Here’s the deal, I hate conflict. I will do anything to avoid conflict. Conflict makes me uncomfortable, causes me to question my opinions, and threatens to hurt relationships. All of which are quite unpleasant to a people-pleaser like myself. For months I have asked myself and God, “what is wrong with me?” and “Why do I have to deal with all this?”. As God often does, He quietly spoke to my heart telling me He has placed me in this season for a reason and a purpose. So, after many a tear, I’ve decided to allow God to teach me a few things through conflict. Many of these principles I have learned from two books: Unglued by Lysa Terkurst and Walking Wisely by Charles Stanley.
1. Conflict can strengthen relationships
I specifically speak of marriage conflict, but I believe this can apply to other close relationships as well. My husband and I have had some knock out yelling matches, which is nothing I like to admit. Although in the midst of the conflict we both said things we shouldn’t have, at the end we came to a deeper understanding of one another. In the past five months I have learned more of what my husband needs from me through our conflict. It is better to view conflict as an opportunity to grow deeper with a person rather than a negative experience. Conflict does not have to be negative, it can be beneficial.
2. Some conflict may require healthy boundaries
I have unfortunately been thrust into a situation of conflict out of my control. I’ll spare you the messy details, but I was accused of wrongdoing where there was none, lied about and verbally abused. In this case I followed wisdom I received from others. After completing this suggested plan, I highly suggest this approach.
First, seek forgiveness and reconciliation from anything done wrong on your part. Extended hope and relationship repair for the future. If a lack of willingness to repair the relationship continues from the other person, which in my case it did, establish healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries are yours to decide, but here are a few ideas. Limit conversations for a set amount of time, limit conversations for an indefinite amount of time, limit personal alone time spent together, or have a set plan for how to respond to circumstances that arise. Let the other party know what the boundary will be, why it is in place, and offer one more chance at reconciliation. Hopefully at this point reconciliation will be the winning option, but if not, stick with the boundary.
This type of conflict is not ideal, and is in no way fun. The most important thing is to make sure you have emptied yourself and sought forgiveness for any wrong doing on your part. After that, there is a time to protect yourself and your family, which is where healthy boundaries are a great option.
3. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to approach conflict: Stuffers and Exploders
Stuffers tend to be passive aggressive, and push everything down to fester until one day it explodes like a volcano. Stuffers will allow conflict to fester for months before exploding. When doing this, the conflict turns into a much bigger issue than it would have if dealt with at the time of origin.
Exploders just explode at any conflict and lose rational control. Emotions take over an exploder, preventing them from working through conflict positively.
Both don’t work. Exploders don’t take the time to stop and think about how to respond, they just respond in a destructive way. I myself am an exploder. I can’t hold it in, I lose the rational and calm side of myself, and become someone I don’t like being. I don’t claim to be an expert on conflict but I have gained a few nuggets of wisdom on how to handle conflict in a healthy way.
- Approach conflict after prayer. Ask God if you should discuss this, or if you need to work on your own heart.
- Ask God to give you an opportunity to approach the topic of conflict.
- Approach conflict with a desire to change/apologize yourself.
- Be honest in conflict. Don’t hold anything back that could be brought up later.
- Yelling only begets more yelling. Stay calm.
I don’t believe I have this conflict thing figured out. I still have a long way to go in changing my human habits when dealing with conflict. I am thankful, however that God is changing me from the inside out in an area I never expected. It’s good to know God is working on me; that He hasn’t and will never give up. When dealing with conflict, hang in there, seek Godly wisdom, and know God will use it to mold you.