Today is a lovely day and we can get out into the garden for longer – maybe we can dig up a big relationship weed today and put some nutrients in the soil of our lives.
The Weed – Ignoring Conflict
Let’s be honest none of us really like conflict, but in the world of relationships conflict is unavoidable. Our uniqueness guarantees it. We have individual temperaments, personalities, upbringings, experiences, gifts, abilities and passions in life. Those same differences also give colour to life and make relationships interesting. They contribute to the common observation in marriage, for example, that opposites tend to attract.
We have a decision to make when things crop up that we disagree with about in a relationship. Do we tackle it or do we ignore it? I believe that every time we ignore it, we permit a weed to take root in the relationship which will slowly strangle it. Left unchecked, the little things that aggravate you will escalate and become major issues that can lead to separation from the relationship altogether, and all because you chose to ignore the conflict.
The Feed – Resolve Issues
The truth is that relationships are enhanced through conflict. By working through our differences we deepen our understanding and appreciation of each other. It is a totally positive, relationship building exercise if approached properly. In a marriage, you fall more deeply in love. In a business you move to a new level of operational effectiveness. In a team you pull together like never before. In a church you submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5 v 21) and celebrate one another’s contribution to your corporate advance.
Conflict resolution has several stages:
Recognise your differences – acknowledge that they are part of what makes you, you. Affirm one another as unique expressions of God’s creative love.
Laugh at yourself – Maintain a sense of humour and don’t take yourself too seriously. Humour relieves tension. Just never use it to poke fun at your partner in a derogatory way.
Be prepared to change – “To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup: when you are wrong admit it. When you are right, shut up.” Have the humility to remember you could be wrong. The Bible says, “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance”. (Proverbs 28 v 13)
Being honest – The deepest form of communication is to be completely honest with each other.
Picking your moment – Find the best time to talk about the issue. Also, have an awareness of each others body-clock. Do it when you are most alert, relaxed, or mentally up for the hard conversation ahead.
Listen before you speak – Listen to one another intently. Give space for each to express themselves. Pay attention to more than words – be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1 v 19)
Speaking the truth in love – When you do speak, be sure your words are constructive. Avoid accusations, broad generalizations and blanket statements. Let your conversation add to the resolve and not be about scoring points. “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4 v 15)
Facing the issues together – Most conflicts require both parties to contribute to the solution. You must therefore face the issue together. It is not your problem it is our problem. Ask the question, what can we both do to help resolve this?
Re-centering your relationship – Set the issue you are in conflict about in its bigger context. Step back and keep it in proportion. At the end re-centre your relationship on Christ as Christ-followers. Recommit to doing things God’s way, which requires mutual respect, being honest, praying for one another and together. The closer a couple get to God the closer they will be to each other.
Give your partner in your marriage, team, family, business or church a gift – the gift of your willingness to resolve issues.