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When Your Attempt to Resolve Conflict Fails

Posted on September 25, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

Psalm 26:2

Despite your best efforts to resolve conflict, sometimes the offended person will refuse your good intentions. Sadly, there are individuals who will carry animosity and bitterness to their graves. They will not forgive or forget.

When I was in the Navy, I made friends with a trumpet player from Detroit. One day on the band’s tour bus, we were joking and laughing — as usual. In the midst of our fun, I said something he didn’t like. From that moment on, he hated me. Vowed to beat me up. The animosity continued, but I’m happy to report the physical altercation he promised never took place. He rejected all attempts at conflict resolution, and he refused to forgive me.

Unresolved conflict is like the aftermath of a tornado or hurricane. It’s destructive, requires a long and difficult recovery, and there is always something left to remind you of the disaster.

On August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille devastated the Mississippi gulf coast. Five years later, Janet and I traveled to Biloxi for a beach trip. Through the window of a local restaurant, we saw wreckage that had yet to be removed from the beach. Five years had passed, but not everything was as it was before the storm.

Divorce is unresolved conflict. The courts final decree settles the matter legally, but hurt and anger often remain. Just seeing a former spouse can open old wounds. And if children were involved, a continued relationship is a necessity. When the kids grow up and the former spouses get together, it can feel like the reunion of the Hatfields and McCoys.

And there’s that sticky issue regarding child custody. Custody battles are often long, gruesome, and costly.

Inheritance issues lead to feuds within families. People who never had relationship issues can become bitter enemies as they fight over an estate settlement.

Friendships go bad. Co-workers stab you in the back. Gossips spread hurtful stories about you. People disrespect, offend, and treat you badly. And in many of these and similar scenarios, there is no conflict resolution. Hatred, bitterness, and hostility continues. So what do you do? When your attempts for conflict resolution have failed, what then?

(1) pray

Pray you’ve done your part to make things right. Pray for the others involved.

(2) take spiritual inventory

Ask the Lord to examine your heart. “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…” (Psalm 26:2)

Have you been blinded by hurt feelings or bitterness? Have you sought to get to the root of the problem? What about your motives? Have they been pure and godly? Is this just about you, or have you carefully considered the other person’s feelings and rationale? Did you apply the golden rule? Jesus said, “…in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12)

(3) move on in faith

There comes a point when it’s time to shake the dust from your sandals and move on. (Matthew 10:14) When you’ve done everything you can to Biblically resolve a relationship conflict and your efforts are rejected, then you have fulfilled your spiritual obligation.

That’s not to say that God won’t one day heal the relationship. But for now, trust Him to help you get passed the hurt and on with a productive God-honoring life.

Why hold onto the hurts of the past when you can have positive expectations for your future? There will always be people who bring conflict into your life. But you have something better than their hurtful conniving and negativity. You have the love and power of Christ to help you, bless you, and keep you.  God will “tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3) Faith doesn’t look back, but anticipates the good that is to come.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Healing from a Broken Heart

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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How to Resolve Conflict, Part 3

Posted on September 24, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Why devote so much time to resolving conflict? Because peacemaking shows us to be “children of God.” Jesus is the supreme peacemaker, reconciling man to God. As His followers, we are to be instruments of peace.

Some people seem to enjoy causing trouble. They are by nature volatile agitators. And they prey on those they perceive to be weak.

To live as Christ commanded is to be humble, gentle, and non-combative. But that should never be construed as weakness. In fact, when we handle life’s conflicts and problems as the Lord directs, the result is power and victory.

Responding to conflict in a way that honors God takes more strength, courage, and self-discipline than leading with your fists or cursing your enemy.

My roles as a pastor and in radio management required frequent use of conflict resolution skills. At one point late in my career, the problem became so frequent that I developed a strategy for handling every uprising. By focusing on the plan, I was better equipped to remain obedient to God, realize desired peaceful resolutions, and maintain peace of mind.

At the core of my strategy was to be true to God and myself. I refused to give anyone permission to cause me to violate my conscience. When that is your focus and not beating up on your opponent, you always walk away a winner. Don’t give anyone permission to violate the person you are in Christ. Remain true to the godly and righteous person you are in Him.

Following are more Biblical principles on How to Resolve Conflict.

(11) meet in private (Matthew 18:15)

Public showdowns cause embarrassment and tend to fan the flames of animosity. Private meetings are always best.

(12) speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; Luke 17:3)

Speaking the truth in love is not a license to criticize unfairly or insult. These statements usually begin with, “I say this in all Christian love.” Then they’re followed with a putdown. “Honey, I say this in all Christian love, but you don’t have the good sense the good Lord gave a soda cracker.”

