Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is just around the corner. Some of you gathered around a long table with a large family this past week, while others shared an intimate meal with a few. It’s that time of the year where we will travel, gather, and, in the coming weeks, will be surrounded by more and more people.
As we prepare for the most wonderful (but perhaps the most stressful) time of the year, we are sure to encounter conflict at one point or another. It could be while you’re driving down the parkway as someone cuts you off or being amongst family members who don’t get along.
I recently found myself in a situation where two people whom I care for do not care for each other. It was any peacemaker’s nightmare. It created a tension-filled atmosphere that was awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
As you step into this season, here are a few reminders of how we can approach conflict, no matter what the circumstance is, through God’s word:
1. Give it to God
Thankfully, God has promised us that we do not have to deal with any of it alone.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m still learning.
There are times when I will try to deal with it myself, but His Word reminds us that it is through our weakness that His power is made perfect (1 Corinthians 12:9). God is perfect in every way, and He expects us to give Him the power to make up for any weakness we have. This is true whether the weakness we feel amid conflict as a result of hurt, disrespect, injustice, disagreement, or something else entirely.
Our knee jerk reaction is to protect ourselves, defend ourselves, or justify ourselves. Sometimes we forgo all moral values to fulfill that reaction. I know this because I have been there, and nothing has helped me more than seeking and heavily relying on God in those situations.
2. Define your Goal
Once the conflict presents itself, we must decide what our end goal is. Is it to seek peace, at the very least, and to perhaps seek reconciliation? Or Is it to “win”? Our flesh will always want us to win while His Spirit will always remind us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). If pursuing peace is our goal, then all our words and actions will be defined by that goal, and it will produce a roadmap for us to follow.
3. Seek to Understand
The number one thing that causes most of our conflicts is the lack of understanding and information. Too often we jump to conclusions and make assumptions rather than choosing to understand and fill in the gaps we don’t even realize we have. So, ask questions! Then…ask some more! After that, ask more! Questions help us stand in humility while helping us interpret circumstances in a much more wholesome way. We begin to see parts of the picture we didn’t know existed.
4. Communicate with honesty
Withholding how we truly feel in order to spare someone’s feelings is unfair to that individual. We rob them of a chance to correct anything that may need to be corrected or provide us with the knowledge that would help us understand more. We are too quick to say, “I don’t wanna deal with it” and it may seem easier to run away from the situation rather than confront it with a conversation in the moment. In reality, we bury it until it crawls up to the surface when it is triggered again.
5. Communicate with love
All honesty without any love is not healthy either. Paul warns us to not be like the clanging symbols who may have plenty of honesty and wisdom but lack love. (1 Corinthian 13:1). Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Our tone, pace, volume, time, and place all play an important role in ensuring that our honesty is being presented with love. It allows for others to receive what we must share even if they may disagree.
6. Let It Go
There may not be any resolution at the end of the day if any members of the party are not ready to pursue peace. Our goal will always be to honor God in all that we do no matter how the world reacts around us. (1 Corinthians 10:31). It could be as simple as reflecting on what the person who cut you off on the road is going through that day and choosing to let it go. It could be knowing very well that someone is not ready to receive you or communicate and giving them the space and time they need.
7. Pray for peace
More than that, we must not forget the most important part of approaching conflicts — prayer! God wants us to do this through His power and with Him. His power rises to the surface through the power of prayer. When we choose to let it go when someone cuts us off on the road, we don’t just stop there. We pray for them in the moment. When someone is not ready to receive and there’s nothing we can do, we pray while we wait. Before and throughout the conflict we continue to pray for peace and reconciliation.
This holiday season, as you prepare your homes, I pray that God prepares your heart for any conflict that may arise.