How Can I Resolve Conflict in a Biblical Way? 7 Easy Steps
- 2019 6 Jun
Healthy conflict is good! It clears up misunderstandings and helps everyone deal with negative feelings in a positive way. Unfortunately, many of us go through life trying to avoid conflict, while others might try to create conflict. Neither response is healthy or beneficial in our relationships.
Often, we’re unprepared to deal with conflict because our parents weren’t good role models or didn’t teach us healthy conflict-resolution skills. As a child, I learned to suppress my feelings and stay passively compliant, because my mom was emotionally fragile after my dad’s sudden death.
But eventually compliancy reaches its limit. Often “perfect” children turn into prodigals.
Not having healthy experiences in dealing with conflict and saying no, I succumbed and said yes to the world. In turn, I passed this pattern on to my daughter. She told me what I wanted to hear but subversively did as she pleased.
When a child learns that she or he can disagree with people and not lose their love or friendship, a child’s fears of abandonment dissolve, and she learns to stand up against peer pressure. Our inclination as parents is to silence a child who disagrees or argues, but that’s a mistake. Words, even those that are hard to hear, are one of the best tools to help us understand and appropriately respond.
A child, partner, or spouse who is compliant and passive can be a time bomb waiting to go off.
Sadly, in today’s culture, we see all ages from children to elderly adults unable to engage in debate and disagreements without verbally, and sometimes physically, attacking each other.
So, I’d like to share with you seven steps to resolving conflict that God outlines in the Bible, and I’ve found helpful in almost any situation. Admittedly, it may be a new way of resolving conflict for you, but it works—with husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, friends, ministry workers, even political opponents—in any relationship.
Even if the person you’re in conflict with is not a believer, if you stay calm and react biblically, you might find the other person responds appropriately.
Pray together, or send up a silent prayer, before you go through these seven steps:
1. Take the initiative to resolve the conflict.
The moment you sense a problem in your relationship, take the first step toward righting it—even if you think the other person was wrong and you’ve done nothing to provoke him or her. Approach the person face-to-face. Conflict seldom is completely resolvable via e-mail, letters, texting, or phone calls because we can’t read each other’s face, eyes, or body language.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 18:15
2. Focus on goals bigger than your personal differences.
Before starting a discussion, establish that the relationship is more important than any disagreement. If you focus on what’s keeping you apart, it will be much harder to reach the goal of working on priorities out together.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3
3. Listen attentively as the other person tells how he or she sees the situation.
Let the other person speak first while you listen with your heart, eyes, and ears — without becoming defensive or angry. Try to hear the hurt in the person’s voice and empathize. Don’t interrupt. Let the person complete his or her story. Understandably, this will be the most difficult of the seven steps.
To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them. – Proverbs 29:20
4. Validate the person’s feelings without minimizing his or her concerns.
Acknowledge the other person’s points, without arguing or challenging. Then ask if they will listen to you.
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. – James 1:19–20
5. Tell your story.
Indicate that you understand how the person may have perceived the situation in a different way than you meant it. Avoid assigning blame, although it’s okay to let the person know how the situation also hurt your feelings or upset you.
You may think you have won your case in court, until your opponent speaks. – Proverbs 18:17 CEV
6. Apologize and ask forgiveness for your part in the disagreement.
Don’t expect the person to say he or she is sorry or to ask for forgiveness. Forgive with no hidden agenda or expectations. This step will probably surprise the other person and deescalate any volatility in the discussion. Asking for forgiveness is disarming. There are always two sides to an argument, and you’re taking responsibility for your part.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. – Colossians 3:13
7. Discuss how to avoid future conflict.
Set ground rules for the relationship going forward to prevent this same source of conflict reoccurring. Close with prayer.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14
Learning how to resolve conflict the biblical way allows us to keep our cool and humbly communicate in a peaceful, loving manner—Christ’s way. Unresolved conflict causes unrest, disunity, anger, revenge, gossip, and unkindness—Satan’s way.
When we resist Satan by adopting Christ-like behavior, the enemy retreats—at least for the moment. He’ll be back with a new strategy, but don’t allow him to get a foothold.
You know how to make him retreat again.
This article was inspired by Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter and Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community.
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books. Her passion is to mentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness, which is the subtitle of her latest release, Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith is due out September, 2019. She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com. Join Janet on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram (janetahw).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Vasyl Dolmatov