Everyone loves conflict right? Well, some people seem to enjoy it more than others. If we are all honest most of us would rather avoid conflict if at all possible. And truthfully there is no way to avoid conflict as long as you are around people! Marriage, parenting, your job, the church. There are literally hundreds of opportunities for conflict every day and in my opinion how we choose to act in those moments of confrontation determine our views of ourselves and other people. We can begin to see ourselves as greater than or as less than or unworthy. Both are dangerous and incorrect views.
For the sake of this conversation let's define conflict as a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone's goals or desires.
This is where I hope we can begin to change how you view conflict. There are two terms that are often taught. One of them is conflict resolution. Any time a conflict can be resolved we should absolutely celebrate! However much of the time there is no resolution to a conflict, therefore it must be managed. This is why I prefer to talk about conflict management rather than only resolution because many times we set ourselves up to fail when conflicts don't always resolve we can give up or give in to our fight or flight responses.
Here are some examples of conflicts that can't be resolved:
1) I am a male. My wife is a female. That can't change, we must learn to manage our differences by understanding one another with enough grace and love to see the strengths in our differences.
2) Chris thinks abstract while I think linear. This can be a very frustrating conflict and one that if Chris and I weren't mature enough to manage would have already resulted in one or both of us leaving the church. We now sit in a loving, trusting relationship in which we both appreciate one another's gifts and passions! (side note: this took a lot of effort from both of us and I think this is one of the things that makes our church great!)
3) Gifts and Callings: This conflict is what I believe has resulted in the numerous Christian denominations and para-church organizations. People that are gifted in certain ways felt that their way of viewing things wasn't welcome and thus left to go start their own thing. And while I'm all for starting new things I do think that more unity should take place. I personally want to lead a church where you can be passionate about what God made you passionate about and I can be passionate about what God made me passionate about. That doesn't sound all that confrontational until five voices begin to speak their specific preference into the priorities of the church! It can, unfortunately, get really messy really fast if we think that the only resolution to the conflict is that our way is the way. We must instead view this as a beautiful conflict that is to be managed. A good tension that creates positive momentum for all five very necessary voices to be heard and valued. (Find these five gifts in Ephesians 4:11-13)
Here's the bottom line: Conflict always provides an opportunity to glorify God, that is, to bring him praise and honor by showing who he is, what he is like, and what he is doing. The best way to glorify God in the midst of conflict is to depend on and draw attention to his grace, that is the undeserved love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom he gives to us through Jesus Christ.
- Excerpt from Peace Maker by Ken Sande
I'll be the first in line to admit this is not something I have always been or am currently perfect at, but by God's grace, I hope to continue to navigate all of life's conflicts better and better as I grow in maturity in Christ.