To borrow a well-worn statement, “I would rather take a beating than…” confront someone. I don’t like conflict. But I dislike the numbness and emotional paralysis that comes from avoiding conflict. “Cramming it down” would be a good way of describing the desensitizing process of denial. About all that does is “buy some time” to find the right time or to think it through. My goodness, at all the slang terms I’m throwing around!
If a person “would bite the bullet” and approach the person/problem in a gentle way, and tell them how they are feeling and ask for the others perceptions, a healing conversation can begin. But it needs to be handled tactfully and humbly, for no one wants to face arrogance or accusations. And then the key is to listen intently to what they have to say.
I did that today. I had been unwilling to build walls between me and another person. It had gotten bad enough that I was unable to hear the other one’s words or follow with alertness (without rehashing my complaints in my mind). After I explained what I was dealing with, the other person shared some information of which I was unaware that changed my understanding of the situation. I could see where he was coming from. I still thought “he dropped the ball,” but it didn’t matter so much anymore. We were able to satisfactorily discuss some other issues of importance.
Some of the worst places in the world for avoiding conflict resolution is in churches and marriages. Most religious people think we all have to get along and not cause trouble. I have news for them. Christianity has always been messy, and the hammering out of differing thoughts and doctrines through the centuries has brought turbulence. And that’s okay. The way we deal with the mess is the important part. Can we cover it with love? Can we keep in mind the great value to God of our neighbor? So many churches want to sweep problems “under the rug,” and hope they go away. They don’t. And many times the resentment festers until it pops up in other symptoms that might not resemble the root cause.
I want to tell you about a wonderful book that needs to be in every church’s library. It is “The Peace Maker, A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict” by Ken Sande. He is a lawyer that goes around to churches and shows a good model for reconciling differences that is patterned after the teachings of the scriptures. I hope it is still in print. A good read.
Now about marriages. A man once said, “communication is the oil of relationships.” I think that is so true. And when many talks fail, then a neutral perspective from a third party might help. And of course, keeping eyes and ears open for God’s directions are of greatest importance.
I apologize got all the slang language. I got started and couldn’t seem to resist. I’ll try to do better next time…