What do you do with conflict?

23 Aug

CONFLICT.

OK, wait… what emotions just ran through your body when you read that word?  Fear, anger, jealousy, joy, pride?

I’m not always confident when I proclaim things but I am fully positive that every single person who will walk this earth will have conflict with someone at some time.  In fact, most will run into conflict often and more times than they’d really care to experience.  Conflict is a part of life.  How we handle it? Well now, that is where the different realities come into play.

For years, and I do mean YEARS and YEARS and YEARS, I was terrified of conflict.  The mere mention of the word filled my entire body with anxiety and fear. I can identify a few sources of my fear now to be the fact that I am partially a people-pleaser in the sense that I like people to like me.  Having enemies is not something I am particularly excited about in life.  Also, I had intense self-confidence issues and I was paralyzed but the thought of listening to someone rip into me about my faults, wrong-doings or struggles.

This fear of conflict really did nothing more than push my confidence lower and isolate me from anyone and everyone a conflict might exist with. And as we all know, conflict happens pretty much in the midst of every single relationship that has ever existed, so, friendships had the tendency to be distant or short-lived around my neck of the woods.

Conflict with friends is like that isn’t it?  We can run away from it if we want to. Even if that means just casually not hanging out anymore and not just because of some major blow up or episode.

Conflict with family is a little bit trickier.  You can’t exactly cut those members out of your life who mix with you like oil and water.  Well, you can.  But as I mentioned before, it only leads to isolation.  Especially if that family member is your spouse.  I know a lot of marriages out there have mountains of unresolved conflict because it seems easier to bury it than work on it.

Take it from a person who has buried and run away at nearly every even possible sign of oncoming conflict, you’re killing yourself.  Burying is not resolution.  Every time a conflict rises with said person, all the buried issues come racing back to the surface and the resentment, frustration and hurt compiles higher and higher until the vision of reality is so distorted through an uncoverd pile of never spoken of issues, that the garbage is the only way you define the person anymore.

We all have garbage (mistakes, struggles, sins, temptations, failures) but that shouldn’t define any human being.  Every person is more than their garbage.  But unresolved conflict blurs the line of vision to such a degree that you can’t even fathom seeing the person as anything more than trash that is useless to you.

Buried conflict is ruthlessly damaging to our character because we become unloving, unmerciful and completely lacking any form of compassion. Burying conflict is an unspoken statement that the other person doesn’t have a side and you’re right.  And it only further traps us in unforgiveness, fear and judgment by taking someone elses voice and silencing it for them.

I felt like for so long avoiding conflict was sincere protection of myself.  And in a way, it is.  If the truth didn’t exist that is takes us completely out of true fellowship with others, which God says is crucial to our growth and worship.  In all honesty, running from conflict is an outword sign of a lack of love for others.  It is selfishness in its ugliest form convincing us that it is wise for us to do.

One day, this stiff reality washed over me when a dispute came up between me and a close friend.  I was at the cross-roads of walking away or facing the issue.  And honestly, I loved my friend.  And I was sick of running.  I was tired of feeling like a coward.  So with the advice and counsel I had in my life, I mustered up the courage and faced the conflict.  It was not easy.  However, I’m still friends with my dear friend.  And that was really pretty much a first for me.

Practical Application:

It all started with admitting I bury or run from conflict.

Next came prayer.  A confession of being controlled by fear and an honest plea for the courage to do better in the future.  Getting others to pray with you is a great way to cover the entire battle in a bath of prayer fully.

Those two steps were the easy part.  The hard part was working up the courage to face the next conflict that came my way;  with wisdom though.  If someone is really a harsh sandpaper in your life, I wouldn’t advise starting there.  It might be best to start with your spouse, parent, or really close friend.

Remember that facing conflict is not an attack on the person or a chance to take pride in yourself, your point, or your actions nor should it hurt the other person or blame them.

Facing conflict is all about focusing on the conflict.  Not the other person.  You love the other person (or at least that is the goal!) you can dislike the conflict instead.

Be honest, be compassionate, be forgiving, be understanding, be remorseful, be considerate, and let the other person speak freely and clearly without interruption.  The goal is to get the issue out-of-the-way.  Not to prove your side or be attacked yourself.  If the conversation becomes ugly, end it and try again another time.

 

How about it?  Are you a conflict runner or a face it head on kind of person?

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “What do you do with conflict?”

  1. Kristen Smith August 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    I’ve also found that as someone who does not run from conflict, but wants to work through it and face it even if I don’t like it, I have to be more patient and gentle with those who have a harder time with conflict. I also often think of something you said in a past post about conflict in marriage, and ask myself if I am fighting to keep unity, or fighting to prove I’m right. It helps keep me in check!

    • kaylagulick August 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      Good point Kristen, to those who are more experienced and seasoned in facing conflict. Really, what you just said weighs a lot of wisdom in all the areas of our lives. If something is really a struggle or doesn’t come easy for someone, even if it really isn’t a challenge to us at all… we need to work on patience, gentleness and grace. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  2. smithspirations August 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Hmmm… where is my gravatar? There it is! 🙂

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