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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
… there is nothing false about [Jesus]. (John 7:18)
I’ve seen people tell lies–“white” ones too–for the following reasons:
- To ACCOMPLISH their agendas.
- To AVERT undesirable, yet deserved, consequences for their actions
- To AVOID conflict with others.
The first group is far too practical, they will say whatever works in the moment in order to get what they want. Justification is easy when the ends justifies the means. Rationalization is even easier when the final goal is good (for example, carrying on the work of the kingdom). An elder of a church I once said, “telling a white lie is ok if it benefits everyone involved.” I chuckled, with as much gentleness as I could muster (which wasn’t much, given the situation), I said, “that simply isn’t true, there is no teaching in scripture that supports this thinking.” These people know what they want and will say anything to get it.
The second group is far too irresponsible and they love their comfort. Rather than own up to their mistakes, they seek to dodge the consequences they deserve. “It’s only cheating if you get caught” is the mentality.
The final group is far too accommodating and they love their “peace” with others too much. The bitterness and resentment in their hearts keeps them from showing actual grace. Instead, a superficial counterfeit is used instead. It’s easy to keep the peace when we get to keep the war alive in the privacy of our minds.
What gets in the way of you telling the truth?
I recently met with a hurting youth worker. While the situation was a little unusual, the result was common: conflict. After reflecting on our conversation, I articulated the following lessons in my journal so I don’t forget them the next I need to restore a relationship. Continue reading “another tale of a hurting youth worker”