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Letting Christ Transform You From The Inside Out

How to Resolve Conflict in a Healthy Way (Jesus' Way)

… A long time ago I learned this method of dealing with conflict.  When I follow it, I feel peace and am freed from the confusion that unresolved conflict brings.  I also am able to think clearly and love others more deeply. I hope these lessons from my life can help you.

Before I begin with the steps of this process, I’d like to ask you to think about the following:

What does God want for us? Why does God allow us to get hurt?  Why does He allow pain? How does He want us to view our sins (violations) against others? 

I was trying to do a “gut it out” forgiveness (which really was a superficial "so what" - "just toughen up" attitude) as well as rationalize why I had hurt others and why others had hurt me because I didn’t understand the “process” and “heart attitude” behind the process of reconciliation that I have now learned.  I also didn’t understand God’s view of how and why unresolved conflict hardens our hearts and makes it more difficult for us to feel love and even give love. It distances us from others, ourselves and even God.
Resolving conflict in a healthy (god-defined) manner is one of the greatest tools we have in helping to transform ourselves and the world around us. If managed successfully, these things lead to greater connection with one another and greater love and understanding.

Bitterness (which comes from not attempting to resolve the conflict and just staying angry) towards them will cause an emotional "cancer" to grow in me that will make me feel distant from myself, others and ultimately God. (Leviticus 6:1-5)

However, when the person being confronted is an abusive person, it also exposes that and can lead to my own realization that I need to set clearer boundaries with them and even withdraw from them, if possible, in order for them to grow.

STEP #1: Before I speak with them, I seek to take the log out of my own eye first. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The "log" does not necessarily refer to my "fault" in the conflict. Rather, it refers to having a "HUMBLE attitude". This will be reflected in my willingness to be "curious" vs. "condemning" as I approach resolving this conflict or misunderstanding.

When I have a humble attitude, the following will be present in my perspective:

1. Instead of "assuming" evil motives on their part (and being hostile or reactive towards them), I am open-minded and willing to seek to clarify the events leading to the misunderstanding.

2. I will seek first to "understand" their view of the facts, then I will seek to be understood.

I should build other’s trust first (by believing the best in them and sincerely listening to them and absorbing what they are saying.) Seek to understand them first and feel their pain.  If I am just thinking about the log I want to point out in their eye then I cannot possibly be listening intently to them.  I, then, have a log in my own eye, the log of arrogance.  God will eventually show this person their own sin if I do things His way.

What if I don't have a humble attitude? I pray for God to change my heart so that I can approach this person in a non-defensive manner.

My attitude in approaching someone regarding a conflict should ideally be the following:
HUMILITY – I see my own sin in the situation (or am willing to)
HATE SIN – I understand the devastation of sin, and more specifically the dividing nature of "assuming I am right" before I have the facts..
LOVE – I love the other person enough to confront them and do not want theirown sin (or self-deception) to harden their heart, as well.

STEP #2. Before I speak with them, I focus on the fact that Jesus is the ONE who "truly" knows me, understands me, and loves me (no matter what).

I cling to this fact and this enables me to trust in Jesus as my emotional support. Thus, I won't have expectations that are too high with respect to the other person's understanding of me, since I know that Jesus understands me.

I also remind myself that Jesus has been hurt in every way that I have been, and thus, can empathize with my pain.

Sometimes God surprises me and puts other disciples (followers of Jesus) in my life who have also gone through the same thing I am currently experiencing so that He can comfort me through them too.  Paul explains this in 2 Co 1:3-11.

(See Hebrews 4, Matthew 25, Empathy: Hebrews 13:1-3 as supportive scriptures of the above. )

STEP #3. Before I speak with them, I look to the cross of Christ as my motivation to forgive.

In my heart, even before approaching the other person, I “offer” reconciliation and forgiveness to them.  I do this because Jesus did the same to me when he died on the cross for my sins.  (2 Co 5:15-19) (Ro 5:5-8) Even while I was still not aware of my own sin (ways that I abuse others, break boundaries, and ignore the needs around me), Christ offered forgiveness to me.  This is the way of LOVE. However, reconciliation is not complete until the other person "accepts" the forgiveness offered.

Another example of offering love unconditionally is Jesus decision to heal the sick first (not the deserving sick).  He built trust in them through his love, THEN, he called them to change or repent.

When Jesus entered Peter’s boat after a discouraged Peter had spent all night trying to catch fish, Jesus blessed Peter.  Jesus told him to throw his net over on the other side of the boat and what a catch of fish was caught!  Peter’s response was “Lord, go away from me, I am a sinful man”.  Jesus’ unconditional blessing here alone convicted Peter of his sin.  This was just amazing!

STEP #4. Communication:

  1. Preface – I let someone know that I want nothing to come between us and I want to understand their perspective of a situation that occurred between us.
  1. Verbal Expression – I express how and why I have been hurt by something they did. I stick to the facts (as I remember them) and try not to "act out" my feelings. However, I do tell them how it made me feel. I share this hurt with a humble attitude, believing the best in the other person, realizing that I could be perceiving things totally wrong.  I ask them what they were thinking or feeling during this incident.  I sincerely want to understand them.  (Luke 17:1-4)
  1. Active Listening – I listen and give them an opportunity to explain their words or actions.  I do not interrupt or interject (even if I think they are not telling the truth about the details of the situation).  If I have questions or reservations I should write them down and ask them after they have finished telling their story.  Many times my initial questions will be answered if I will only be patient while quietly listening and absorbing what they are saying.  
  2. Evaluating and Responding to Their Answers: If they get upset at me, are defensive and refuse to acknowledge their part in this conflict (i.e. if they don’t ask me to help them see it more clearly or are unwilling to ask a third person to get involved and help us) then we cannot be reconciled.  That does not mean that I can’t still love them. Loving them means I treat them with gentleness and kindness. However, due to their refusal to respect my boundaries, I cannot trust them. Until they acknowledge their wrong behavior, I must withdraw. This might be the only way they "wake up" to their toxic affect to those around them. I will love them by showing that I respect their choice to not be reconciled for now.  

STEP#5. Resolution – Hopefully we will both see and own our own part of the misunderstanding or conflict, be sorry, ask for forgiveness and forgive the other person.  We should also accept the other person’s forgiveness of us too.
However, regardless of their decision, God will take away the hurt as I go through the process and as I pray for Him to take it away.  Just like in Luke 17:6, if I have faith in God’s power as small as a mustard seed and say to this “bitter/root” be uprooted and thrown into the sea, it will be done.  God is able to do this.  However, I must go through the process and “watch” my own sinful nature (conflict avoiding character for me) in the process (Luke 17:3,4)
For me, my sin in this whole process has been to be a people pleaser and not a God-pleaser.  1 John 3:16 says that Jesus laid down His life for me and I must lay down my life for my brothers and sisters in Christ.  1 John 4:20 says that “If I say I love God buty hate my brother/sister I am a liar and cannot really love God.  So together these scriptures along with the whole book of 1 John and Ephesians tell me that if I am not willing to deny my conflict avoiding character and talk to others about my hurts, then I cannot say I would ever die for Christ. I also must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I must also be willing to see the sin that is revealed in my own heart and perspective as I try to communicate with and understand the other person.  I must be willing to repent too of the ways I have sinned in this hurtful situation. 

Remember, we are all learning more and more about ourselves. 

Principles:

Why "expose" sin? To show what is NOT part of God's Image (or not part of the vision God has for us). By showing what is NOT healthy, we can understand better what IS healthy in a relationship.