How To Manage Conflict

HOW TO MANAGE CONFLICT

Conflict makes us feel very uncomfortable; the heavy feeling in our heart or the empty pit in our stomach. Whether it’s with our spouse, a friend, a coworker, or our neighbor, conflict is inevitable. God created us as individuals, with different personalities, qualities, and ways of doing things that make us unique. So out of the 7.7 billion unique individuals that exist in this world, it should come as no surprise that we will encounter conflict with at least one person throughout our lives. However, if we think we can work our way around conflict by ignoring it or trying to avoid it in unhealthy ways, we are only fooling ourselves. Ignoring conflict, or the person we have a dispute with, won’t make it go away. It will rot in the deepest parts of our hearts, and cause us to hold grudges, lead us to gossip and make us angry.

AGREE IN THE LORD

In Philippians 4:2, Paul is calling out two women, Euodia and Syntyche, because there was some disagreement between them, even though it’s not specified in the text. What we can see in the passage that these were Christian women, part of the Church, who had labored in the gospel side by side with Paul. The first thing Paul says to them is to “agree in the Lord” (v.1). What does this mean for us? Even as Christians, we will encounter conflict with people in the Church. There will be relational tensions, conflicts around authority and responsibility, theological disagreements, and conflicts triggered by change. Agreeing in the Lord does not mean that we tolerate all behaviors or that we concur with all opinions; it means that we acknowledge other believers as part of the body of Jesus Christ that is united by the gospel. So if we agree on that, it’s okay to have disagreements on all secondary matters in a respectful way.
 
One of the other aspects of this example that I like is that even though Paul wasn’t directly involved in the conflict between these two women, he called them out by name in the letter and pleaded with them to agree in the Lord. This means that, in the same way, if we see fellow believers in our Church that have a conflict that is compromising the peace of the Church, instead of gossiping about it or choosing the side of whom we agree with, we should call them out in a loving way and plead with them to agree in the Lord and put aside secondary differences.

IT TAKES HUMILITY

When we are involved in a conflict, there is one thing that can arise in our hearts: Pride. One person will always think that they are right, or that they are more reasonable than the other, and we never stop to consider what we are contributing to the conflict. Also, sometimes we are so prideful and stubborn, that we entitle ourselves to believe that the other person needs to ask for forgiveness first for us to consider reconciliation. Pride makes us bitter towards others.  We should live by what Colossians 3:12-14 says: ”Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” What these verses imply is that because of God’s forgiveness to us through Jesus, we should have the willingness to forgive others as well. It takes humility to achieve forgiveness.

AN OPPORTUNITY  FOR GRACE

Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:5a, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” When we are facing conflict, with a fellow believer or non-believer, the way that we manage the conflict is a way to extend to others the same grace that has been extended to us by Jesus Christ, and also a way to make Him known. When we choose to have a tough conversation with someone we are facing conflict with and not ignore it; or when we face the relational conflict in our marriage instead of complaining about our spouse to others; we are making the mercy, gentleness, and grace of God known to all who witness.

My prayer for you that are reading this is that in any conflict, disagreement, argument or clash that you encounter with someone, may the Holy Spirit humble your heart in a way that you may be able to make Jesus known by shining the light of His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Bianca Ramos