This post comes out of a number of conversations I have witnessed recently. Conflict seems to be a natural or even default state of being in much public discourse. As a generalization, we just do not handle it well.
(As strange as this may be for a last week of summer blog, I think it fits well with the transition into a new season.)
For as much as I preach and teach about conflict resolution, I hate practicing it. I know it’s right. I know the other side of it, no matter how it turns out, is better than where it starts. Most of us are content with being angry, stewing on whatever we believe the injustice to have been, gossiping with people we’ve convinced to agree with us, and avoiding the issue altogether. Sometimes that includes avoiding the people as well, creating enemies.
I can’t last long with that recipe.
Believe me, I’ve tried. But the sense of resolve needed, the feeling of justice and total absence of contempt for the other person far outweigh my ability to maintain ‘enemy-ship’. I guess that is why I speak against it and teach others to do so. I think it has something to do with ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ or maybe even ‘They will know you are Christians by your love’.
So my prayer often includes these three words, and they become especially prevalent in stressful times:
1. Wisdom – Not the emotions of the matter, but the Spirit led reflection on experience and what is best; not what is wanted. Separate facts, feelings, and motives, then look at actions.
2. Patience – Yes, patience. A bitter word and a conniving plan are always formulated within the grounds of a quick response. Allow a settled approach to ease your mind and create peace.
3. Go – Don’t wait for the other person if you feel the conviction to do what is right…now. I find that the worst lingering conflict situations were created by my sitting around, thinking it through, and staying up late nights creating heartburn. The best results I have ever encountered were when I swallowed my pride and pursued the person over the problem.
Once again, I often struggle practicing what I preach on this one. I like to think we are all growing as we get older, so I hope this is one area in which I continue to mature. I encourage you to do the same.