The truth is your honest version of the who, what, where, when, why, and how side of the conflict. It tells how you feel and why you feel that way. It speaks to the circumstances, misunderstandings, misperceptions, and especially any wrong doing on your part.

To speak the truth in love is to communicate in sincerity, compassion, and a fervent desire for healing the relationship. If forgiveness is in order, it should be offered in genuine remorse and humility.

Caution! Your words to resolve conflict can be used against you. Don’t say more than needed and avoid pulling others into the conflict. Take responsibility for your actions and only invoke the names of others if pertinent to the case. “He said” and “she said” may lead to more trouble between you and others. Choose your words carefully.

(13) don’t repay evil for evil (Romans 12:17)

I mentioned this point before, but it is worth repeating. If you’re the target of mudslinging, don’t sling back. Don’t seek revenge or allow someone who has done evil to pull you down to their sinful level.

(14) offer grace and mercy (Romans 12:20)

Many times the offending party doesn’t deserve your goodness and kindness. That’s when grace kicks in. Give them the good they don’t deserve. And if they deserve punishment for the wrong they have inflicted upon you, give mercy by forgiving them.

And if they should say, “After what I have done to you, how can you treat me so kindly?” The door has just opened for you to share the reason for your hope and to resolve conflict.

(15) be willing to compromise (Philippians 2:4)

It’s not your way or the highway. Your goal is peace which may require compromise. The only thing that is not open for negotiation is that which honors God. Anything requested in your peace negotiation that would force you to violate your faithfulness to God is off limits.

(16) your objective is peace (Matthew 5:9)

Keep the main thing the main thing. Because you are a child of God, you are a peacemaker. And you will be blessed for your effort.

That concludes our 3-part devotional on resolving conflict. Tomorrow, I’ll share some Biblical principles on what to do when your efforts at conflict resolution are rejected.

In case you missed it, here’s the link to How to Resolve Conflict, Part 1

For more on this topic, check out this article: Love Means You Sometimes Have to Say You’re Sorry

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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How to Resolve Conflict, Part 2

Posted on September 23, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

The psalmist was right. Unity is a wonderful thing but it’s not easy. That’s why God has given so much instruction in His word on How to Resolve Conflict.

When my boys were growing up, they had a talent for disrupting family vacations. Their arguments commonly occurred in the backseat of our car. One rhubarb I have never forgotten erupted after their mother had ordered each of them to stay on their sides of the vehicle. “Keep your hands to yourself and be quiet,” she ordered. A brief silence ensued and then Michael complained that Sean was looking out his window.  Then all heck broke loose. I stopped the car and laid down the law. Janet took exception to the harshness I used when reprimanding the boys. I disagreed which made me the recipient of the dreaded silent treatment. And while I reeled from the frost in the front seat, the boys chatted and played in perfect peace and harmony.

Conflicts are like landmines planted along our paths. They can erupt without warning and in unexpected places. In fact, as we saw in the previous example, one explosion can lead to another. Sometimes the flame is extinguished quickly, and in other situations it takes a while for the ice to thaw. But in healthy relationships, healing always takes place. Love prevails.

But where love falters or is nonexistent, conflicts divide and destroy. As Christians, we are expected to rise above our biases, hurt feelings, and differing opinions. And seek to resolve conflict. We are to be instruments of peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9) When Jesus told us to love our enemies, He didn’t tell us to expect love in return. Our actions are to be based on the expectations of Christ and not the reactions of others.

Yesterday, I shared five of 16 Biblical principles in How to Resolve Conflict, Part 1. Let’s continue…

(6) To resolve conflict, hold your temper (Proverbs 15:18; James 1:19)

We all have different personalities and some of us are more hotheaded than others. The responsibility, however, is the same. Like I mentioned earlier when calling attention to the fruit of the Spirit. “Self-control” indicates spiritual maturity. It is to apply to all areas of Christian behavior and thinking.

When you blow your top, Satan has you right where he wants you. The spotlight now shines on your unrighteous behavior. Despite your good intentions, you look like the bad guy.

(7) To resolve conflict, exercise patience (Proverbs 15:18)

Yep. “Patience” is another fruit of the Spirit. It’s also a quality of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13. Note the counsel advised in Proverbs 15:18: “…the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Before a conflict can be resolved, there must be calm. Don’t throw fuel on the fire. Cool the discourse with patience.

Your enemies will attempt to provoke you. Rather than trading insult for insult, pray for patience. Remember, too, you’re not without help in the conflict. “…leave room for God’s wrath.” (Romans 12:19) The Lord honors your efforts to do things His way. If you have done your part to seek a peaceful solution, and you are above reproach in the matter, then God may administer judgement.

