
And it doesn’t end until the day Satan is finally destroyed, and the new heavens and the new earth are ushered in. My point is that if this is what the Scriptures tell us the world is like, then we should not be surprised when we experience conflict. In fact, we should expect it.
And we shouldn’t think any leader is above conflict, because all of the leaders in the Bible experienced conflict and caused conflict. I really believe that if we could train ourselves to have our eyes open for conflict and not be so shocked by it, we would be much better prepared to stay calm in the moment. And when those sparks start to fly, to stop, to turn to God as soon as the conflict begins, and to resist our pathway of typical sinful responses.
So instead of saying, “How could this be happening to me,” we might say something like, “Okay, that hurt, but I am not surprised that this is happening.In this broken world, it’s going to happen.God, help me navigate this right now in a way that honors You.”
So little roadmap. I’m going to do a few principles of conflict, and then we’re going to get to some really practical, what I’ll call rules of war, steps we can take when we’re having those confrontational conversations. I’m breaking the rule of modern teaching, where you’re supposed to only have attention span of like 20 minutes, we’re going to go the full time.
So hang with me through these principles and know we will get to some practical steps. Let’s begin with a theme verse for our efforts. I’m choosing a simple statement from our Lord Jesus, Matthew 5 verse 9. The first time Jesus teaches in Matthew’s gospel, it’s chapter 5, in his Sermon on the Mount, and he begins his sermon with a poem that we now know as the Beatitudes.
These Beatitudes or blessings, they highlight eight character traits that will mark the citizens of God’s kingdom. And Chapter 5 verse 9 is the seventh Beatitude. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. It says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Now, we’re at a women’s conference and you might think I should restate the verse, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the daughters of God.”
And there are many places in the Scriptures where we can mention both genders because both genders are included, but here, there is a specific Jewish idiom that Jesus is using. So we need to keep it “sons of God” and really appreciate what he’s saying. To be a son of God is to imitate God. It’s to reflect His character, who He is.
So to be a son of God here is to reflect God, the Heavenly Father. And this first calls us to be peacemakers because we follow the ultimate peacemaker, our Lord Jesus himself, who made peace for us with God by removing our sin, and thus, has made it possible for us to be at peace with each other.
We are peacemakers in two ways. The first way is by sharing the gospel, because when we share the gospel with other people, we are bringing them real good news of what peace, real lasting peace that humans can have with God. And then the second way we are a peacemaker is by pursuing peace during all of the times we have conflict in our relationships.
Dr. Carson taught me years ago to notice that this verse does not hold out blessing for peaceful people or for those who long for peace as good as those things are. The blessing rather is for peacemakers, those who seek peace and actively pursue bringing it about.
We can’t just sit back and hope for it, we can’t just pray for it, we have to do things too. We should pray, we should hope, and then we should step out and work for it. Now, Jesus only picks eight character traits to highlight in the Beatitudes and since one of them is about making peace, it is clear he expects conflict too. He wasn’t surprised by it.
But the glorious hope here is that Jesus knows his message will enable his followers to spread real peace and real harmony in the world. Apart from his saving work, it will not be possible. So our obedience, it actually becomes a witnessing opportunity. We show the world, when we’re peacemakers, we show the world the character of our peacemaking God.
Perhaps some of you might say, “I’m not very good at sharing my faith.Whenever I’m in a conversation, I get tongue-tied, I don’t know what to say.” But if you are a woman who practices godly conflict resolution regularly in your relationships, you are doing the work of an evangelist. Throughout his whole ministry, Jesus continued to command and pray for our peace as his people.
Here, John 13 verses 34 and 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. And by this, everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” We love as Christ loved, we create peace in the world.
And don’t miss this, we display the gospel to the world around us. Our community speaks volumes. During his last meal with his disciples, the very night before he was crucified, probably Jesus’ most important priorities are on his mind as he’s having that last meal with his disciples, and he prays again for the unity of his people.
John 17:23, “Father, may they be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” How will the world know who Jesus is and why he has been sent? By disciples, like us, committed to resolving conflicts and being unified as a church.
Again, our community speaks volumes. Paul reinforces the same idea. As we resolve conflict, we model and reflect God, our God of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was raised again. So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.
All of this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. That was 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. So please don’t miss that as we resolve conflict, we end up witnessing to the world, whether it’s the little world of our families, the bigger world of our neighborhoods, local institutions like our workplaces, like our schools.
