If you are alive (which I gather you are, because you are reading this), you’ve realized that this word is unavoidable.
It’s not a dirty little word.
It’s actually, if looked at differently, an amazing opportunity … really!
It’s an amazing opportunity for a couple of things.
Dealing with conflict in a relationship has the amazing ability to bring people closer together. It also has the amazing ability to create a great divide. The difference is in our responses to conflict, to the people involved and to the mirror conflict uses to show us what is in our own heart, if we dare to look.
Conflict harnessed and maneuvered through correctly can be a very powerful tool and catalyst to some of the greatest changes we desire to see in our relationships and lives. It’s all about how we view it, and yes, I‘ve learned this all too well the hard way.
I was actually asking the Lord, “Do you seriously want me to write about this?! You know, since you are, like, God, You are kind of putting me in the sweet spot Lord… Cheers, to more opportunities to practice what you preach/write, right Jesus?.”
Of course in true Holy Spirit style this week lent itself to opportunities to test what the Lord has taught me about the double-edged beauty of conflict, posing this question to my heart, “Do I really believe and live what He has taught me over the years about conflict?” With a deep glance into my heart the answer is both yes and no. Do I believe it? Undoubtedly, yes. Do I always live it, or better yet, do I always get it right, without hesitation? NO. That is where grace comes in.
Grace is not an excuse for bad behavior in relationships. This is all about the grace you walk in, is the grace you can give to yourself and others. You can not give grace you have not experienced or received. Grace is about You and God. Grace makes the gospel we believe to be true a reality in everyday life (that Jesus came for us in all our mess, completely aware of our mess and He chose us anyway. He then gave His life so He could hold our hand through a life that is messy, one He told us in advance would not be easy, but that He has overcome). Grace in conflict is about taking a step back and acknowledging God (a kind of God that sent Jesus, the God that sent grace), asking Him to come into your conflict and lead you through it because you don’t have all the answers. In simplicity it mirrors Lordship, but sometimes in the heat of conflict the truth is we feel a little more, “Oh, no you didn’t!,” then, “Come Jesus.” Or maybe it’s just me, oh but nah, I know better!
Conflict is no respecter of persons, it presents itself in all sizes, ages and relationships, (the ‘I DO’ relationship will definitely give you some opportunities to practice some of these grace in conflict tips for sure. ) Here are a few things the Lord has spoken to me over the years and I pray they are helpful to you in turning conflict into an opportunity that produces life in your relationships and doesn’t destroy it.
Consider The Equation (Conflict should be an equation solved not a problem without a solution)
I was 20 years old the first time God spoke to me about how dealing with conflict was like working a math problem. I had a friend I loved dearly that I began to see making decision that I felt were going to be hurtful to her in the end, it just ebbed at my heart because I loved her so much. I’ve always been one to choose my words carefully because, well, I really love words and I’m a firm believer that words matter. You can be forgiven for what you say, but only time and the building of trust can take the sting of choice words away. So I watched and waited hoping I wouldn’t have to say anything because I was so not the lover of conflict at the time. I began to grow frustrated and hurt because I stuffed a concern until a conflict grew in my own heart. I remember it growing to the point I just wanted to call her, no “Hello.”, just “This is actually what I think about this and that and THAT!”
I felt it, that ugly feeling had crept in, I took a deep breath, I searched for the word that would give voice to what was happening in my heart, then it came like an elevator coming to a halt; judgment.
I had crossed over into judgment and it happened in a flash. It happened because I choose not to communicate, so what was simply a concern out of love became a conflict that became a judgment and now I had set myself up to stand up under the same judgment in which I had judged. The ugliness caused me to open my heart up to God, (which would have been really awesome if I had done that at first). First I repented of judgment, I asked for and received grace for myself, then I asked for grace to walk through the conflict.
It’s then He spoke to my heart and I saw this equation:
God asked me, “Are you willing to work the equation to solve the problem?”
“Of course I am, I want to fix it, I want it to be better!”