(8) To resolve conflict, listen carefully (James 1:19)

Conflict cannot be resolved with only your side of the argument. Listening gains understanding of why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. Sometimes — just knowing you care enough to try to understand their grievance is all that’s needed to come to an agreement. Strive to see things from the other person’s perspective. Do your best to walk in their shoes.

(9) To resolve conflict, speak calmly (Proverbs 15:1)

Speaking calmly results from patience. Calm is vital to maintaining a civil dialogue. Avoid sarcasm. Your tone should be kind, caring, but firm when needed. Let your calm dictate the tone of the argument. Don’t give into their attempts to pull you into a shouting match of insults.

(10) To resolve conflict, speak thoughtfully (James 1:19)

Thoughtful speech is considerate of others. It means that your way is not the only way, nor are your feelings all that matters. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

That brings us to the end of the second devotional on resolving conflict. We’ll continue with How to Resolve Conflict, Part 3 tomorrow.

For more on this topic, check out this article: With Christian Freedom Comes Responsibility

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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How to Resolve Conflict, Part 1

Posted on September 22, 2017 By In Encouragement , Religion With no comments

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Proverbs 15:18

In my many years of marriage, I have never won a silent treatment battle. A silent treatment battle is when two people stop talking because they are angry with one another. It happens in the best of relationships. However, I’m happy to report all of our brief marital squabbles have been resolved.

Disagreements happen. They are as much a part of life as breathing. Wherever people coexist problems will arise. And sometimes those problems escalate into conflicts that, if unresolved, can cause pain, suffering, animosity, and destruction.

The Bible has much to say on the subject, and some of it runs counter to man’s logic. But if we will learn and apply God’s instruction for resolving conflict, we will benefit greatly.

I can’t promise that using these principles will always result in peace, satisfaction, and harmony. As long as there is evil in this world there will be wars and rumors of wars, even in some of our interpersonal  relationships. It will be that way until the Lord returns.

As Christians, our spiritual priorities are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) These vital character qualities should be kept top of mind, worked on, and refined. They reflect the presence of Christ and spiritual maturity. The fruit of the Spirit is indispensable for maintaining a godly perspective in all of life’s troubles and conflicts. It enables us to exhibit grace under fire.

Following then are 5 of the 16 Biblical principles on How to Resolve Conflict. These strategies are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but a practical guide for handling discord and mending broken relationships.

(1) seek to settle matters quickly (Ephesians 4:26)

Yes, Christians get angry, but “In your anger do not sin.” The spiritually mature Christian keeps his or her emotions under control. Don’t use language that blasphemes God. Don’t lower yourself by returning evil for evil. Take the Lord’s higher road of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Deal with your anger first, then seek to resolve conflict. Don’t let the little spark of discord become a consuming flame.

(2) don’t hold a grudge (Ephesians 4:31; Hebrews 12:15)

Bitterness is destructive. In Hebrews 12:15, it is represented as a “bitter root.” That inner hostility grows into an explosive force that hurts others and accomplishes no good thing. Bitterness insures sinful thoughts and leads to unrighteous acts unbecoming a servant of Christ.

(3) keep the devil out of it (Ephesians 4:27; 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8)

Grudges, rage, and unresolved conflicts are an invitation for evil. How foolish to give “…the devil a foothold.” The Apostle Peter warned, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He will seek to destroy your good witness, reputation, and obedience to Christ. Satan is a master at making you look like the bad guy. Don’t give him ammunition to use against you. The evil one does not want you to resolve conflict. Quite the contrary. He delights in chaos.

(4) forgive (Colossians 3:13; Luke 17:4)

People hurt us deeply with wounds that last a lifetime. But with the help of the Lord, we can forgive. The greatest example of forgiveness is how God has forgiven us. There can be no complete resolution of conflict without applying this basic tenant of the Christian faith.

(5) love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44)

Loving people who love us and support us is easy. Loving our enemies is difficult and contrary to the way the world views love. Part of that act of Christian love is to pray for those who have wronged us and pulled us into conflict. Pray for God to enable you to love your enemies as you should and pray He will make them receptive to your desire to resolve conflict.

Tomorrow we’ll continue to look at more of what the Bible has to say about conflict resolution. Until then, is there an ongoing conflict in your life that causes you grief? Are you holding onto bitter feelings for someone who hurt you long ago? Go to the Lord now and seek His help to cleanse your heart of animosity and wicked thoughts. And ask Him to bless your offender.

For more on this topic, check out this article: Love Means You Sometimes Have to Say You’re Sorry

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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