They say most people would rather do the following than attend a family function with certain relatives:
- Be poked in the eye with a sharp stick (16%)
- Get a case of hemorrhoids (12%)
- Swallow a live bug (12%)
- Get audited by Revenue Canada (11%)
- Clean the toilet (9%)
When it comes to conflict, silence or violence are too often the dead end streets we go down. There must be a better way. I usually prefer to avoid conflict in order to keep the peace. However, I’ve discovered that peace keeping doesn’t work when the situation needs to change. When a relationship is dying from lack of respect, or when someone is being hurt by a corrupt system, we must speak out, or we risk becoming an accomplice to another’s suffering. Proverbs affirms this by saying,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. “ (Prov. 31:8)
The challenge for me is how to confront with love and gentleness. On the surface it seems naïve to think we can confront that way, however, the example of Jesus shows us it can be done. Matthew saw in Jesus, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when he wrote,
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.” (Matt. 12:20; Isaiah 42:3)
The apostle Paul similarly taught that,
“ . . . the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Tim. 2:24,25)
I believe that when we approach conflict from a heart of peace rather than a heart of war and when we speak out of a place of respect and non judgement, it’s easier to stay focused on the issues. When the accusations become personal and the emotions escalate, communication breaks down and no resolution is found.
I’ve discovered that whenever I doubt the motives of others and believe the best about myself, I contribute to the problem and often end up eating humble pie. However, if I will instead believe the best about others and doubt my own intentions, knowing how complicated the heart can be, I may find enough humility and peace of heart to get a conversation started. In conflict, communication is the goal. We are trying to add to the pool of meaning. It’s not about being right or looking good, it’s about understanding others and ourselves better.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18