This last weekend our guest preacher, Dr. Dave Miles, concluded his sermon with three practical steps to peace with God and others:
- Let conflict be your teacher
- Quit dirty fighting
- Let Jesus’ peace rule your life in the midst of chaos
My reflection is that we, at CCC, over the last few years, have allowed unhealthy communication, including gossip, triangulation, and mind reading to become normalized. This, by the grace of God, needs to stop. What follows are some basic biblical conflict resolution guidelines. There will be more teaching on this in the coming months…
“And I say to you that every careless word that [people] shall speak, they shall render account for in the day of judgment.” —Matthew 12:36
Good Communication within the church conveys accurate information and gives an opportunity to correct misinformation. It is as necessary to the healthy function of a congregation as the circulatory system is in our bodies. Conflict, it should be noted, is also a normal experience in congregational life. It’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when.” When conflict occurs, it demands immediate attention. Conflict that is not attended to immediately is like a neglected infection, and sooner or later it will engulf the entire organism.
Following are some Bible passages that instruct us in the use of our tongues:
- “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle.” —Psalm 39:1
- “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” —Proverbs 12:18
- “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” —Proverbs 21:23
- “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceit; with his mouth one speaks peace to his neighbor, but inwardly he sets an ambush for him.” —Jeremiah 9:8
- “If anyone thinks himself to be [Godly], and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” —James 1:26 (See also James 3:3-18)
Defining Key Terms:
Gossip: Sharing anything about someone, when the act of sharing it is not part of the solution of that person’s problem.
Triangulation: Using “go-betweens” to communicate indirectly with other people; resulting in unsuspecting, but sympathetic, message-bearers becoming entangled in speculation and miscommunication.
Mind Reading: Thinking (and usually saying) that you know what another person is thinking or feeling.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Showing hostility and aggression in passive ways.
“Taking Up An Offense”: Sharing our hurts and bitterness and listening to others share theirs is an area where we need to be very careful. For example, if someone is rude to your best friend and your friend shares and “leaks” their hurt on you, then you might be tempted to “take up an offense” on their behalf; which means that you get hurt too. What can happen is that when your friend and the other person resolve their conflict – forgive and forget, you’re still bitter!
“Wise counselor:” Proverbs 11:14 declares, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.” Sometimes “getting counsel” is merely a pretense for gossip. What is a “wise counselor”?
- A wise counselor is someone who is mature in the Lord and who will exhort you to godliness and reconciliation.
- One who is willing to point out your sin in the situation, and who will not repeat the matter or be stumbled by it.
- One who is seeking God’s will over-and-above your desire(s).
It should also be noted that we can pursue counsel without revealing the name of the person we’re having a problem with.
Basic Biblical Conflict Resolution Guidelines:
- Conflict is inevitable. Embrace it. God will use it.
- Before addressing any conflict ask, “How have I contributed?” Because, you most likely have. Own what you can own first! (Matt 7:5)
- Keep short accounts in any conflict. If you need to talk to others do so in a reasonable amount of time.
- Practice the basics consistently:
- Take the log out of your own eye first (Matt 7:5)
- Go be reconciled (Matt 5:23-24)
- Confront in love (Matt 18:15-18)
- Restore in gentleness (Gal 6:2).
- Work the basics but realize that most conflict is rooted in deeper (systemic, family of origin) issues.
- Some conflict is rooted deeply in the emotional system of a person’s life (Ex 20:5, 34:6-7; Deut 5:9). This must be kept in mind when attempting to reconcile a conflict. When in conflict ask, “What am I feeling and what is the conflict saying about or to me?” (Prov 15:1). Or ask, “What is behind this?” This is especially true when there is explosive behavior or deep emotional reactivity in the conflict. This can often be related to family of origin issues.
- The goal of conflict resolution is always restoration. The goal is not to prove you are right! Don’t violate the spirit of the law while following the letter of the law.
- Forbearance is a gift. Some conflict may never be resolved. It a [person’s] glory to overlook an offense (Pro 19:11).
- Seek first to understand before being understood. Examples of what this may look like (this is part of the key to lowering reactivity in others and often this alone solves the problem). Sincerely ask: “Help me to understand…”
- When confronting create as much safety as possible. Affirmation of another persons feeling is helpful. Example: “I can understand why you feel that way.”
- Give yourself grace when you make a mistake or create a conflict or blow a confrontation. And then get back on the horse…
- Some conflict may only be resolved by forgiving others. To forgive is to bear the wounds of another and not hold them accountable. To not forgive is to often take on the negative qualities of those who hurt you.
- Resolving conflict doesn’t mean that you let others trample godly boundaries (by continuing to hurt you) or by being a doormat or by not holding others genuinely and justly accountable for their choices that hurt you.
- Do not triangulate, or allow yourself to be triangulated by another person (see above). If you have questions or concerns go to the person and learn the skills of asking questions and engaging in honest dialogue.
- When there are occurrences of “outbursts of anger” recognize that anger is a secondary emotion. We need to ask, what is the primary emotion? Hurt? Fear? Frustration? Own it and confess it.