Before we begin our sixth session of our (in)courager group, Strong and Graceful Oaks, allow me to introduce the winner of our volumes one and ten giveaway of the “What’s in the Bible?” series…
Congratulations, Jen! You were comment number five and the Random Generator decided it was your day.
So this week, we’ll dive into the very light topic of conflict because let’s face it—there’s no shortage of it these days.
Here’s the thing: every last one of us is disabled by the flesh.
It takes a lot of work to get to the point where we authentically think of of others as better than us and when this happens, we organically see the whole loving-our-neighbor-as-ourselves thing come to fruition as a byproduct of our own loss of selfishness.
I don’t think it’s any secret that other people are pretty important to us. And while both genders value relationships, they are particularly valuable to women. Men tend to determine personal success through their professional achievement while women often do so based on the status of their relationships.
So when the status of even one of our relationships is less-than-stellar, we tend to get a little out of sorts.
If you are like me, when you reflect upon how you have handled conflict in the past, you cringe a bit.
It’s extremely difficult to conjure up self-control from the Spirit when you have been hurt—whether your offender knows you have been offended or not.
And so if you fail to conjure up that self-control (and come on, who hasn’t fallen victim to this?) and you explode upon your offender, then perhaps you, like me, have learned this is not the most effective way to walk through a relational conflict.
Mark Twain once said “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way.”
I’ve carried the cat by the tail several times. I’m not too proud to admit I tend to be a slow-learner.
While enduring scratches and bites, I’ve learned to pick the cat up gently and hold him to my chest.
But it takes work. A whole lot of it. And even then, I slip on occasion and choose the wrong, rather than right, path of healthy conflict management.
So what’s a girl to do when a flippant email flies through the airwaves and lands in her inbox? How should she respond to rude and hurtful comments? How does she know when to talk to her offender about the offense or let it be covered in grace and move-on?
She calls upon her good friend, P.E.G.: Pray, Examine, and Go.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt,because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
– James 1:5-6
Instead of immediately jumping on the phone to someone else when we are offended, we need to jump on our direct line to God. When we quiet ourselves even if just for a moment and pray, He will guide our path. Though the ultimate solution may not be made clear that quickly, you will feel the nudge of how to proceed and more often than not, He wants you to take a deep breath and wait.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5
Oh, sisters. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This part is not always so fun because, I don’t know about you, when I look inward I don’t always like what I discover. Here are questions to consider:
a) What’s my role in this conflict? I have been involved in relational conflict in which I was truly not guilty of one misstep. However, those are extremely rare. We personally often play some kind of role in the conflict—even if it’s just a minor one. Humility is critical for this to be authentic.
b) Am I hurt because of my own insecurity? Deep down, am I feeling guilty about something? Am I feeling rejected because I feel like I’m not good enough or just not enough period?
c) Am I expecting too much? Are my standards unrealistic? So often, I have been hurt by others because I’ve felt they’ve let me down in some way. But here’s the thing: my expectations of them were often far too high. Each of us has a hole that only God can fill yet so many of us get this twisted, sisters. Friends can’t fill that hole. Boyfriends and husbands can’t fill that hole. Our children can’t fill that hole. Only God can fill that hole, which is why we have to get right with God before we can be in healthy relationships.
d) Will I be able to spend time with my offender without thinking of this hurt? This is critical because if not, the hurts will accumulate until finally, we find ourselves blowing up over the most trivial of offenses.
e) Will I be able to trust her and be vulnerable with her? If the offense is going to make you edit the extent to which you can be vulnerable with her, then you probably need to consider talking to your friend. Otherwise, you might find yourself shrinking back and she’s left scratching her head wondering what on earth happened to your friendship.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24
If you have answered the above questions and you’ve determined you need to speak to your friends about the offense that hurt you, then you must go. However, you must go in complete love and humility. Remember: a gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1) If you go to her in anger, trust me—it ain’t gonna be too pretty, sister.
There is so much more to be said on this topic but seeing this post is already over 1,000 words long, we need to wrap it up.
But I will end with this: walking through conflict can be intimidating and scary. It’s so tempting to just “sweep it under the rug” and move-on but in the long view, that’s not always the healthiest option for the relationship. The fruit that can come from working through a conflict with a friend is in the form of a deeper and closer friendship.
This doesn’t always happen, I know. However, when it does, you will discover a true and real Heart Sister.
And there’s no conflict worth ruining a rare and precious gift such as this.
What about you? Have you ever worked through a conflict with a friend only to find it made you even closer friends?