If you are in a family who lives together, there is conflict. There is healthy conflict where there is a willingness to disagree, discuss and listen to one another with the hope that, in the end, there will be a peaceful resolution. Then there is unhealthy conflict, where a deep hurt has come through our upbringing that is loaded with unresolved life experiences resulting in anger, hurt, and hate with the desire to destroy rather than rebuild. How do we begin to navigate through conflict without getting stuck in the middle of it? What does the Bible say about how we are to handle conflict in healthy ways that result in a better understanding of the underlying issues and those involved?
The root culprit in conflict is sin. We see this in Genesis when God gave man and woman the choice to obey Him or go their own way. Sadly, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and followed their pride, leading them to Satan. Adam and Eve believed in Satan and were disconnected from their Creator. Humans struggle with their ability to respond in truth and love in interpersonal relationships from that time on.
There can be no long-lasting resolution when Christ is not invited into conflict. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus implores us to live in unity. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:18, writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As believers, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to have pure motives in seeking peace and unity with others.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).
When conflict arises, it is also essential to do some introspection to see what our motives are with the conflict. Am I looking to become friends with those involved, or am I out to win this battle and remain enemies? Is what I believe to be true coming from a fact or an emotional response? Why is this situation causing conflict? Am I the problem? Talk with trusted friends about what you are going through. Ask them to be honest with you about their opinions on reconciling your situation.
God desires that we love one another; Satan wants to destroy your relationships with others. Prayer is vital for everyone involved to keep our hearts and minds focused on God and ask Him for His intervention in healing broken relationships. Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to wisely choose words carefully that are affirming and kind and keep away from harsh accusations and anger.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (Proverbs 15:1,2).
Being a good listener without constant interruptions shows respect and a desire to understand the other side of the conflict. Point out those things that you agree with and verbalize them. “I am glad to hear you say that you want to get beyond this and still be friends. How do we get to that place?” This approach will help keep emotions in check. Listening is not always easy, especially when you might strongly disagree. Let them have their say. Often, when a person can explain why they feel a certain way, they will soften and be more willing to listen to another viewpoint.
James 1:19–20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Being “quick to listen” means that we train ourselves to listen to what they are actually saying instead of waiting to tell the other side. “Slow to speak” controls our words without overreacting to what was said.
Finally, conflict resolution aims to maintain unity in our relationships and restore our connection with others, if possible. It will take patience and lots of prayer to work toward reconciliation. Restoring trust takes time. Sometimes, there is no reconciliation if one side is involved in abusive or emotional maltreatment. Without acknowledgment of their wrongdoing and desire for change, there can be no reconciliation. In specific situations, such as patterns of abuse and emotional maltreatment, relationships must be broken for safety reasons until there is emotional and spiritual healing.
All things are possible with God. When conflict arises, go to God first and read the scriptures about how to deal with your situation. See what part you play in the matter, and if necessary, go to the person and ask for forgiveness. Take time to invite the other side to talk with you.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
“You must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. … Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:25-27, 29).