Growing through Conflict #6: Determine what you need to say.

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Conflicts are serious and important, so you can’t afford to simply “wing it.”

Some people have really great “people skills,” they are generally liked by most people so they are very comfortable around others. They might neglect thinking through what they need to say because they believe their above average verbal skills will easily smooth things over. Often the result is a superficial conversation lacking in power.

Some people avoid confrontation–even to the point of not wanting to think about it! Once the issue becomes unavoidable, a conversation happens but it lacks wisdom. To dermine what you need to say, here are a few things to consider:

First, determine your goal. What’s is the outcome you are looking to achieve? There are a countless selfish goals you could work towards, but prayerfully consider what God is directing you to do. Working through step 4 should set the general direction of your conversation, this step works out the specifics.

 

Second, write it out. Even if it’s just a few bullet points, take the time to give shape to your thoughts. Keep it brief: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11) You may want to bring your notes to the conversation, but even if you don’t, it’s still a good idea to capture what you are feeling and thinking. You may need to write out all the terrible stuff too–things you know you shouldn’t say, but want to.

Finally, consider how they might respond. Engage your imagination and try to predict how the other person will hear what you have to say. This will allow you to say things in the best possible way so that you might be heard. Additionally, thinking through different scenarios will prepare you for where ever the conversation might lead.

 

All of this is a lot of work, I know, but it’s worth the effort.

 

Growing through Conflict #5: Decide if you Ought to Say Something

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“You don’t have to say everything you are thinking.”

Through the years, I’ve heard this countless times from one of my mentors and best friends. I’m excessively expressive. A conversation with me can feel like running a marathon while drinking from a firehose while standing under an avalanche. I’m terrible at keeping a poker face and I don’t just wear my emotions on my sleeve, I put them up on billboards around town to make sure everyone knows what I’m thinking.

Not only can this be exhausting for my closest friends, it can also limit and hurt some other relationships. When I was younger, I lived with just enough self righteousness to to hide behind a shallow rationale: “Well it’s the truth, why can’t I say it?” I’ve learned–still learning, if I’m honest–that I don’t need to say everything I’m thinking. I don’t need to respond every time my feelings are hurt or I get angry or I think something is wrong.

On the surface, Proverbs 26:4-5 seems to offer conflicting instructions:

  • “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.”
  • “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

Once you have done significant reflection, you have to determine if you are going to “answer” (respond) or not. This Scripture gives us two guidelines to keep in mind: (1) we should speak up if we can keep from being foolish ourselves and (2) we should seek to help the other person gain wisdom. If we can’t fulfill these two criteria, we shouldn’t say anything.

These are tough criteria! In many situations they are impossible without God’s grace.

Many conflict avoiders do so with the rationalization that they are simply “keeping the peace.” But this often isn’t true because the war is still raging in your heart. In the midst of conflict, what motivates you to speak up or stay silent?

Growing through Conflict #4: Identify the “kind” of Conflict

Click here for the rest of the Growing through Conflict series.

As I see it, there are essentially three types of conflict: (a) personal offense, (b) disagreement, or (c) miscommunication.

Personal Offense

All conflicts carry a degree of emotion—this is what makes them so painful—however conflicts are especially charged emotionally when someone has been personally wounded. When a person feels attacked or devalued, the resolution of the conflict is more about humility and apology than words and ideas. “Right” or “Wrong” matter very little when someone is hurt.

Miscommunication

This kind of conflict is difficult to discern without reflection and conversation. Often two people enter a conflict believing they disagree. Once a conversation is started, they realize there was simply a miscommunication. Miscommunications don’t make the conflict any less real, but they can be easier to resolve.

Warning: For conflict avoiders who lack integrity, they might have a strong disagreement but play it off as a miscommunication to deflate the tension. This is a short term solution that often leads to devastating effects in the long term.

Disagreement

Not everyone has the same point of view. Most of the time, this is a good thing because we need the wisdom that comes from a different perspective. Disagreements are about individual differences, and when this kind of conflict happens, there are essentially three options: (a) Change your thinking, (b) hope they change their thinking, or (c) compromise and find some middle ground.

The word “kind” is misleading, since conflicts don’t fit into nice and neat little boxes. It’s more accurate to say three “flavors” of conflict, and while there is often a dominant flavor, the other flavors are typically mixed in too.

What do you think? Are there other “kinds” / flavors of conflict? What am missing?

Growing through Conflict #3: Evaluate your “Right” to be offended or hurt.

Click here for the rest of the Growing through Conflict series.

This step is tough! Now is the time to do some emotional “heart surgery”. It calls for prayer, reflection, and time in God’s Word. Oh, and honesty. The really hard part is being honest with yourself because our self-deceptions are so comforting. This is the step where you take your thoughts and feelings and evaluate them against the standard of God’s wisdom.

Here is a reality: Not everyone who is offended has a  “right” to be hurt. Often we are selfish and prideful and many conflicts only exist because of our immaturity. A child can get angry with only one scoop of ice cream, and adults can often act like children.

