When you have two people in a dating or marriage relationship, no matter how much they have in common or how much in love they are, conflict is inevitable. We are imperfect people. We have different ways of looking at things. We have different emotions, hopes, desires, personalities, and just about everything else you can name. Because conflict is inevitable and since it robs many relationships of their joy, we need to look at ways to manage conflict in a way that strengthens our relationships instead of destroying them. Download this sermon below. You can also read through the 6 steps talked about in Sunday's sermon along with other resources.
Galatians 5: 13-18
Steps to Resolving Conflict in Your Relationships
Step One: Determine how your differences make you view situations unequally
Both small & large differences between the two individuals guarantee conflict. Try to evaluate this situation from both points of view taking into account why you have differing points of view or reactions to a situation.
Step Two: Determine where your own selfishness or pride may be in the way
Selfishness is a character flaw which every person has. It’s in our nature. Sometimes we allow it or pride (which is an extension of selfishness) to keep us from self examination. Cool off, be introspective, and find where it may be involved in this situation. It rarely isn’t at least to some degree, even if it’s just in the way we react or in the way we want to confront someone.
Philippians 2: 2-4
Step Three: Resolving conflict requires confrontation
The word ‘confrontation’ always seems like something bad, but when done with the intent to better a relationship, it can be a very good thing. The worst thing we can do with actual hurt is to ignore it. If we value a relationship then we should care enough to fix any problems.
Matthew 5: 23-34
Ephesians 4: 25-26
Step Four: Resolving conflict requires a loving approach
Conflict is easy constructive or destructive – there is no real middle ground. To help make sure you do your part to make it strengthen your relationship, ask a few questions. Plus, always remember your should confront out of love, tempered by grace, and with a patient spirit. What is your motivation? How is your attitude? Is the right time and place? Am I ready to listen? Am I ready to admit any of my own faults? Am I ready to focus on this situation and not bring up 20 others? Can I keep from attacking them? Am I ready to accept what they say? Now you may not be able to positively answer all of these, but you should at least consider them to help you approach them in a loving manner.
Step Five: You must be open to the idea of forgiveness
If you aren’t open to the idea of forgiving someone then is there any potential benefit to confronting them? Yes, you may get the situation out in the open which is needed, but was there a way to address it that would have made forgiveness possible? Waiting for a better time, spending more time ‘cooling off’, spending more time in prayer or reflection on the issue…? Albeit most conflict happens before we truly have time to go through all the steps, but we must accept that not only does God want us to forgive, no conflict an truly be settled until we do forgive. That includes situations where they ask for it and those they don’t. In the end forgiveness is between us and God. The other person is just the circumstance. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Step Six: Resolving conflict requires returning a blessing for an insult.
One of the most difficult things to do when we find ourselves in an argument is to not become defensive. Even if we know we are the ones at fault, our natural tendency to defend ourselves at all cost kicks in. First off, if we’re bringing up a hurt in order to resolve it, we need to anticipate they might (or will) become defensive. We probably would in their shoes. Second, we need to anticipate their defensiveness might include attacks directed at us which naturally will make us lash out. If we’re not ready to be the “bigger person”, which includes not pointing out how much of the bigger person we are, then maybe we need to wait to start the conflict. 1 Peter 3:8-9 says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
Steps and recommendations such as the ones above sound great but are seldom followed as written. Our lives are never as predictable and planned out as this or any method of conflict resolution. However the more we try to remember these principles, the more often our hurts or arguments can be managed in a way that is more productive than destructive. And before we purposefully initiate conflict, it is completely up to us as to whether or not it will be done out of love.
* adapted from 6 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage by Dennis Rainey
Here are some other resources for you to look through: