Posts Tagged ‘Conflict’


Good relationships don’t happen overnight and they don’t happen by accident.  If you want to get beyond shallow, superficial relationships you’ve got to be committed to it. 

You or someone you know is in a relationship right now and are hanging on by less than a thread.  Do not give up.  We have a miracle working God.  The same God that raises the dead can raise a dead relationship if you’re willing to be changed.

But it takes a commitment.  The Bible says this in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times.”  The word, “all” means even when it’s inconvenient, when you don’t feel like it, even when they don’t deserve it, even at personal cost.  That’s what real friendship is all about.  When you’re blowing it and you’re making a mistake, a friend doesn’t quit on you. A friend is in your corner when you’re cornered.  And they see you through when everybody else thinks you’re through.  They are there when you least deserve it. 

Here’s the bottom line: You need people in your life to do the three thing I’ve written about in this series of blogs. But the only way you’re going to get these kinds of people in your life is you have to be that kind of person.  You can’t expect other people to treat you this way if you don’t treat them that way. 

Probably the best known Christian psychologist in America, Larry Crabb, wrote in his book Connecting, which I read in seminary and highly recommend, “When two people really connect something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restores it to health.  The one who receives experiences the joy of being healed.  And the one who gives knows even greater joy of being used to heal.  Something good is in the heart of each of God’s children that is far more powerful than everything bad in the world.  It’s there waiting to be released and work its magic.  But you have to be connected.”

Getting Real

How do we end this relationship damaging game?

1. Decide that being “real” with others is more productive than being “nice.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not. I’m talking about making a change in a basic value that many of us have held our entire lives. Many of us believe that “niceness” is what people really want from us.

Now, it is true that almost everyone enjoys being around people who are pleasant. But, as Proverbs 28:23 puts it:

In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23 [NLT]

In other words, people would prefer the truth. In other words, “it might be hard, I might even get mad, but please for the sake of our relationship, tell me how I’m doing with you. That’s the only way I can ever improve.”

2. Attempt to handle conflict in a biblical manner.

What is the biblical mandate for dealing with conflict? Jesus said “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 [NIV]

In other words, don’t wait for the other person to take the initiative in resolving things. And get this – resolving things is even more important that worshiping God. If you come to church and there is someone here that you are out of whack with … deal with them first, then deal with God. Pretty radical, but that’s what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus also said there is a sequence for dealing with conflict:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along [that’s when you get to ask them to pray – AFTER you go on your own first, not before], so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 [NIV]

3. Get comfortable saying these three phrases:

“I’m angry.”

But don’t stop there, because one of the traps of the Hide and Seek game is assuming that you can read the minds of other people. So, you need to get comfortable saying …

“Can you help me understand?”

I’m angry, but I want to hear your side of the deal, too. Maybe there is something I am missing.

“I forgive you.”

I’m talking about real and true forgiveness, not merely saying “it’s OK” when it’s not.

Real and true forgiveness is always painful. Real forgiveness requires confronting another person with the fact that they did you wrong, that it hurt you and that you didn’t like it … but that you have accepted the pain and are choosing to let it go. It costs you something – pain – but it gains you something – peace of mind and the opportunity for a renewed relationship.

4. Be a God pleaser before being a man pleaser.

No matter how nice you are you will never please everyone all of the time. With God, you don’t even have to try to be nice to win his approval. In fact, he offers forgiveness to us before we attempt to be nice. While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.

I’ve covered a lot of stuff over the past three days. Let me end with a couple of cautions.  If you are a hider, don’t get down about it. Everybody struggles with game playing in relationships. Just own it and pick one or two things off of this list and start to work on them.

Second, if this is not you, don’t beat somebody else over the head with this information. They already know it’s them and they are very vulnerable right now. What you need to do is to remind them that with God’s help they will be able to grow and change, and to encourage whatever progress that you see in them.

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Let’s just be honest. We all have difficult people in our lives, don’t we?  More than likely if you don’t have one, you are one.  On top of that every family has at least one chestnut roasting on the open fire and a jack frost or two who is going to be nipping at more than everyone’s noses.  You may be able to stay clear of these people for most of the year but at the holidays you are going to be thrust into the same room with weird Uncle Joe.

Here are some simple suggestions to hopefully help you achieve a measure of relational happiness this year:

1. The first step toward relational harmony is to focus on their positive qualities.

Even though your difficult person might be totally opposite from you in terms of preferences and pattern for doing life, they bring something positive to the table. In fact, they just may have a quality or two that could be lacking in your own character.

If they’re organized and you’re laid back, you could probably learn something from them about being more disciplined. (Of course, for that to happen you’ve got to have a teachable spirit). Maybe your difficult person is very spontaneous and you’re always in a rut. That rubs you the wrong way but, truthfully, in a lot of situations, it’s better to be spontaneous than in a rut. Maybe they could help you.

The Bible teaches this principle this way:

Suppose the whole body were an eye–then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! … The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:17-21 [NLT]

In other words, in the same way that each part of the human body, on its own, is incomplete … each person on their own is incomplete.

That person who is so hard for you to relate to is making a positive contribution somewhere. That’s step one on the road to relational harmony.

2. I won’t lie to you, step two is hard: Give up the right to be right.

There is a sign outside a mental hospital in California that says, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be well?” Let me rephrased that thought a little, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Getting along with people, especially with people who see things differently than we do, requires us to choose happiness over rightness. It requires us to give people the freedom to be wrong. The Bible puts it this way:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. Romans 14:1 [Msg]

Let me ask you: in your dealings with the difficult people around you how much of the strain is caused by you having to be right? What if you decided that your goal wasn’t to convince that person, but to love that person?

