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Resolving Conflict Creatively (How to Fight Fair)

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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 angry. To the degree I overreact, that is my problem not theirs.

Overreactions happen when unresolved issues or wounds from our past are triggered. So 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 get our feelings hurt or that we shouldn't feel angry at times, but we need to learn how to react 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, I have found that the majority blame their former spouse for the breakup of their marriage without taking a serious look at what they contributed. Conflicts can only be resolved and we can only grow when both parties acknowledge their contribution to the problem or misunderstanding. Yes, it is true, some people are belligerent, dogmatic, and abusive. Even the Bible implies that some people are impossible to get along with.4 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 "No more." and exercising tough love. But there is always some responsibility we can exercise. 

Sixth, 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. The other issues can 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.5  That includes humility and respect for others and their viewpoints.

Eighth, as the Bible also teaches, "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."6 Resolve conflicts and angry feelings as quickly as possible. When we resolve our anger, the devil loses his foothold.

Confess nobody's
'sins' but your own.

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 grievous words stir up hostility."7

Tenth, pray. First pray about yourself. One of the most powerful prayers I ever learned to pray was when I was at wits end in a seemingly hopeless conflict. In utter frustration I begged God to face me with the truth of what I was still contributing to a seemingly hopeless situation. 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 was able 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.

Then 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."8

1. John 1:17.
2. John Powell, Why I Am Afraid to Tell You Who I Am.
    Argus Communications.
3. Luke 10:29, (NKJV).
4. Romans 12:18, (NIV).
5. Ephesians 4:15, (NASB).
6. Ephesians 4:26–27, (NLT).
7. Proverbs 15:1.
8. Psalm 145:18, (NIV).

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All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.