Conflict is About Unmet Expectations
The most obvious example of conflict is people fighting, but I don’t personally fight, so it’s always internal for me. It could even be a conflict within myself.
A quick definition is that conflict is what happens whenever expectations aren’t met. That could be something as small as your significant other expecting you to take out the trash, and you didn’t do it. Or it could be something big, like going out and spending $10,000 without asking your spouse. So, they come in a variety of sizes.
It definitely comes down to expectations. If you both agree that you can spend $10,000 without asking each other, then there would be no conflict. When my wife and I have had conflict, it’s because we had different expectations, and we didn’t know that the other person’s expectations were different.
Doing Conflict Well
You’ll be miserable if you don’t do conflict well. And if you don’t resolve it, it won’t just go away. You can’t just bury them, or ignore them. You can’t just bury your feelings, or pretend that you don’t have feelings. That’s not what it means to be a man.
Conflict done well or done poorly is the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship.
You can ignore it and get by for a while, but eventually you need to deal with it. It’s like a scabbed over wound. In the long term, you need to put some antiseptic cream on the wound and actually let it heal properly. If you ignore it, at best, it will stay a scab, and at worst, it becomes an infection, and eventually something far worse.
So, conflict is actually about feelings: how you feel about a situation, and how someone else feels about the situation. It’s not about you being right and the other person being wrong. A lot of times we may think that it’s not about feelings, it’s about proving that I’m right.
There’s a great YouTube video called It’s Not About The Nail and it’s about a woman explaining to her husband some of her frustrations, and he keeps telling her that she has a nail in her forehead. But she keeps telling him that it’s not about the nail. There are some times when it really is about the nail, but there are many times when it’s really not about the nail. Because ultimately, as people, we want to be understood, and you don’t have to agree with the person to resolve the conflict. That’s a misnomer. You just need to be respectful of the other person and understand where they’re coming from and come to an agreement.
Once each person feels heard and valued, then maybe you can fix the problem. Maybe that’s the natural consequence of resolving the conflict is that you actually fix the problem, but it’s more about the relationship.
Personality type affects how you deal with conflict. Some people will concede immediately to get rid of the conflict, and that’s not healthy. Some people will run away and stop talking to you, and some people will fight you to the death.
For me, the relationship is the most important thing, so let’s just do whatever it takes to make sure the relationship is ok and pretend there was never a conflict. But that’s not actually making sure the relationship is ok.
It feels like you have though. It feels like you’ve protected the relationship, but it’s actually counter-productive, and it leaves you in a bad spot.
This verse really applies here. 1 Peter 4:8 says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” That’s so critical because love is a verb. Love is an action. You choose to love people. You choose to accept them. You choose to forgive them. You choose to show them grace.
Whatever your natural response is, it’s probably not healthy. Whether it’s assuming you’re right, or assuming you have all the facts. Or passive-aggressively trying to get what you want. These approaches are avoiding the issue and being indirect.
Be Quick to Listen
The most important thing to remember when starting a conflict comes from James 1:19, and it says “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”. Being quick to listen is the hard part. Whenever you’re in a conflict, it’s something that matters to you. It’s something important. And it can be really painful sometimes because what that person has done cuts you to your core. That’s why it’s important to go into it prayerfully and to ask God to help you listen to that person. Don’t assume you know why they did what they did. Actually listen to what they have to say. Then you can actually move towards an understanding with that person, and have reconciliation.
The other thing that can hurt is what they’re going to say about you. They might say things that you’ve done that hurt them. And be quick to ask them questions that help you understand their point of view.
You also need to validate their feelings. When they say “I feel __.” you don’t have to agree with that, but you do have to validate and tell they that you’re so sorry that they feel that way and that it was never your intent to make them feel insecure, or jealous, or threatened. Then you have the opportunity to tell them what you were actually trying to do.
You can’t tell them how they feel or how they should or shouldn’t feel. You’re not in control of their feelings. Whatever they’re feeling is the truth.
It Requires Honesty
You need to be honest with the person. If you really want to resolve the conflict, this is essential. But there’s a difference between being honest and being a jerk. There’s a way to gentling tell the truth, without trying to hurt their feelings. You have to be willing to tell the whole truth. You can’t hold back. You have to be vulnerable. And you may get hurt more, but that’s what will resolve the conflict. It needs to be real and honest.
We are all destined to come into conflict. And that’s why it’s important to learn how to do it well.
You also have to be willing to say that you messed up or admit that you were wrong. Maybe you were only 1% in the wrong and the other person was 99% in the wrong. But it will mean so much to that person for you to admit your faults.
You can also ask what you can do to help, or what you can do in the future to prevent it.
It Requires Vulnerability
We know that when the truth comes out, one of two things is going to happen. Either, we’re going to resolve the conflict, or that person uses that information against us, to hurt us even more deeply. And there’s this mental mind game that goes on, where you think that the broken state of the relationship that you have right now, is better than losing the relationship entirely.
At my church we have a phrase “Hurt people, hurt people”. Whenever you’re hurting, you are more likely to hurt someone else. And it just makes you more dangerous. You decided to hurt people before they have a chance to hurt you.”
You can’t assume what someone’s intentions were, based on their behavior, because you don’t know what their internal motivations are. Their internal motivations are not the same as your internal motivations, so they may have been trying to do something good that you interpreted as bad.
How do we do conflict better?
For the confrontation avoider, the most important thing you can do is to really work on your identity. When you understand your identity, you’ll understand that you are valuable. That’s so important because you don’t want to have a shell of a friendship, when you could have a better one. When you do conflict right, it will bring you closer together. I’ve seen it happen recently. The relationship was so transformed by the conflict, and I was so glad I went through it. When you realize that you’re valuable, you’ll realize that the other person doesn’t just want to throw you away. That’s part of the lie that ‘s told to the conflict avoider. The other person does value you. And of course, pray about it. Ask God how to approach them and how to rebuild what is broken. We serve a God of restoration.
For the confrontational person, you have be trying to have a confrontation with someone who is not really responding back and is avoiding the confrontation. And you might perceive that as that person not caring about the relationship because they’re not fighting back and they’re not fighting for the relationship. But that’s not true. You might need to give the other person some space. Ask them more questions, and don’t be so aggressive. Maybe just ask them what they’re feeling and what’s going through their head.
You can also start by telling them how much they mean to you and how valuable they are. Then you might have some leeway to have the conversation that you need to have.
Try and resolve some conflict. It could be external conflict with another person, or it could be internal conflict that you just need to take to God. You might have internal conflict about a sin in your life, and you can tell God, “Why is this sin in my life? Whenever this sin happens in my life, it makes me feel like ____.”
The song for this week is For The Moments I Feel Faint - Reliant K and one of the lines says “Never underestimate my Jesus. You’re telling me that there’s no hope. I’m telling you you’re wrong.”