How to Fight Fair, Part II
"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"2
Author John Powell expressed this attitude poignantly when he said, "We defend our dishonesty [denying and not sharing our true feelings] on the grounds that it may hurt another person, and then, having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships."3
Fourth, in continuing our series on resolving conflict the fourth point is to use "I" messages. That is, instead of saying, "You make me mad," or "You really hurt my feelings," say words to this effect. "When you say (or do) things like thus and so, I feel hurt and/or angry, and I need to talk to you about it." This helps you take responsibility for your feelings and avoid blaming others. Many of us are like the lawyer in the Bible who, "wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"4 This was when Jesus told him that the greatest commandment was to love God and your neighbor as yourself.
Blaming others blocks resolution. As difficult as it may be, I need to admit that nobody hurts my feelings or makes me angry without my permission. As counselor Dr. Narramore puts it, "The other person is responsible for their action. We are responsible for our reaction!"
For instance, if I had a perfect self-concept—which I don't have—my feelings would rarely be hurt. What the other person said or did wouldn't upset me. But if I feel inferior or have low self-esteem, I will be easily wounded and/or angered. To the degree I overreact, however, that is always my problem. The other person has simply triggered my unresolved emotions.
Overreactions happen when unresolved issues or wounds from our past are triggered. The more I have resolved my issues from the past, the less I will overreact when negative things happen to me. This isn't to say that we won't ever get our feelings hurt or that we shouldn't feel angry at times, but we need to learn how to respond in the right manner … at the right time … in the right proportion to what has happened, not in proportion to our hypersensitivity.
Fifth, working with several hundred divorced people over the past decade or two, I have found that many divorcees primarily blame their former spouse for the failure of their marriage without taking a serious look at what they contributed. Conflicts can only be resolved when both parties acknowledge their contribution to the problem or misunderstanding. Yes, it is true that some people are belligerent, dogmatic, and abusive. Even the Bible implies that some people are impossible to get along with.5 But even then there is something we can do. It may be standing up for ourselves—that is, overcoming our overly passive or overly dependent, or super-sensitive style by saying to an angry, abusive person words to the effect that if they continue to treat you in this manner, you will have to distance yourself from them. And, if you make this statement, you need to stand by your words and do what you say you will do. And also assure this person that your door will always be open should they choose to stop being abusive. In these situations tough love is needed; for as long as we allow ourselves to be abused, we are a part of the problem. In every situation there is always some responsibility we can exercise.
To be concluded …
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in every conflict situation please help me to be non-defensive, quit playing the blame-game, and see how in any way I might be overreacting and use this as a motivation to grow and become a more loving, understanding and mature adult. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
2. Luke 10:29 (NIV).
3. John Powell, Why I Am Afraid to Tell You Who I Am, Argus Communications.
4. Luke 10:29 (NKJV).
5. Romans 12:18 (NIV).