Beauty in Diversity
One of my favorite things about The Well is its diversity. We represent a wide range of cultures, generations, personalities, races, skills, ethnicities, ages, denominations, careers, and life experiences. And despite all these differences among hundreds of women, there is still a strong sense of unity. It’s a beautiful thing! However, even in our unity (or perhaps BECAUSE of it) we know there is an enemy among us who prowls around waiting to devour us. One of the tools Satan uses to destroy people, relationships, churches, and ministries is conflict – not the conflict itself, but the way we choose to handle it. If we want to outsmart the enemy and continue advancing God’s Kingdom, we must be able and willing to face conflict in a healthy, loving, and biblical way.
Conflict is Inevitable
Dealing with conflict in a healthy way is crucial to our discipleship because we are called to love people, and people are messy. We all come to the table with our own personalities, backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives. On top of that, we all carry a history of pain/trauma, fears, and expectations. So, when there is a group of people together, whether it’s church, work, home, or ministry, there will undoubtedly be different opinions, misunderstandings, and moments of unintentionally hurting each other. We will INEVITABLY have some level of conflict with other people.
Learning About Conflict
We initially learn about conflict by how our family of origin handled it. Did your family yell and attack each other? Were they defensive or passive-aggressive? Did they just sweep things under the rug? We must unlearn these unhealthy patterns by steeping ourselves in the Word of God and allowing it to inform the way we approach conflict.
Becoming a Peacemaker
There are two extremes in approaching conflict: (1) being overly confrontational and (2) completely avoiding it at all costs. Those who ignore/avoid conflict are often lauded as being calm, peaceful, and likeable. However, ignoring conflict can be just as harmful as being overly confrontational. It not only breeds bitterness and contempt, but also deprives those involved of the opportunity to grow. The goal of approaching conflict is to be reconciled with one another and to genuinely live at peace with each other (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14). If you want to have relationships that glorify God, ignoring conflict is not an option. Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacemakers are those who promote the peace of God, reconciling people to himself and to each other. Running from conflict, and constantly ignoring problems, does NOT mean you’re a peacemaker! It just means you’re passive and avoidant. Being a peacemaker requires intentionality and an active pursuit to MAKE peace.
Approaching Conflict in a Biblical and Emotionally Healthy Way. So, what does healthy conflict look like?
- If you know you hurt someone, go to them to apologize (Matthew 5:23-24)
- If someone hurts you, tell them directly, honestly, and respectfully (Matthew 18:15-16)
- Focus on the problem, not the person. Do not attack the person’s character (Ephesians 4:31)
- Know when to drop certain issues; not every little thing needs to be confronted (Proverbs 19:11)
- Take responsibility for your part in the conflict
- Use “I” statements to own your feelings rather than attacking the person (e.g., “I feel angry/worried when you’re late for dinner” rather than “You’re so irresponsible and selfish…”)
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings without getting defensive
- Avoid being passive-aggressive
- State what you need clearly and assertively
- Learn skills/strategies to regulate strong emotions to avoid losing your temper or becoming overwhelmed (Ephesians 4:26-27)
- Examine yourself to see if you’re too easily offended and why that is (e.g., pride, past trauma, hypersensitivity, etc.)
- Remember the real enemy is SATAN – not your husband, colleague or sister in Christ (Ephesians 6:12)
Harvest of Righteousness
In an ideal world there would be no conflict, but unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world – yet. We live in a fallen world that consists of fallen people, so we must learn how to make peace with each other. A harvest of righteousness is sown by those who make peace (James 3:17-18). So, ladies, if you desire to love people and to honor God, then take an honest look at your own approach to conflict, seek wise counsel if needed, and start making peace! If you would do that, a harvest of righteousness will follow, and God will continue to preserve our unity in the midst of so much diversity.