“What if that means you are the one that has to change the way they communicate so you can be heard? What if it requires you lay down your way of doing things to get the desired outcome that is in your heart? What if it requires that you choose to do something different than you’ve done before?”
“Whew. Wow. Honestly I’m scared … only because I don’t fully understand, but I’m willing. Lord would show me what I don’t know, help me see what I don’t see.”
A: It was then God began to speak to my heart about how my friend heard a whisper like a roar in conflict because of what she had been through in her life. He said she would be able to hear my heart if I first affirmed how much I loved her and how meaningful her friendship had been to me over the years and the value that I held her in high esteem in my heart.
B: Then I would be able to address my concern by asking questions and being respectful to not accuse or attach perceived motive to her actions. After being careful to listen and not talk over and interrupt I could submit my concern to be considered because of my value and love for who she is as a person.
C: I got to share a confidant acknowledgement that I was thankful that this resolved conflict made us closer because we were vulnerable enough to share in honesty our true feelings that gave our friendship a new maturity and richness.
Because God is, like brilliant, this totally worked. Imagine that. God and grace with results; A+B=C
Of course this was custom wisdom for this conflict, this friend and this situation but I’ve been tested to work this equation in several other situations and in my marriage. It does require acknowledging and hearing God, receiving grace and giving it.
I’ve learned that my way is saying what I want to say in the moment to get it off my chest (because that does feel good for like 2 seconds, I’m not going to lie) BUT that does not result in C! I’ve totally proven this, trust me on this one and let me save you from some hardship. Simply take a moment and breathe, walk out of the room if you have to. Choose to acknowledge God and ask for grace to communicate in a way that is gracious and reflects mutual honor. When you blow it (and you will) call on grace, He is always with you, be quick to repent. You may miss the exit but there are always U-turns. I just (while preparing this article) had to go to my husband and say, “I communicated in a way that caused me not to be heard, will you forgive me and can we try talking about that again?”
You have the power of choice to choose to see conflict as an opportunity instead of a great divide.
Always be adding tools to your communication tool box (Be a learner of Grace)
- Ask questions don’t assume
- Respect each others truth about the same situation
- Don’t abuse “I feel” statements if you are not willing to listen to the other’s feelings
- Resolving conflict is about listening with more than just your ears (remember 90% of communication is body language), use words like, “I hear you saying with your words this …., but I’m also hearing that you are … hurt, fearful, frustrated etc. from your tone, demeanor etc. can we talk about that?
- Choose honor over control
- Take responsibility not blame
- Realize God doesn’t take sides with His children … He is working all things together for the growth and maturity of each involved
- Believe the best, even when the best is not what you see (this is not an excuse to stay in abusive relationship, it’s about keeping your heart positioned in Godly love.)
- Remember the power of blessing
I also understand and have experienced that there are relationships in this life where it just doesn’t work out the way it is in your heart and it is painful. In every varying level or relationship we participate in we take a risk to invest a part of our lives. We risk when we share who we are, we ultimately risk when we love and love takes these kind of risks. It’s in the risk we find honest community and vulnerable life exchanges. These relationships when found are well worth the risk, people are what make our lives rich. I have looked back over my own life and said it was better to have loved then not to have. Even knowing that, it is human to think of ways we could have done things differently because we were made for love and every broken relationship in which we made an investment hurts. If you’ve walked through that kind of severing, I want to say I’m so sorry and validate the disappointment, regret and loss you feel. It’s so very real.
Whether it was a friendship, a boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, even church or job leaving experience I pray Grace rests on your heart. I pray for grace to grieve loss, grace to climb up to the balcony of your faith and hear God’s truth about you and the situation. I pray grace carries you and helps you find your place to ‘camp out’ in truths about His love and grace that keep your heart dependent and free from offense … a place where grace teaches our hearts to love in the face of any circumstance.
I believe there is grace in conflict. I believe in choosing grace (Jesus) and it’s (His) ability to teach us in the face of the many messy situations we will experience in this life. I believe in you and your ability to turn conflict into an opportunity and your ability to hear His voice!