Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in the year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post Josh McDowell offers us four tips for assessing the source of conflict in our lives. How much do we create ourselves?
Important Life Lessons
If it were up to me, by the time students exit elementary school they would be intentional in reflecting good citizenship via their words and actions. Think how great junior high and high school would be without the unnecessary drama!
I’d also make sure that teens learn critical financial basics: that they can balance a checkbook, and they understand that financial freedom follows saving and not misusing credit cards. (And that developing a daily $5 latte habit ain’t smart.) And that they realize the snare of instant gratification, and that every choice and action (and inaction) adds up to shape the path of their life.
Man, I’d want them to *get* that life is supposed to be hard, in order to develop their inner strength and confidence and resourcefulness. And that it doesn’t serve them to walk around continually offended and in conflict with others. Don’t we tell our kids not to bully each other? But they watch as we “adults” then viciously denigrate each other, particularly online. Where’s the disconnect? My thought is stored up hurts and anger.
So many people are at full rage because they don’t know how to productively let off steam. They lack the tools for peaceful co-existence; they haven’t been taught how to show respect for the differing opinions around them.
The Pesky Ego
Exploding at someone temporarily feels powerful, but in the end accomplishes very little. God designed us to to live in community, but we stall any chance of that when we “do” life in conflict. “Community” demands good citizenship: healthy boundaries, safe ways to express needs and feelings, and humble hearts.
Yet isn’t the overall message we get from society to live preoccupied with self?
If we are encouraged to be self-absorbed, society fails to hold us to an acceptable standard of community. We can’t, for example, toss mean words at someone and not expect them to boomerang. We can’t toss a punch and not expect to also gain bruises. We can’t seek revenge and not expect an escalated response. Unless we’re taught to live to a higher standard that says, I will treat others with goodness, because everyone is a highly valued child of God.
Somehow we’ve allowed society to “Go for the gusto!” in the wrong direction. How desperately we need a course adjustment to again commit to the selfless values of kindness, honesty, civility, etc. Mr. Rodgers, come back! We need your humble influence!
“We live in a self-centered culture. Society’s emphasis is clearly on pleasing ourselves, not on nurturing our relationships. So we must rise above our culture and resolve our conflicts — not dissolve our relationships — if we truly want to experience intimate, fulfilling relationships.” ~Josh #conflict
Josh’s 4 Tips for Navigating Conflict
Despite what our media glorifies, we’re not too cool for school when we’re jerks to other people. Not even when we’re reacting to a jerk who snubbed us first. We must remember that our response is completely independent of how we are treated.
The root cause of much of the conflict in our world today is our unwillingness to forgive. As Josh notes, “Forgiveness is the oil of relationships.” God calls us to forgive. Not to excuse the other person’s action(s), but to FREE ourselves. Jesus tells us to forgive so we don’t walk around just waiting for an excuse to unload our stored up reservoirs of anger and hurt.
Sometimes conflict comes to us. But sometimes we bring it. Let’s look at Josh’s 4 conflict assessment tips:
Tip 1: Assess Your Attitude. As Aretha Franklin famously crooned, at issue is your R-E-S-P-E-C-T for others.
Are you speaking respectfully to others? Are you respectfully listening to others? Are you respectfully looking at others — or flashing them looks that communicate “You’re stupid!”? Are you acting respectfully? The truth: If we’re disrespectful to others, we’re also disrespecting ourselves.
Tip 2: Assess Your Emotional Base. Do you resemble a prickly cactus?
There’s a reason why, in Ephesians 4:26, the Bible reminds us to unload our anger daily before the sun sets. Our anger is like cement boots. When we refuse to take off the boots, we walk around cranky. I used to think I couldn’t release anger because the person who offended me might get the wrong message that I was okay with what they had done. I thought I would show up as a pushover. But releasing a grudge actually demonstrates our strength. Eventually we learn that forgiveness is for our benefit, not another. We hold the power!
Tip 3: Assess How You React: Are people responding to you negatively because of your behavior patterns?
So, here’s the thing: until we learn better, we tend to echo the bad patterns we learn at home. When you have conflict, have you learned to give people the silent treatment, freezing them out until you decide to thaw? Or perhaps your default is to draw blood with sarcasm. Or maybe you start crying to diffuse conflict. Or you plaster a smile on your face, acting like nothing is wrong. I had a college roommate who deflected any conversation she didn’t want to have. If I said, for example, “I’d like to know why you leave dishes in the sink instead of putting them into the dishwasher,” she’d respond with something like, “When you’re perfect, we can talk.” Yowza! It’s tough dealing with a narcissist.
Tip 4: Assess If You’re Reactive: Do you wait to see how people treat you before you decide how to treat them?
I’ve heard people say, “I only give respect to people who give it to me.” That might sound logical, but it’s an immature stance. And it lacks grace, which we ALL need on the days we don’t bring our best. Our being respectful should be entirely based on our choosing to be like Jesus. He had compassion and grace for even the rudest of people. Perhaps this analogy helps: Picture yourself as a bright, shinny quarter. You don’t become a penny just because you’re tossed into a jar full of pennies. Right?
The famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi includes this line: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Image what our relationships would look like if we, too, fervently committed to this prayer. #noconflictzone #goodrelationships #healthycommunity
In our next blog post, let’s look more at relationship dynamics.
Catch up: The introductory post to this series.