These six concepts about how to deal with conflict do not make for an exhaustive list and I’m certainly no expert at navigating conflict. I learned most of these things through failure.
I pray these thoughts are helpful to you the next time you find yourself facing conflict with another Believer.
1. Trust God with others’ hearts.
Just like he’s working on your heart to refine and redeem, He’s working in the hearts of all parties involved. Trust Him to do the work and resist the temptation to try and fix what’s broken in the hearts of others. Sin, both your own and that of the one you are experiencing conflict with, will sometimes appear to have giant flashing lights around it that beckons you to reckon with it. Determine to take ownership of your own junk and never place blame. Blame shifting is arrogant and prideful and will lead to even more conflict. Humbly ask God to reveal and redeem what is bruised or broken in your heart.
If in the end you feel compelled by the Spirit to give feedback, triple check your motives. Wait and seek the Lord for the proper timing and to be sure you aren’t supposed to be praying something instead of saying something. Unless your honest intention is to honor and uphold, keep praying.
2. Talking about conflict with people who can’t help resolve it is gossip.
Don’t do it. That doesn’t mean you can’t seek wise counsel. If you don’t know how to proceed, certainly speak with a trusted leader for feedback and to get some help in checking your blinds spots. But be careful to do this with intention. Thoughtlessly chatting with every friend about the woes of the conflict is wrong, even if that’s the biggest or only thing going on in your life. Chances are your motive in discussing the problem is looking for someone to tell you are right. That should be a signal to look for where you’ve gone wrong.
3. Your character and reputation speak for you, for better or for worse.
You don’t need to run around defending yourself, setting the record straight, or giving your take on what has happened. Trust that the people whose opinions you value most will know you and trust your heart.
If your character and reputation don’t have the best things to say about you, well, this can be an invaluable opportunity to change that. Failure is always an open door to growth and maturity. Go to the Father and listen to His voice of affirmation and correction. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid.” Even when facing correction, remind yourself of your right standing with God. You are chosen, holy, and dearly loved by Him!
4. Never talk out of both sides of your mouth.
There may be times when you find yourself stuck in the middle. Be so careful not to tell both sides of a disagreement what they want to hear to make things easier on yourself. While some do this as an intentional form of manipulation, some tend to do this without realizing it in the name of peacemaking or smoothing things over. If you find yourself being pulled between two points of view, you should probably remove yourself or get everyone involved in one conversation to avoid this tricky mishap.
5. Don’t bite back or you will be devoured.
Galatians 5:15 says, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.” Attitudes of dissension and disunity are highly contagious. Protect yourself against this kind of behavior and refuse to cooperate with the enemy’s schemes to bring division among Believers. You do not have to show up to every fight you’re invited to. That’s right. Some conflict is not productive, necessary, or healthy. The Lord is always for reconciliation, but sometimes that doesn’t involve you hashing it out with another person. There are times when the best thing for the offended party is for you to humbly own and repent of any part you played and then refuse to engage.
That being said, remember that we are all ministers of reconciliation. Whenever possible, and it’s almost always possible, do what it takes to make things right. Extend Grace. Withhold judgment. We all fall short sometimes, but that is not who we are at the core. Let us all be reminded and remind one another of our freedom from sin and the ways of Heaven that Holy Spirit releases through us here on Earth. We are all conduit for Christ’s redemptive Power. Let it flow freely.
6. If you find yourself offended, give honor before bringing strife.
An offense can often be dissolved by looking for the good in the one who has offended you. Sometimes people’s best qualities express themselves as negative behavior. A friend who is indecisive is also very flexible. A sister who is single-minded is often very purposeful. That co-worker who comes across as brash is usually quite courageous and a willing risk-taker.
None of us puts our best self forward 100% of the time. Cut people some slack and ask God to reveal their best qualities to you. Take it a step further and call out that good quality when you see it expressed and watch honor do its thing. I’ve heard honor described as seeing people for who they are without getting tripped up over who they are not. Try it. It works.