Posted by Pastor Stuart

If there’s one thing people don’t enjoy, it’s conflict. Some of us dislike it so much (perhaps due to past experiences), that we are non-confrontational in our personalities. If you’re like me like that, then you won’t like what I’ll say next: conflict can be very helpful.

Ugh! I feel uncomfortable just saying that. But it’s still true.  As awkward as conflict is, a few moments of discomfort to clear the air is a lot better than living with dirty air for a long time. I still understand the temptation to stifle everything instead of bringing up a sensitive issue, but if it can ease your tension from then on, it’s worth it.

I read an article by the CEO of Feed the Children, who said, “Conflict raises important issues to the surface.  It is how you manage conflict or don’t manage it that can make it a problem.” That tells us that conflict handled with maturity can lead to blessings, but it’s the immature kind of conflict that we can’t stand. He gives 4 tips for how to address tension in a healthy way so that it doesn’t stick around or get out of hand:

1. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you’re having difficulty with. Get things out in the open so you can settle the problem instead of ignoring it while it grows.

2. If you can’t find common ground, still don’t talk badly about the person to others. While it might feel good to put someone down who we disagree with, it’s not wise and it’s not kind. It’s not a Jesus thing to do. We should love and pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44).

3. Consider your own personal responsibility in the conflict. We usually just blame others when there’s a dispute, but it takes two to tango, and tension is a really not fun kind of tango. There are always two sides to a story. It is always good to hear others concerns/feelings, and it’s always good to be humble and own up to mistakes.

4. Keep the goal in mind: better understanding. It’s like the exercise saying, “No pain, no gain.” Sometimes conflict can really strengthen a relationship because it’s like spring cleaning of all the cobwebs. You might actually walk away with more respect for the person you used to grumble about. You’ll relate with them better afterward, and you won’t be stressed about that situation.

As always, remember what Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). Sometimes, in order to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:1-4), we have to first confront someone and ask, “What is it really that’s bothering you?”

Churches can actually be terrible at handling conflict in a healthy way because they think they’re supposed to be a perfect group of perfect people who never disagree. But that’s not true. Churches are unavoidably imperfect because they are filled with people who are imperfect. But we want to be better. So the next time there is tension, instead of running away from it, respond in love.


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