As we resolve conflict, we are demonstrating the character of our peacemaking God. And I don’t know about you, but this gives me a whole new heart motivation, a whole new energy to make sure I’m resolving conflict. The prophet Isaiah says in chapter 52 verse 7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.”
Ladies, did any of you get pedicures now that it’s summer before coming here? I know Nancy Guthrie did. Let me challenge you, this is a little goofy, but let me challenge you, that anytime you get a pedicure, the next time you’re painting your toenails, ask yourself, “Do I have beautiful feet like the ones in Isaiah?”
Beautiful because my feet are moving toward others when there is conflict, bringing the message of peace in the Gospel. We will change the world if we do this. So let’s get a little more practical. Let’s define conflict.
What is a conflict? I’m going to give you a definition, a simple definition. A conflict is any disagreement over what you think, want, or do that creates emotional tension or pain in one or more parties. A conflict is any disagreement over what you think, want, or do that creates emotional tension or pain in one or more parties.
Symptoms signaling that there is a conflict brewing happen when you can’t discuss an issue with someone without having an argument about it or if you are discussing that issue at length with someone, you never make any progress and come to consensus or agreement. Those are symptoms of a deeper conflict.
Well, what causes conflict? There are so many things we could name but just a few. Genuine disagreements that simply arise because we have a difference in perspective, taste, or values. Within the church, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, those passages teach us that we have a diversity of gifts.
God gives us this diversity of spiritual gifts, and He does this on purpose so that we will be fully equipped for many different roles. But this different gifting often leads us to hold different values, different priorities, and so, when we work together, we can find ourselves in various disagreements.
Another source of conflict is, well, starts with simple misunderstandings. They usually come from a lack of clear communication, and then that, combined with our own pride, causes us to jump to faulty conclusions and we judge another person’s perceived attitude or motivation before we even fully understand what they were truly saying or where they were coming from.
And most important is our own selfishness and pride. James Chapter 4 verses 1 to 2, James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but you do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Those verses from James, I think they’re worth memorizing if you haven’t already. I personally refer to them just about every day of my life, because they so clearly state how my own selfishness and my own pride and the things I want become the idols of my heart and they lead me into conflict. As one writer has put it, we are wired like this.
We want our own way in the way we have chosen and at the time we have deemed best. If you get in my way, you will pay. And it’s our sinful attitudes and our desires that cause this and that lead us then to sinful words, sinful actions. So little simple misunderstandings become big conflicts that lead to relational destruction.
So it’s often helpful to learn to recognize in yourself and in the other people who you’re having conflict with. Common styles of responding to conflict. So I’m going to mention four, four common styles of responding to conflict.
First, withdraw. This conflict style, withdraw, denies that there is a problem. It can include things like cutting off a conversation, refusing to engage with the other person at all, or it could include something more drastic like moving away, quitting a job, changing churches. Sometimes this style is called flight. We run away from the problem.
Another common style of responding to conflict is yield. Yield. It’s different from withdraw because you actually engage in the conflict and you don’t run away. But the yielder who is usually a people-pleaser gives in to stop the conflict as soon as possible and just smooth it over. So a yielder usually gives up her preferences. The yielder might look at peace on the outside, but then inside, there’s often hurt, anger, resentment at what has been yielded.
A third style is win. And this is the complete opposite of withdraw. This person attacks. She gives no ground, offers no concessions. She presses her opinions until the other yields. And often, the win style is more interested in winning the argument than preserving the relationship.
Ken Sande, who has been a leader for years of Peacemaker Ministries, and I will say more about him and other resources I’ve used at the end. He would refer to the first two conflict styles, withdraw and yield. He would refer to those as peace-faking. And then he would refer to win as peace-breaking.
And that leads us to a fourth style, which is the one we actually all want to move toward, and that one is called resolve. And in this conflict style, the parties are honestly seeking true resolution. The resolve person aims to get at the whole truth, facts, and feelings from all of the people involved in the conflict, and then after real analysis, options are worked through until everyone is satisfied.
So those who have this resolve communication style, they are honest, they can speak honestly about what they’re thinking or feeling without fear of the other person’s reaction. But they’re also committed to hearing the other person out. So that’s resolve. So as you think about improving as a peacemaker with me, it’s helpful to just think about which of these four styles do you most identify with.
And sometimes we behave one way in a certain relationship and a totally different way in another relationship. With my own father growing up and even now into adulthood, I was definitely a yielder. But with my poor husband, I am definitely a win. So you can be different in different situations. Well, we all want to move toward that resolve style, and so, here’s some ways, I hope, how to do it.
