How to Fight Fair, Part III
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."6 "Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil."7
Sixth, the next point in resolving conflict is: stick to the subject at hand. Oh boy, when people stuff their negative feelings and sit on their hurt and anger, look out! They will eventually either implode (turn their emotions inward and get sick), or explode. And it may be the "smallest" little thing that triggers the explosion, so beware. They may also go back to unresolved grievances from decades ago! To resolve conflicts, it is imperative to deal only with the issue at hand. Period! Other unresolved issues can and need to be discussed at a different time.
Seventh, give up the right to always be right. People who have a compulsion to always be right tend to be insecure and immature. Be willing to say, "I was wrong. I apologize." As the Apostle Paul points out, we are not only to speak the truth in love but also to grow up and mature in all areas of our Christian life.8 That includes humility and respect for others and their viewpoints.
Eighth, as the Bible also teaches, "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil."9 That means we should resolve conflicts and angry feelings as quickly as possible. When we resolve to do this, the devil loses his foothold.
Ninth, speak softly. Most of us tend to raise our voices when we are upset. Research has shown that one effective way to handle yellers is to speak softly. This tends to make them lean forward and speak more softly so they can hear what you are saying. Yelling begets yelling! As Michel de Montaigne said, "He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak." The Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels."10
Tenth, pray. Pray first about yourself. One of the most powerful prayers I ever learned to pray was when I was at wits' end in a seemingly never-ending conflict. In utter frustration I literally begged God to face me with the truth of what I was contributing to this seemingly impossible situation in which I found myself. Within two weeks I saw my hopeless co-dependency (even though I hadn't even heard of the word at the time).
Once I saw the reality of what I was contributing, I knew exactly what I could and needed to do in order to resolve my part in the conflict. I wish I had learned to pray this prayer years before—even in Sunday School. Had I done so, I could have saved myself years of needless pain and frustration.
Finally, pray together. When two people are willing to face the truth about themselves, accept responsibility for their part in the conflict, and pray accordingly, there are not too many conflicts that can't be resolved. Remember, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."11
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in every conflict situation in which I find myself please help me to see exactly what I am contributing—whether it be positive or negative—and always take responsibility for what I think, feel, say and do. And help me to learn to be Christ-like at all times and always speak the truth in love. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
6. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV).
7. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT).
8. Ephesians 4:15 (NASB).
9. Ephesians 4:26-27 (TLB)(NLT).
10. Proverbs 15:1 (TLB)(NLT).
11. Psalm 145:18 (NIV).