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.

 

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.

Surviving the Sting of Rejection [updated]

No one likes rejection. It’s sting is so painful because it’s personal.

Get a black eye from an injustice and it’s because the world isn’t fair….rage against the world!
Get knocked down from a rejection and it’s because I’m not good enough….you can try to rage against the world, but you always end up attacking yourself.

How do you respond when you experience rejection? These waters aren’t fun to swim in, but the reflection is worth the effort. Here’s how I typically respond to rejection. Fair warning, this isn’t a delightful list:

Retreat—I engage my friends, but withdraw from my enemies (or “non-friends”). When I’m rejected, I retreat. I won’t even argue when I’m rejected because I feel like disagreement is a gift for my friends. (I’m so opinionated, I’ve got plenty to give! HA.). Isolation feels like the best way to minimize the painful and poisonous effects of rejection. And while this may be a common response, it’s counter productive. We are deceiving ourselves if we think life is better spent alone. For me, maturity refuses to retreat and I choose to engage.

Rage—I rage at the (apparent) injustice of not being accepted. In the universe named “Matt,” there’s no logical reason why I wouldn’t be chosen. I mean, I’d choose me, so everyone else should do the same? For me, maturity rejects ego and chooses humility.

Devalued—I create a list of all the reasons I must not be good enough to be accepted. For me, maturity shifts the focus, to seeking approval from God rather than others.

Comparison—I begin to think, “If only I was different, like someone else who was accepted, then I could have avoided the rejection.” The feelings and thoughts left in the wake of rejection are paradoxical. On one hand, nothing about me needs to be changed, on the other hand, if I was different, the rejection wouldn’t have happened. For me, maturity means learning how God is changing me rather than becoming a duplicate copy of someone else.

Flee to the familiar—This response isn’t negative. Rejection in one area of my life pushes me to the comfort of other relationships, ones that are trusted and true. This response is different from retreating because it’s a reminder of the good relationships that already exist in my life. We are called to carry one another’s burdens, and it’s ok to let the trusted carry our burdens.

Demonize—I can attack the rejector, listing out their countless flaws and innumerable foolishnesses. Some of  are real, but many are imagined. Truth is that nothing clouds judgment and creates bias like rejection. For me, maturity means withholding judgement; and when this is not possible, it means withholding ACTION based on on that judgement.

Self-Praise—When I’m rejected, I’ll counteract the “not good enough” feelings (devalued, above) with all of my achievements and success—some of which are real, but many are imagined. Nothing inflates the ego like a rejection. For me, maturity means submission to God according to Romans 12:3, seeking a sober self assessment.

Re-define—Near the end of my response to rejection, I work to burry it. I re-write history by reinterpreting the rejection as ignorance. I haven’t been rejected, just misunderstood. I land on thinking, “They weren’t worth the effort of explaining myself anyhow.” For me, maturity means avoiding the pity party, and trying to understand what happened by making up stuff that isn’t true.

What an Ugly List!

Maybe you are thinking, “That’s more nasty than the scorpion at the top of this post.” Yea, I agree.

There are tons of unhealthy ways to respond to rejection. Many people try to pretend it didn’t hurt (this is one response I don’t have). Without the self-insight that comes from reflection, our rationalizations will run rampant and the self-deceptions will quickly become self-destructive.

We can’t eliminate rejection—we live in an imperfect world.
However, we can mitigate the damage done to our souls and relationships.

Let’s take our rejection to the foot of the cross. Surrendering, confessing, resting in his perfect love–a love that is utterly rejectionless.

 

 

 

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