Dealing with conflict is a heart matter
Think about the last time you were sorry for how an interaction went with another person. You butted heads; you spoke without thinking; the conversation went south.
Now consider the effect that encounter had on your soul. The Bible has some excellent wisdom for dealing with conflict so we can actually value it as a gateway to deeper relationships.
Did you know there is healthy conflict as well as unhealthy? Healthy conflict builds relationships and produces trust: iron sharpening iron.
Consider two different stories from the Book of John in the Bible. Chapter 8 contains a well-known account of Jesus’ mercy and grace toward a woman caught in the act of adultery.
Chapter 13 tells the story of Jesus’ rebuke of Peter’s pride and ego. Though Jesus responds differently in each situation, His goal was the same. God judges the heart, and dealing with conflict is a heart matter.
Too often we attempt to resolve conflict using our mind only, but in fact the first step to resolution is the need for a change in heart. And although each encounter with conflict is unique, there are steps we can take to both learn from it and master it:
Prepare for it
Acknowledge that conflict is always with us, and constructively dealing with it is high on God’s priority list. He desires that we successfully navigate conflict, so ask Him for help when you are about to enter into it.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Col 3:23a NIV)
You cannot always predict when conflict will surface, but you can know it when you see it. Recognizing conflict prepares you to be proactive rather than reactive.
“Behave yourselves wisely in your relations with those of the outside world, making the very most of the time and seizing the opportunity.” (Col 4:5 AMP)
Deal with it
The truth is, no matter which side of the conflict you are on, you have a choice: you can try to avoid it and pretend it doesn’t exist, you can sit in judgment and erect a wall of unforgiveness, or you can take the initiative to reconcile.
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.” (Eph 4:15 NLT)
Grow from it
Not all conflict will end successfully, but all conflict can teach us more about ourselves. Take time to learn from the experience, but don’t beat yourself up over it.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29 NIV)
Healthy conflict is a window into our heart and the door to deeper relationships. Without it, we can never get beyond superficial conversation.
Successfully navigating conflict demonstrates our willingness to be open to trusting others and our commitment to building each other up in love.