Resolving Conflict Creatively, Part II
"Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the church."1
To resolve conflict creatively we need, first, not only to speak the truth in love and, second, to listen with our heart, but third, we need to be honest and share our true feelings—not just our surface feelings. For example, anger is often a defense against feeling our fear. So, to resolve conflict, it's important not to deny the anger, but to be aware that it is a defense against feeling our deeper feelings. This can be difficult for many of us to do. We either don't know how to do this, or we use anger to stop the other person from getting close to us.
Or, equally destructive, to avoid conflict we deny our true feelings and pretend to be something we are not. This way conflict never gets faced, let alone resolved, and resentment can fester below the surface for years. And this festering is the cause behind many a broken relationship.
Author John Powell expressed this attitude very 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."2
Fourth, to resolve conflict it is also very important to use "I" messages. That is, instead of saying, "You make me mad or you really hurt my feelings," say words to the effect, "When you say (or do) things like thus and so, I feel hurt and/or angry, and I need to talk about it."
Fifth, avoid the blame-game at all costs. Many, if not most of us are like the lawyer in the Bible who, "wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"3 This was when Jesus told him that the greatest commandment was to love God and your neighbor as yourself.
If I don't love and accept myself in a healthy sense, conflict can be terribly distressing. I need to realize that nobody can upset me (hurt my feelings or make me angry) without my permission. For instance, if I had a perfect self-concept (which I don't) it would be very rare that my feelings would ever get hurt. What the other person says or does may or may not be a problem, but how I respond is always my responsibility. And to the degree I overreact, that is always my problem.
So before I lay the blame at another's feet, I need to be courageously honest with myself and know when I am responding responsibly and openly admit when I am overreacting out of proportion to what has happened. Overreactions happen when unresolved issues from the past get triggered. The trigger is not my problem but my overreaction is!
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ. Help me to know whenever I overreact in a conflict situation, to admit that it is my problem, and help me to overcome it. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."
(To be continued.)
1. Ephesians 4:15 (TLB).
2. John Powell, Why I Am Afraid to Tell You
Who I Am, Argus Communications.
3. Luke 10:29 (NKJV).