Who likes conflict?
Hmmm, I don’t see any raised hands or hear any resounding “I dos.”
Yeah, I hate conflict too. It is painful and scary and it makes me feel out of control and vulnerable.
And yet, conflict is a part of life. God allows it, God assures us that we will have it and we have all experienced it.
We don’t learn how to cause conflict. We just automatically know. Even as little kids not able to talk, we know how to grab something we want from someone else, thus causing them distress.
Conflict. If there are people, there will be conflict.
How do you handle conflict? Usually we run from it, or pretend like it isn’t happening, or get angry, blow up and escalate the conflict, or blame someone else for causing the conflict, or do things we don’t want to do to please someone else and on and on. Anything but walk into the conflict, walk thru the conflict and walk out on the other side of the conflict.
Even though we don’t learn how to cause conflict, we can learn some ways to handle conflict. There are all kinds of instructions on “conflict management skills.”
Just google it. All the steps to resolving conflict are at your fingertips.
However, in order to implement those conflict management skills, I want to propose the idea of changing our thinking about conflict. A new “conflict paradigm.”
So here are two ideas to begin thinking about conflict differently.
1. What if we begin to look at conflict as an opportunity?
Since we know we are going to have conflict, what if instead of dreading or dodging it, we began to see conflict as an opportunity. Because when I hear the word “opportunity” it sounds like a good thing. Like something positive is about to happen.
When people walk thru conflict together, tolerate the uncomfortable feelings, talk about the feelings, talk about the need to repair, confess their own wrong actions and come out on the other side of the conflict, they are usually more emotionally bonded.
Doesn’t emotional bonding sound like a positive thing?
Also, going thru something hard, like conflict, and coming out on the other side is character building. Having a stronger character sounds like a positive thing, right?
2. What if we begin to look at conflict as something to be redeemed?
Typically a positive outcome of working through conflict is that it gets resolved.
But think about the even more positive idea of conflict as being redemptive. We know our God is a Redeemer, so what does the idea of redemption really mean? To me it means making something good out of something bad.
If we look at conflict as an opportunity, we are already halfway there to thinking of conflict as being redeemable. Going into the pain of conflict, walking through it with others and coming out on the other side, will give us a new appreciation for the beauty of the process. We will see the positive results. We will bond with others and have a new appreciation for doing something hard and scary.
So, use your conflict management skills. Learn some new ones.
But consider thinking about conflict in a positive light and notice if your conflicts become more of a creative challenge than a fearful encounter.
What conflicts have you encountered that seem impossible to go through?
When are some times that you have successfully gotten to the other side of a conflict?