First, think of every conflict as a way to glorify God. Think of every conflict, first, as a way to glorify God. So often, we view our relationships as things we own, designed for our own personal happiness. We focus on what we’re getting out of a relationship, and if we aren’t getting what we want, we become angry, and bitter, maybe we even cut off the relationship altogether.
And we forget that in God’s design, human relationships are meant for our witness to the world and our personal growth. That’s what relationships are meant for. Relationships are God’s tools to refine us. They expose our weaknesses, they show us our pride and our selfishness. They change us because other people can rebuke us in love and point us to better ways.
I think of Gary Thomas’s fine book from years back called, Sacred Marriage, and it has a subtitle, What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? And this was meant to be provocative, and I would want to urge us as he does in the book, that there is much happiness and joy through the pursuit of holiness. But the point is that we should not approach conflict as a nuisance, but as an opportunity to join Christ in his sanctifying work in our lives.
God is not busy making us comfortable, making us wealthy, making us happy, He is busy conforming us to Jesus. So we can accept conflict as a tool through which He’s showing us our weaknesses, exposing our sinful tendencies, training us in love and patience.
Oh, I want to have this attitude. So when a conflict surfaces, this is what we need to say, “How can I focus on God in this situation? How can I glorify Him in this situation?” 1 Corinthians 10 is a chapter in the Corinthian letters where Paul is dealing with a bunch of problems in that church and the people are treating each other really badly as he’s talking about it in chapter 10, and he gets to the end of verse 31, which is a famous verse we all know, and it’s where he says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,” in our case, resolving conflict, “do it all for the glory of God.”
So having a conflict and working through it is actually part of our worship. It glorifies God. So when conflict comes, no complaining. Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, that you may be children of God who shine like bright stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”
No complaining, rather, humble acceptance of the conflict as an opportunity. Focus less on going through conflict, focus more on growing through conflict. There is a tremendous source of freedom in this approach, because when you’re focused on God and His glory, you can be less dependent on the results of how the conflict actually turns out.
So if others refuse to respond well to your peacemaking efforts, and sadly, that does happen, you can still find comfort knowing that God is pleased with your obedience. Again, Ken Sande, he says, “The world wants to know what results have you achieved?” And God says, “Were you faithful to my ways?” So when we focus on our obedience, let God worry about the results, only He can change hearts anyway, we will be able to persevere at being peacemakers. And Jesus, who lived through many conflicts himself, he lives in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
So we have a power source to be transformed in our conflicts. Here’s a quote I read, “We desire the grace of relief, but God gives us the grace of empowerment.” Our airports, our hotel rooms, they have plugs and power sources everywhere now, right, for our devices, and we use them. Well, let’s not forget to plug into our power station, the Holy Spirit, who was powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead, now gives life to our mortal bodies, and through him, we can do this.”
So I’m on a list a few things that we can do by Christ’s power in us, but it’s only going to be with his power, we cannot do it on our own. So first, with Christ’s power, we can remember how graciously God has treated us through Jesus Christ. We must fix our minds and our hearts on this.
We will not treat others with love and forgiveness unless we remember that Jesus has shown us overwhelming kindness again and again when we don’t deserve it. A great passage to meditate on and to use is Colossians 3:12-15, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for as members of one body, you were called to peace.”
So when you’re thinking about a conflict, internalize these verses. Say to yourself something like this. Because God bears with me, I can bear with others. Because He forgives me, I can forgive others. Because He loves me, even though I constantly let Him down and hurt Him, I can love and be at peace with others.
Second, with Christ’s power, we can love others, even our enemies. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Such powerful words.
Sorry. Jesus died for you, for me, when we were his enemies. So we can imitate him doing the same thing, again, by his power, only by his power, showing the same kind of undeserved compassion to those who have wronged you.
Jesus actually commands this, and since he commands it, he will empower us. Luke 6:27 and 28, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Are we praying for those we are in conflict with? We should be. Are we asking God to bless them in prayer? Are we doing good deeds toward them? Jesus knows these behaviors will diffuse conflict. They will overcome evil with good, so he commands it.
And by his power, we can do this. Third, with Christ’s power, we can take initiative resolving conflict. Again, when we were sinners, Christ died for us. He took initiative with us so we can make the first move in seeking reconciliation with others.
And this should be true of us whether we have actually wronged someone and we know it or whether we have just suspect we have hurt someone by the way that they are treating us. Matthew 5:23 and 24 reinforces this, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them, then come and offer your gift.”