Some people do the opposite. When they experience a legitimate injustice, they are too quick to minimize their pain.This isn’t healthy. Adopting a victim mentality or martyr complex is actually an expression of a pride that says, “Look at how much I suffer.”

This step isn’t black or white. It’s not like you either have the right to be hurt or you don’t. Instead, this evaluation is about identifying on one hand what you need to “own,” and on the other, what you need to forgive. Here is the golden opportunity in conflict: giving up more selfishness and pride while forgiving others like Jesus.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 13:10, 16:2, 18:2; Luke 23:34

Growing through conflict: #2 Discern your internal triggers

Every conflict reveals something about your identity.
A conflict can be like a mirror for your soul–if you take the time to look.

What was it about this conflict that made you angry (or hurt, etc.)? The typical response isn’t good enough: “Anyone would get angry at this!” And here’s why: when we rush past examination to arrive at justification, we miss learning critical personal insights.

It’s difficult to go beneath the surface and examine our motives. First, this isn’t something we normally do, it’s much easier to simply respond or react. But we are more than animals, we don’t have to be driven only by instinct! Second, our motives are often mixed and can even contradictory. Sometimes we love a thing, and later we hate it. Sometimes both love and hate the same thing. Other times we love two things that are mutually exclusive. To gain greater insight about your internal triggers, consider the following:

 

  • Assumptions: What expectations did I bring into this conflict?
  • History: Did I have any grudges or unfinished business from the past?
  • External factors: Did anything from “outside” the conflict make things worse?

 

Read and reflect on Psalm 19:12.

 

Growing through conflict: #1 Identify the basic facts

Conflicts come in all shapes and sizes. They are rational and emotional and the most difficult ones are personal. It’s tough to think clearly when we’ve been hurt, offended, angered, etc. (chose your own description, I don’t want to put you in a box!). Everyone has blindspots, and these seem to grow when we feel attacked.

To grow through conflict, the first step is to identify the basic facts of the situation. This can lead to greater perspective and objectivity. Feelings are important, but you’ll examine those after looking at the surface details. Ask yourself:

  • Who was involved? Who saw what happened?
  • What happened—what was done and said? Create an order of events that reflect the causes and effects.
  • When and where did this take place? How did the time and place impact the conflict?

Read and reflect on Psalm 4:4.

 

Who Will Rescue Us?

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:21-24)

In this world, on this side of eternity, life is difficult and draining. Every failure creates conflicting feelings that are hollow and heavy. Daily, we are:

  • shamed by sins
  • ensnared by passions
  • enslaved by fears
  • burdened by cares
  • entangled by vanities
  • surrounded by errors
  • worn out by labors
  • oppressed by temptations
  • weakened by pleasures
  • tortured by want**

In light of all that we are facing, who will rescue us? Where can find deliverance? Where do we look to find the essential help we desperately need?

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

Salvation isn’t a gift that begins the moment we die. That would be gift enough, but there is more. Salvation is also help for the problems we face today. In Jesus we can rely on God’s strength. There are many situations and circumstances beyond our control that threaten to overwhelm us. We are drowning, sinking fast beneath the waters, and we need help.

We cannot WILL IT or WISH IT all away. The strongest among us do not have enough strength. We cannot sustain a lifelong push against  the impurities of the world and in our own hearts.

We can only trust Jesus.

The one who saves us, today and every day into eternity.

 

-MM

**This list is adapted from “The imitation of Christ,” by Tomas A Kempis (chapter 48).

 


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Meet The Controllers

They fear the unknown and hate the unknowable.
They answer questions without questioning answers.

Greet you with a plastic face,
Face their life with an iron fist,
Fractured heart with empty joy.

Predictable is comfortable is predictable.
Cage the dragons, vanish the chaos!
Make life safe like a roller coaster.

Lock it down!
Label it right!
Get it figured out tonight!

The controllers know, but never show:
All their efforts end in pain, and
Misery knows no other company.

Instead of letting go and
In place of looking in,
Indulge they do, in vanity-insanity:

“I can’t control it all, so let’s pretend.”

Two Responses to Conflict

Let’s face it, no one likes conflict.

However, conflict is inevitable. It’s never a question of IF a conflict might occur, it’s a question of WHEN. If a conflict is handled with maturity, it can lead to tremendous growth. We can grow closer to God, others, and even develop personal insight. Conflict creates unique opportunity.

There are two common responses to conflict—imploding and exploding—and neither are healthy. The “imploders” bottle up their feelings, while the “exploders” do the opposite: everyone knows how they feel.

Handling conflict poorly often leads to relational issues. The imploders may be good at keeping the peace, but are lonely because no one knows how they really feel. The exploders may be good at “keeping things real”, but others can pull away in fear of the next outburst.

Both responses to conflict offer short term solutions. For the imploder, everything eventually comes out and a conflict become much intense than it should. For the exploder, he or she may recover quickly after an episode, but everyone else the after effects linger.