Let’s start with this: Not all conflict is bad. In fact, when we come together and speak our truth within the community, we are more likely to come to a better resolution. Resolving conflict in marriage, relationships and board meetings can all be tricky. Each one can be approached in a biblical way.
Peace does not equal avoiding conflict. Instead, the only way to keep the peace is to confront the conflict and follow the outline we were provided in the Bible.
Begin with prayer
When addressing conflict, start with prayer. If you are in the workplace and prayer isn’t a group solution, then say one silently; no one is stopping you. Ask God to direct your words in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Let God take the lead and ask that He give you the opportunity to love those at the table with you as His creations, and not your enemy.
Address it immediately
As soon as you sense a problem, address it. Approach the person face-to-face and let them know you wish to work together to resolve the problem. Emails, gossip, texts and even phone calls hide much of the conversation and only exacerbate the problem. In Matthew 18:15 we are told to go directly and immediately to someone we are in conflict with in order to be reconciled to one another.
Start with a united front
Before jumping into the discussion, remember Ephesians 4:3 (MSG): “Mark that you do this with humility and discipline — not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” To resolve conflict biblically you must begin with a united front. This means that the goal is to work together to find a solution.
You must agree that the relationship and loving one another as Jesus commanded is more important than the disagreement. If you can not begin on a united front, remember that you are called to love.
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” — Luke 6:27-30 MSG
Listen; don’t just speak
Leave your anger and defensive spirit at the door. Before you can answer honestly you must learn to listen to the other’s perspective. Proverbs 18:13 refers to speaking before listening as folly and shame. If you can’t see the other side, you won’t be able to find a resolution. We are called to have empathy and understanding for others. Learning their story and how they arrived at where they are today will help you see the world more clearly. Every conversation brings the opportunity for learning. But you have to listen first.
Clarify what was said
Repeat what you heard back in your own words to make sure you are hearing them correctly. Start with, “So what I hear you saying is …” and then paraphrase. Don’t argue or challenge but ask questions for clarification. Once you fully understand their point of view, ask politely if you can share yours.
Be transparent and honest
Share how the situation or disagreement impacted you, but do it in a way that does not assign blame. After having heard their side of the story, this may be easier to do than it would have been when you began. Always speak the truth in love.
Apologize for your role
No individual is 100% to blame for any conflict. Even if all you have to claim is a 0.1% fault, there is a portion you need to take responsibility for. Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven each of us. Be the first to offer the peace that comes with reconciliation. It will open up the door to discuss how to move forward and set boundaries within the relationship. Friendships, marriages and business relationships are often forged stronger through this process.
Remember that Jesus is the lead story. He is the only one who can lead us to redemption and reconciliation. For God to move in whatever situation you are facing, your relationship with Jesus should be the most important aspect of your life.
Tune in to the Unfiltered Radio podcast. Discover what it means to authentically follow Jesus and ask hard questions of the Christian faith.