God holds both parties in a conflict responsible to initiate no matter who started it. So we shouldn’t sit back and wait for the other person, we should take initiative reaching out and peacemaking. With Christ’s power, we can also humbly admit our faults to God and to the people we are in conflict with.
Paul David Tripp and Tim Lane have noted that the fatal flaw of human wisdom today is how it promises you can change your relationships without needing to change yourself. Jesus puts us on the opposite path. He tells us to remove that log from our own eye before we think about taking the speck out of others.
And be reminded, Jesus already sees all of your sin in full graphic detail. He sees it clearly even when we don’t even see the true motivations of our own hearts. And yet, he forgives us in full. He forgives us. So we can feel the freedom to stop covering up and hiding our sins. We can bring them into the light before God and bring them into the light, admitting our sins to others, and know that we will find mercy and fresh cleansing every single time.
1 John 1:8 and 9, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And I find, just personally, that when people who are in positions of authority over others actually do this as part of living out their role, so think parents with children or think about your boss or maybe a leader at your church, when those people actually admit with humility and with ease their faults and ask forgiveness, wow, there’s so much power. It creates such an atmosphere of grace. So let’s be women who do that.
Another thing, with Christ’s power, we can overlook offenses. With Christ’s power, we can overlook offenses. There are times, maybe in family life, maybe with people you work closely with, where overlooking an offense is actually appropriate and helpful.
Now, I don’t mean running away or avoiding conflict like withdraw or yield, no. Rather, it’s a conscious choice to overlook a person’s fault in a particular moment and thereby create that atmosphere of grace, giving each other the benefit of the doubt. I think about this, if my spouse mentioned every single thing that I did every day that was unkind or that just bothered him, I’m telling you, I would be in timeout all day.
So we need, at times, to overlook each other’s offenses, and when we do, we’re actually imitating our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103, one of my favorite Psalms, if you haven’t memorized it, memorize it. There’s a verse that says, “Heavenly Father does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
It goes on to say that He has removed to them as far as the east is from the west. But there are many Proverbs that recommend this wisdom as well. Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience.It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” That was Proverbs 19:11.
One of my personal favorites is Proverbs 17:14, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before the dispute breaks out.” This idea, though, it’s also in the New Testament, 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.” Now, you have to use discernment for this, okay?
There are times when we should confront, absolutely, but there are times to overlook. Let me just run through a few times when we should confront, okay? Confront when, A, what has happened is damaging your relationship with that person. So these are times to confront, when what has happened is damaging. B, when what has happened is reflective of a pattern of behavior that is hurting you or other people around you. C, confront when what has happened is hurting the offender. So maybe something like substance abuse would be in this category. D, confront when what has happened dishonors God, particularly as other people see it. They know the offender is a believer, and that reflects back on God, on His reputation.So those would be times to make sure you confront.
That said, consider overlooking offenses, and when appropriate, create that atmosphere of grace. We can do all of these things, all of them by Christ’s power. Okay. Now, some instructions for those confrontation times. When the time does come to confront someone else, we must do it gently and with the goal of restoring the other person, not making her pay, not hurting her the way she hurt us.
Galatians 6:1 is a great verse for this, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” The verb restore, it’s the word used for mending, for repairing.
My youngest daughter, in fourth grade this year, had school shoes that, in this last month of school, they were done. I mean, there were holes in the bottom. We could see her toes and her socks looking through, but we were so determined not to buy her another pair of school shoes until next fall. So we duct-taped her shoes, and she wore them. She’s great. We made it through. This is the idea, though, making it useful again, restoring to fully help the person be useful again, that’s the idea.
If you are going to another person in confrontation and you’re really eager about it, you can’t wait to go and confront, stop, check your heart. You might be in danger of that payback motivation rather than, you know, wanting to gently restore.
Here are some tactics in communication to avoid. I’m going to give you some really practical communication things to avoid. First, avoid criticisms. Criticisms attack the character of a person rather than the problem. Instead, we should voice complaints, genuine complaints that focus on the behavior, not the person’s character. So a simpler way to say this is attack the problem, not the person. So avoid criticism.
Second thing, avoid contempt. This is where one person moves toward actually scorning the other person and showing that scorn. So it might include name-calling, mockery, sarcasm. It’s a clear expression of a decrease in admiration for the other person. So this is dramatic, but it’s like saying, “You stupid jerk, I should have known that you were going to do this.” Okay? There’s a marriage expert named Dr. Gottman, he says, “Contempt is one of the main signs that a marriage or a friendship is in deep trouble.”
