When my husband Paul and I were preparing for our Church launch in 2018, one of the areas that took most of our time to build was a membership document for those who would be interested in becoming members of the Church. This document would provide certain guidelines; expectations; and greater clarity on who we are as a Church; what our core values are, and how we ought to conduct ourselves as believers.
On that document, there is a commitment that we ask of all new members which reads:
Sounds pretty clear right? Well, as easily understandable that sentence may be to many people, conflict resolution is still an uncomfortable and sometimes even a messy affair both in and out of the Church. No matter how hard we try to avoid conflict, it will arise. It’s inevitable. In fact, trying to avoid it rather than learning how to handle it prevents us from stepping into a deeper level of growth and maturity in our lives.
Different people coming together with different personalities; different life experiences and beliefs will inevitably cause friction in relationships and interactions. This is nothing to be fearful of. It’s simply an area that we need to be prepared for.
In Philippians 4, when word had reached the Apostle Paul that two prominent women who were ministry partners—Euodia and Syntyche—had a serious conflict with each other; we see Paul preparing his ‘true companion’ (Phil 4:3) with conflict resolution skills so that the matter can be properly resolved.
So how can we properly resolve conflict and move forward in peace? Below are five steps for healthy conflict resolution.
The first instinct when conflict arises is to react immediately. Don’t do that. You never want to attempt resolving your conflict while your emotions still have the power to dictate your actions.
Secondly, pray for the person you have a conflict with. Despite what may have transpired between you and them, you have no idea what is going on with them internally or what they are battling with. Pray. Seek God’s wisdom. Allow His grace to not only lead you, but to flow through you.
EXHIBIT SELF CONTROL
The second step is to exhibit self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This means that angry responses do not honor Christ. Aggressive or rough speech does not build each other up. Negative or petty attitude is not conducive for the Spirit of unity and harmony to flourish. We are encouraged to respond slowly to conflict and display the heart and attitude of Christ, rather than acting on impulse. This is not only a sign of spiritual maturity, but also of character growth.
In Matthew 5:7 we are encouraged to first evaluate where we are.
COMMUNICATE TO EXPRESS; LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
Resolving conflict will require a private conversation with the individual to address the concern(s) and/or issue at hand. Now, as simple as this sounds it’s not easy for different reason. Sometimes people may feel intimidated, or fearful of what the other person’s reaction may be. Other times, they may lack confidence to communicate honestly.
However, the goal of this conversation is two things. Not only for you to express your heart but to also understand the heart of the person you have a conflict with. It’s about getting to the root of the problem and attempting to look beneath the surface by intentionally asking questions such as:
Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to bring clarity to possibly deeper, unresolved issues that may have contributed to the surface level conflict you have experienced with the individual(s).
WHAT HAPPENS IF THIS DOESN’T WORK?
Not all solutions will work. You can read a whole book on 365 ways to resolve conflict. The truth is, solutions will only work when there is a mutual desire and pursuit for peace. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world. For some, due to reasons of pride, or stubbornness, or past wounds, there won’t be a desire to resolve conflict. Their only desire will be to carry it around. If that’s the case, you pray for them; love them from a distance and move on knowing in your heart you have taken a genuine and godly approach.
The rest is no longer in your hands.