“As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”—Romans 12:18
Last week we began discussing how conflict can be an opportunity for growth. This week we’re continuing that discussion by addressing the important work of peacemaking. To do that, I want to borrow heavily from a very helpful pamphlet I mentioned last week, Conflict: A Redemptive Opportunity by Tim Lane.
According to Lane, there are three common but mistaken strategies for dealing with conflict.
- Win – Those who are driven by power or success tend toward the win approach. This person resists discomfort, hates failure, and the feeling of being “out of control.” They are willing to hurt feelings or sacrifice relationship if it means they can win the conflict.
- Please – Those seeking acceptance or approval typically favor the pleaser approach. They do not want to rock the boat, so they tend to be
quick to agree and have a very hard time saying, ‘No’ because they fear rejection. As an aside, this person also tends to overcommit (in order to please), which puts him or her in potential conflicts with other.
- Avoid – Those who desire comfort or acceptance often use the avoid tactic. Like the pleaser, this person fears rejection, but their approach is not to agree but to flee a situation. They avoid the persons or issues that need answers and direction, and they maneuver around conflict rather than address it.
Replacing the self-centered strategies above, Lane urges us toward a God-centered and other-centered approach to conflict. Rooted in the teaching of Scripture, specifically James 4, Lane suggests five steps.
- Self-Examination – Before you can begin to rightly address a conflict, you must first be honest with yourself. As we discussed last week, this begins by taking the “log out of your own eye first.” (Luke 6:42)
- Engage in Intelligent Repentance – Once you’ve been honest with ourselves in relationship to truth, we are ready to begin asking questions of your heart, teasing out the sinful behaviors and motivations. With the help of God’s Word and Spirit, you can begin to see how your heart set itself on something other than God’s glory and love, and thus your sin caused or exacerbated the conflict.
- Consider the Other Person – Whenever God begins to draw you unto Himself in love, you will also experience a drawing of yourself to your neighbor—even the person(s) of the conflict. You will find your heart softening towards them when you realize your sin against them.
- Move Toward the Person in Love – It’s not enough to be drawn toward the other person in thought or feeling. You must actively move toward them in love. If the repentance is real and genuine, it will be manifested in obedient action of love toward the other with the hope of reconciliation.
- Make a Plan – Bringing resolution to a conflict will require a plan. You must make real steps toward relating to this person in a different, godly way. Further, it’s important that you distinguish the issue from the sin, that you’re honest about your own self-examination and sin with them, that you seek and ask for forgiveness, explore possible solutions if the issue is still outstanding, and agree to get help from the outside if you can’t reach a solution.
As we face conflicts within our life and church, I pray these instructions become characteristic of our life together.