Most adults don’t know how to handle conflict.  After spending 13 years working full-time with high school and junior high students, I used to hear other leaders say, “All the world is youth ministry.”  This was coming from other seasoned business leaders and professionals who have had to deal with immaturity in the workplace among adults.  Sadly, it’s true. I can’t count how many times I’ve sat and listened to the most childish reactions to simple disagreements, arguments, or conflict coming from “mature” adults.  I have to admit, it’s happened to me.  Has it happened to you?  If we’re not careful, we can all be guilty of it. We’re not alone. It happened in the Bible:

Philippians 4:2 (NLT) And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.

It’s tragic that the only thing we know about these two women in all of Scripture is that they couldn’t work together. They couldn’t sort out their differences.  I’ve failed at this several times in my past. It’s something I have to work at constantly.

Here’s how most people handle conflict:

  • We brew it. (we boil it and let it fester until it ferments)
  • We ignore it. (we think it will go away if we just don’t deal with it)
  • We explode it. (we launch into anger, bitterness & rage)
  • We exaggerate it. (we take something small and make it more dramatic)
  • We avoid it. (we run away from it–and develop a habit of running)
  • We medicate it. (we find a substance to handle the stress and pressure)
  • We broadcast it. (we take our emotions to the court of public opinion [friends, co-workers, facebook, twitter, blogging, etc])
Which one(s) are YOU guilty of?  (we ALL have some habits on that list)

The problem is: We often do everything EXCEPT what we’re SUPPOSED to do. But, you guessed it–the Bible gives a great outline on how to handle it:

Matthew 18:15-16 (NIV) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

Jesus was addressing how to handle conflicts as he was talking with his disciples.  He was talking to a close-knit group and telling them how to keep each other accountable.  It’s often as simple as a simple as a one-on-one conversation.

Here are some tips:

  1. Go to the person directly.
  2. Attack the issue, not each other.
  3. Tell how you feel (how comment or action hurt, bothered or angered you)
  4. Avoid “you” statements. (accusatory)
  5. Avoid chasing “rabbit trails” (other arguments or situations)
  6. Avoid adding “others” in your comments (what they’ve done to others, what others have said, etc.) keep it between the two of you!
  7. Work to reconcile or mend relationship.  (this doesn’t mean you will completely RESTORE the situation, but you can come to an UNDERSTANDING that will bring CLARITY and CLOSURE for both of you. Decide how to move forward.)
  8. Be willing to admit your mistakes and apologize. (we often go into conflict believing it’s the OTHER PERSON’S FAULT, often overlooking OUR PART in the conflict.)
  9. Don’t wait for them to come to you.  (in any relationship, in any conflict resolution, the “mature one moves first”).
  10. If that doesn’t work, take a neutral mediator who can help talk through situation.

The Bottom Line is: We need to do whatever it takes to work things out. We need to make the effort!

Notice how Paul addressed the same problem they were having in Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Let’s start today!  Make the effort. Handle conflict Biblically. Handle it correctly. Handle it maturely.

Has there been a time when you failed to resolve a conflict? What has it cost you?  Tell me about a time you were able to settle a disagreement.  What was the outcome?  Tell me your story.

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