In an argument, you can see it when someone rolls their eyes at another person or in parenting, right? That’s actually contempt. It’s a sign of contempt. So avoid contempt.
Avoid defensiveness. This is where we blame shift, we deny responsibility, we make excuses, okay? Defensiveness prevents genuine engagement. The opposite of it would be humble admission of wrong. So avoid defensiveness.
Avoid stonewalling. This is when a person literally turns into a stone wall before another person. They shut down, they clam up, they refuse to deal with the other person. Contrary to what most stonewallers think—and statistics show us, that men do this more frequently than women—this is not perceived as a neutral behavior, but rather as a behavior that’s hostile and punishing. So when men stonewall, women usually attack. They want a reaction. So it makes relating impossible.
Avoid mind-reading. Don’t assume anything about the other person’s motivation. Don’t make any judgments before hearing the person out. This is hard. We all too quickly think we have the situation and the other person all figured out. Don’t do that. Avoid mind-reading.
Avoid generalized statements. Stay away from words like always or never. So don’t say, “You always do that,” or, “You never remember,” right? These words, what do they do? They exaggerate. They assume you are keeping a record of wrongs, which 1 Corinthians 13 absolutely prohibits. And they attack the person, not the problem. So avoid generalized statements.
Well, these are some things to avoid, but what about things to do?
Let’s get positive. So here are some productive steps to follow. When resolving conflict, go face to face if possible. Okay, long-distance might affect us, but if you live close to the person, go face to face. So I’m in campus ministry and I’ve seen the change in our world, particularly, that technology has brought in, good and bad.
And I can’t tell you how many conflicts I counsel where the woman coming to me advice is showing me her text thread. I mean, and this is normal, I mean. And I think no wonder the conflict has gotten so big, because when you’re face-to-face, you can communicate so much in person through body language, through tone of voice. And you can miscommunicate on text, you know, without those things. So please go face to face when possible.
Second, resolve to discuss one issue at a time, just one issue at a time. If you’re talking and a second issue comes up, stop the conversation and actually label it as a second issue, and then determine to postpone that second issue discussion until the first issue is done, and then only address that second issue if both parties feel up for it because you might be exhausted by then.Okay, one issue at a time.
Third, one person should speak or have the floor at a time. The person speaking should take the time to be clear and specific, and each person should say something like the following. Here’s a little template. When you did or didn’t do “blank” in situation “blank,” I felt, “blank.”
So an example, “When you didn’t call to tell me you were going to be late for our dinner date, I felt frustrated.” Be really specific, be really clear.
And next, the second party, the person listening, should not interrupt. Never interrupt the person who has the floor. James Chapter 1 verses 19 and 20, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God.”
I once heard this little summary of this verse, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should be listening much more than we’re speaking. So the person may ask…the responder may ask the first person to clarify, he or she may pair it back what that first person has said to make sure that you really understand but don’t interrupt in a conflict.Don’t interrupt.
Okay, six, use “I” language instead of “You” language. So when you come into the conflict, don’t say, “You were trying to hurt me when you dismissed my idea.” Rather say, “I felt hurt when you dismissed my idea.” And this pronoun switch, this is so helpful.
I can’t tell you how many times this has helped me in a conflict, because sometimes when you’re confronting someone, their hurt was completely accidental or unintended. When you say, “You did this,” you’re attacking them. And immediately, defensiveness creeps up. But when you say, “I felt this way,” right, then they’re not hurt, and they can respond, and usually, you get care and concern back. So avoid second or third person. Use first-person, “I” language in a conflict.
Seven, allow for timeouts. If things get tense in the conversation, you should agree ahead of time that either party can feel the freedom to leave the discussion, to leave the room for a moment, to regain calm, and then to enter back in.That’s perfectly fine. And that’s better than blowing up at each other.
Eight, move the conversation toward something I call three A’s. I didn’t make up the three A’s, I was taught them. But move toward the three A’s. The three A’s are admit, apologize, ask for forgiveness.
So admit, right? Admit the wrong that has actually happened and be very specific and include detail. So like with my kids, they just want to say, “I’m sorry.” Like, “No. First, admit,” you know, “What did you do wrong?” “I know I have wronged you in this way.” “Okay, explain it.”
