When conflict does arise, there is a clear crossroads to consider. Will you respond in the same manner as last time, or choose a different and better path? The work that has already been done to understand and address your heart, responsibility, and sin now gives you the opportunity to respond in love when these temptations strike. It is love that combats the effects of sin through conflict. To actively face conflict with sacrificial love adds a new dynamic to the circumstance.
There are many truisms in life that have been handed down from one generation to another. To name a few: “Don’t run with scissors,” “Back up your hard drive,” and my favorite, “It takes two to tango.” In life, interpersonal conflict happens when two people at odds with one another are combative and seek only to fulfill their unmet ruling desires (James 4:1-5). This dance can go on for decades. However, it can be hard to have an ongoing conflict if one or both remove themselves from the dance of toxic conflict—not through fleeing the circumstances but by engaging differently in the transforming work of the gospel (1 Cor. 5:14-15; Rom. 6:10-11; 5:1-5; 8:28-30).
Have you ever tried to fight with someone who is responding biblically with kindness? It’s tough. The next time you find yourself in conflict, consider the following pathway. It begins with removing yourself from the equation by applying these biblical principles:
Consider Your Heart (Prov. 4:23; Heb. 4:12; James 1:13-15)
When conflict strikes, the tendency is to consider the circumstances by first focusing on what has happened to you. It is interesting to observe that different people and personalities respond differently to the same set of circumstances. The fire of interpersonal conflict starts from within, not outside of us. To help address the issue, we first must ask, “Why did this circumstance bother me so much?” In many cases, this requires some help. For example, asking God for help to see your desires accurately. It could also involve asking a friend to give perspective and insight on how you are interpreting the situation. Journaling, along with Scripture meditation, is a helpful tool to engage with what is in one’s heart. It brings words and descriptions to what is in the heart. Looking at words on paper can bring perspective and help you see yourself accurately.
Clarify Your Responsibility (Rom. 12:1-3; Phil. 4:8; Ps. 139:23-24)
When it comes to conflict, most people take the “car accident approach” to dealing with their problems. This means they quickly assess the percentage of the conflict the other person is responsible for to determine the effort required to make things better. In other words, if I’m only 1% at fault, then they should be doing 99% of the work to make things better. Taking yourself out of the equation in conflict means starting with your responsibility first. In fact, even if you are 1% at fault, you are still 100% responsible for those actions before God and others.