Compassionate Conflict

Have you noticed that there are a lot of dissenting opinions in the world today? There are so many areas where we think differently – vaccines, government, abortion to name a few. And many people are very passionate and vocal about their positions. And guess what? This can result in conflict. But all is not lost. When managed biblically and compassionately, conflict can help us to maintain and grow our relationships.
Below are some guidelines for compassionate conflict management.

  • Before you respond to the situation:
    Take a break, think it through, and pray about your response. Doing this may prevent crucial mistakes which can negatively impact the relationship. Proverbs has some good advice that encourages us to take a pause – “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control”(Proverbs 29:11).

Think about whether it is worth your time and effort to address the situation. Then, reflect on your own attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses and whether you may have contributed to the situation. It’s hard to believe but sometimes the problem may be more about us than the other person.

  • If you are moving forward with addressing the conflict situation:
    Press forward slowly, with forethought and self-control. Jesus provides us with direction for approaching someone in a conflict situation. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you won your brother over.”I believe this is an encouragement to go to the other person and speak with them alone – without sharing with others, without gossiping about it, and without trying to recruit others to your side. This will provide a much better chance of restoring the relationship.
  • Below are some additional guidelines to use:
    Plan a timeto discuss when you are both well-rested and in a good state of mind to be objective and show compassion to the other party.
    Clearly define the issue and keep the discussion focused on it. I used to be really good at dredging up all kinds of things from the past (and may still do this on occasion). It’s best to stay focused and not rehash past issues or hurts.
    Affirm the relationship. For example, “Our relationship is important to me, so I wanted to discuss something that has been on my mind with you. I feel hurt when you cancel the plans we have made at the last minute.”
    Show compassion and kindness. Once you share your feelings, lean in and listen actively to the other person’s perspective. Make sure that your body language, tone of voice, and other actions convey that you are open to their viewpoint. No eye-rolling, shrugging, or sighing allowed – even if you want to! Summarize and reflect back to the individual what you believe you have heard.
    Propose a solutionWhen working toward a solution, consider Philippians 2:4-5: “Each of you should look not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Strive for solutions that keep everyone’s best interests in mind.

What if the other person isn’t receptive to your efforts and/or willing to resolve the conflict? Then, as hard as it may be, forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven you. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

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