Second, apologize. Again, use detail. “I regret that I hurt you and I am sorry for the pain that I have caused you.” And then third, ask for forgiveness. Say, “Will you please forgive me for my offense?” And when possible, think of ways that you can mention of how you won’t repeat the offense in the future.
When these three A’s work together, there can be real closure and real forgiveness, not covering over or shoving it down. And those three A’s lead us to forgiveness. Cannot have a talk about how to have a good fight if we don’t briefly talk about forgiveness. Again, I could do many sessions on this topic.
This is a brief, little, a few comments on forgiveness. When we grant forgiveness to one another, it is a conscious choice to let go of the offense and your consequent anger. It does not mean that you say, “The offense doesn’t matter,” no. You look at the offense with your eyes open, you see it with all of its ugliness, and you still choose not to hold it against the person.
So forgiveness is granted way before it’s felt. If it’s ever felt, it’s granted. It involves making a promise. So here’s the promise you’re going to make to someone else in forgiveness. You will not bring up the offense with the person again. You will not bring it up to others. That’s gossip. You will not bring it up to yourself and dwell on it. That is forgetting the person’s sin. It doesn’t mean that the sin leaves your consciousness or that it won’t come to your mind, but it means that you commit yourself not to dwell on it, not to play the tapes of the offense over and over in your mind.
And the final promise is that you will not allow the incident to stand between you or hinder the relationship. And that one leads to reconciliation, right? That’s what reconciliation is, resuming a relationship once forgiveness has been granted. We will not do this unless we remember the cross, right?
You might speak to yourself like this, “However great my friend’s offenses are against me, when I compare them to my offenses against God, they’ll look like a molehill next to a mountain. If He has forgiven me, how can I possibly withhold forgiveness from her?”
Forgiveness has two forms, two aspects to it. There’s a great treatment of this in David Powlison’s book, Good and Angry, if you want to go deeper with this. Forgiveness has two parts. There’s attitudinal forgiveness, our attitudes, attitudinal forgiveness.
This is when you forgive another person before God, whether or not the other person even recognizes or admits that anything’s wrong. This is taught by Jesus. There’s two passages I’ll mention quickly. Mark 11:25, this is where Jesus says, “When you stand praying,” it’s similar to the Matthew 5:1, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father, in heaven, may forgive you your sins.”
Wow, our forgiveness is somewhat conditioned on our ability to forgive others. wow. Matthew 6:9-15, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
So in both cases, Jesus is showing us times of prayer, times when we are talking to God. We’re not talking to other people in those passages. So we stand before God and we are held accountable for our own attitudes. In Mark 11, we aren’t even told to try to figure out what happened in a conflict. Jesus simply says, “Forgive.”
But in the Lord’s Prayer, we are actually praying about times of wrongdoing, with people who have truly hurt us. Again, that prayer focuses our attitude toward heaven, toward our Heavenly Father, who is compassionate and gracious. But the prayer is meant to change us, not to deal with the other person. This is really convicting to me, because when I’m in a conflict, I just go to prayer about that other person right away like, “No.”
This prayer is meant to change us first, to incline us toward mercy.”So that when we go to resolve the conflict we go with the right attitude, with mercy. So this is attitudinal forgiveness. The second aspect of forgiveness is transacted forgiveness. Transacted forgiveness. Listen to these words from Jesus. Luke 17:3 and 4, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him.
If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you saying, “Comes back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Matthew 18, also, 18:15 and then farther down in the passage, 21 to 22, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Then Peter came to Jesus and said, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”
“Up to 7 times,” Jesus so that, “I tell you not seven times, but 77 times.” Notice again, both of these passages, Jesus is assuming that there’s a conversation happening to resolve conflict, but the conflict can be brought up constructively. The wrongdoer can be asked to be forgiven.
Both times, the offender is a repeat offender. She keeps doing it even when she’s admitted it’s wrong. And isn’t this reality, right? Isn’t this what we experience? This is why we need patients. We keep working on our attitudinal forgiveness so that in transacted forgiveness where we’re forgiving the other person, we have the ability to do it, the right attitude to do it.
We can have both. And this is where true peace comes in, true freedom. When there’s this kind of forgiveness, we can let go of our regrets, we can heal our relationships, and we can grow more like Jesus. So I see what the time is. I’m going to stop here and I’m going to say a benediction verse to you all. But if there’s anyone who wants to ask anything or keep talking, please come and speak with me.
So hear these words. Hear these words from Paul as you go out to be peacemakers, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you, sisters, live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through our bond of peace. Amen.”