The unfortunate truth is that in ministry – and in every other area of life – conflict is inevitable. And conflict never goes away until we address it. It might hide for a while, but until it’s dealt with in a healthy way, it will continue to raise its ugly head in our lives … over and over and over.
My wife hates confrontation. She hates confronting and hates being confronted. When a difficult conversation arises, she is more inclined to slide into a difficult conversation holding a large bowl of ice cream. My wife lives by the truth that ice cream makes everything better.
I don’t mind confrontation. I’m not saying I like it, but I ‘ve seen how healthy confrontation builds stronger organizations and relationships. I live by the truth that New Orleans’ snowballs are better than ice cream.
When it comes to conflict, whom are you most like? Do you go into hiding or go on the attack. While the truth is that most of us fall somewhere between fighting and hiding, it’s likely that we can all improve on our confrontational skills. Here are a few thoughts to help you live in the healthy space in between and avoid eating another gallon of ice cream.
- Pray before a difficult conversation. And during the conversation. And after the conversation. The heart of Jesus in Matthew 18 is that when we deal with conflict in healthy ways, his spirit is with us and in us, helping us move towards reconciliation. And reconciliation is the ultimate goal of all conflict.
- Speak the truth in love. Most of us err on one side or the other. If we speak love with no truth, it’s useless flattery. If we speak truth with no love, we come across as mean. It’s important to remember that just because we love someone doesn’t mean they’re able to receive our words with love. We’ve got to put in the extra work to demonstrate love before we speak a word of truth.
- Focus on restoration and reconciliation. Many of us want to win any conflict we’re engaged in, but for us to win means the other person loses. The worst situation is when both sides lose. Fight the urge to win and allow God to replace it with a desire to be reconciled with the other person.
- Offer and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in the rut of trying to figure out who’s more right and who’s more wrong. Instead of wading into that space, own your stuff and ask for forgiveness. And commit forgive the other person, even if they never offer an apology.
- Commit to moving forward. The first time you interact with someone after a difficult conversation can be painful. It’s probably awkward for both of you, and neither wants to create more conflict, so avoidance becomes the norm. Instead of settling for solitude, commit to being the one who pushes through the funk and moves towards health.
Healthy confrontation exists in a place that avoids hiding and fights against attacking. When you face conflict, choose to confront well, and save your ice cream for your next date night.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!