Conflict—a word that can strike fear into some of us because we remember hearing that Christians don’t experience conflict. Life, however, has a way of causing us to question that statement. So how do Christians handle conflict?
I remember a student in one of my adult degree completion groups. She seemed to think any work she submitted should be accepted, whether it met established criterion or not. I felt ineffective in communicating with her—and soon either of us could hear what the other was saying.
One evening in the midst of another attempt to explain expectation, a colleague joined us. Before long, Judy was “interpreting” what each of us was communicating. At the end of that conversation, the student and I understood each other—thanks to Judy’s intervention.
Whenever individuals work together to create a ministry or to achieve a common goal, conflicts occur. Based on The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and ideas adapted from this web site, http://www.gdrc.org/decision/conflict-resol.html, (retrieved on April 19, 2011), here are eight steps to resolving conflicts:
1. Pray. While this may sound like a platitude, praying is the best way to start conflict resolution. As you pray about the situation, ask God’s guidance as you seek resolution. Pray that God will reveal your role in the conflict, too.
2. Define the conflict. Step back from the situation and look at it objectively. What caused the conflict? Is there a different way to view the event that created the conflict?
3. Define the desired result. When you’re involved in a conflict, ask yourself, “What results do I want?” Honestly answering this question directs the approach your take.
4. Consider overlooking the offence. Some disputes are insignificant and, therefore, are easily resolved when we quietly and deliberately overlook the offence and forgive the person who wronged us. An example is when someone makes flippant remarks that offend you.
Focus on the problem rather than the person. Consider your relationship with those involved in the conflict. Identify your shared concerns and needs. Keep the focus on cooperation rather than competition.
5. Discussion uses confession or loving confrontation to resolve the conflict. In this method of reconciliation, individuals talk about the circumstances that led to the conflict, the role each played, and what they can do to resolve the issue. Discussion involves naming the problem, identifying your role in the conflict, using “I” statements, and accepting the role each party played.
Also practice good listening skills. That is, pay attention to what the person is saying rather than forming your reply. Remember listening is an act of caring by giving the speaker your full attention.
6. Start with the doable. As you work through this process, what are the small steps you can take to resolve the conflict? Focus on them while continuing to work toward complete resolution.
7. Practice forgiveness. In the mid 1980s, Harold Ivan Smith wrote a book entitled Forgiveness is For Giving. He reminded the reader that forgiveness is a decision, one that may be repeated, and one that is given away.
8. Return to step one—pray. Ask friends to pray with you. If you meet with those involved in the conflict, have people praying for you during the meeting.
Remember that anger and differences of opinions are part of daily life. It’s how you cope with and react to these differences that matters. Anger is an emotion, a feeling, with nothing good or bad about it; therefore, even as Christians, we will become angry and experience conflict. However, our Christian experience should help us handle the situations effectively and peacefully.
Perhaps you have a story of conflict resolution. Use the tabs at the left to submit your story.