Turtles and Skunks

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:17-19

 

Death and taxes are two certainties of life. Let me add a third: conflict. Where two or more are gathered there will be conflict. It’s just part of the human condition. The question is, what do we do about it? The biblical answer is “resolve it”.

But resolving conflict isn’t easy. Most of us become either a turtle or a skunk when we find ourselves in conflict. Turtles withdraw into their shells and hope that it’ll all just go away. Skunks just make the conflict worse by telling everyone about it. I tend to be a turtle. How about you?

If we’re going to grow in relational health, then we need to learn how to resolve the inevitable conflicts in our relationships. Here are five principles to keep in mind.

Forgive First. We often think that forgiveness is the final step in the process of resolving conflict, but it should be the first. Forgiveness often requires that we swallow our pride and decide that being right is less important than being in a right relationship. (Ephesians 4:32)

Start with Your Own Log. When we’re in conflict we usually focus on what the other person has done to offend us, but we’d be wise to focus first on how we may have contributed to the conflict. (Luke 6:41)

Initiate. Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move. Swallow your pride and make the call. (Matthew 5:23)

Listen More Than You Speak. God gave you two ears and one mouth. Take the hint! Rather than making assumptions about people’s motives, ask questions and then really listen. (James 1:19-20)

Drag God into It. Dragging other people into your conflict is rarely the right thing to do but dragging God into it is! Ask yourself, “How can I honor God in this situation?” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Is there a relational conflict in your life right now? Don’t be a turtle or a skunk. Be a disciple and follow the way of Jesus. Our attempts to resolve conflict don’t always result in the restoration of relationship, but that’s ultimately in God’s hands. Our calling is to be faithful in the process.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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