So, focus on positive qualities, give up the right to be right and finally …

3. Realize that “different” people are also “dearly loved” people – by God.

He created them, just like he created you. And not only did he create them, He also loved them enough to die for their sins on the cross, just as he did for yours. Why?

… God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5 [NLT]

Jesus died for difficult people and as hard as it is to swallow, we all fit in this category from time to time. He did this not because we deserved it … not because we are normal … not because of any other reason than the fact that we are dearly loved by him. And that makes us valuable.

I think it would help us a lot in our relationships with others if we could remember this, if we could remember that we’re dealing with someone for whom God put his Son’s life on the line.

So, let me ask you …

That person or persons who’ve been in your mind since you started reading this … what do you need to do about them?

Maybe you need to make a little prayer out of that verse we read earlier. “God, you give patience and encouragement. Help me and this other person to live in complete harmony with each other …” Let me assure you that is a prayer God wants to answer.

Maybe you need to sit down and make a list of positive qualities about this person and start complementing them on those things, start blessing them in those areas. That will have an amazing effect on them.

Maybe you need to say to yourself, “it’s OK if this person is wrong. I won’t die if they don’t let me be right.” You’ll sleep a lot better at night and the tension level in the relationship will immediately start to drop.

Maybe you need to get a vision of that person’s value in God’s eyes. Maybe you need to get a vision of your own value in God’s eyes.

You will get an opportunity to use this during the holidays. These suggestions, however simple, will work to help make the season bright which is my wish for you this year.

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I think we can all agree that conflict happens in even the best relationships. When it does happen, there are certain deadly weapons that should be considered out of bounds.  These tend to provoke anger and resentment.  If we avoid these seven landmines, we will find that conflict can be healthy and can actually move our relationships forward.

1.  Never Compare.  Don’t say “Why can’t you be like…” or “You’re just like … ”  It’s unfair to compare.  God made every person unique.

2.  Never Condemn.  Don’t use phrase like, “You always…” or “You never… You ought to… You should… You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  Don’t become someone else’s conscience. Only God has the right to judge so don’t start statements with “You…” because that’s a judgmental statement usually — “You do this… You do that…”  Start them with “I”.  “I need this from you…  I feel this…”  If somebody says “I feel it”, try to accept it as legitimate — whether you understand it or not don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way!”  If they feel it, just accept it.  It doesn’t mean you agree with it or it’s legitimate just accept as the way they way they feel.  “I need… I feel… It seems to me…” is much less threatening, must less condemning than to make “You” statements:  “You ought to, you should… you never… you always…”

3.  Never Command.  Don’t try to end an argument by force. “I demand that you do what I say!  I command you to do this…” This is especially true if the conflict is with a spouse. Don’t try to be a parent to your spouse.  Don’t make demands because it has a way of raising the temperature in the room. 

4.  Never Challenge.  We do this with threats.  “Just try that and see what happens!”  I remember when I was a kid and someone would say, “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”  You probably can guess what my next sound would be. (Peep!) That is the rebellious nature of humanity.  If somebody says “I dare you” you’re going to take the dare.  Don’t threaten, challenge, and lay down the gauntlet.  That is a mark of immaturity.  Let’s grow up and not use that.

5.   Never Condescend.  Never treat another person as an inferior.  Don’t belittle your spouse. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  Don’t put them down.  Don’t ridicule them for their feelings or their logic or whatever. Above all, don’t play psychologist.  “I know why you said that… You said that because…”  Most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out our own motives much less figure out another person’s.  Don’t prejudge motives.  That’s definitely playing God. 

6.  Never Cut Off.  Never interrupt in the middle of a sentence.  When we get into arguments the tendency is to only see our side.  We tend to jump in before the other person has finished.  We’re not thinking about what the other person is saying.  We’re not listening.  We’re just thinking about what we’re going to say. The average person can talk 150 words a minute but the average person can listen to about 650 words a minute.  That leaves a 500 word per minute boredom factor.  That means while they’re talking to you, you’re already thinking about what else you’re going to say.  You cut people off.  Wait your turn to talk when you’re in a conflict.  Let them say their whole piece and then you can say your piece and back and forth.  Don’t cut each other off.  Treat each other with consideration.  I have a button that I made with the picture of an ear on it.  When I have a couple in my counseling office that has problem with this I will let one person hold the “listening” button to remind them that it is their turn to listen.

7.  Never Confuse.  This is when you bring up unrelated issues in the middle of the argument.  Often you do this intentionally to side track people.  Some of us are very good at this.  When we are in an argument that we know we’re losing we bring up something unrelated and start arguing about that.  You keep switching the argument because you realize you’re losing.  Stick with the issue.  Don’t confuse issues.

Let me summarize these seven things in one sentence:  Attack the issue not each other.  Proverbs 11:29 says, “The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left.”  It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment.  It’s dumb but we do it all the time when we’re angry.  After a while we learn how to push the emotion hot buttons of people.  You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.  You know if you push that button it’s going to make them mad.  The Bible says it’s dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Photo:  Jacob Rickard’s photostream (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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 The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart for it affects everything you do.”  Enduring change in your life it starts from the inside and works itself out.  You don’t focus on your behavior.  You don’t focus on willpower.  You don’t even focus on your emotions at first.  You focus on what’s causing those emotions.  It always starts on the inside.  If you really want to break a bad habit you need to stop today and do an EKG of your heart.

  1.  What is your physical condition: Am I more physically exhausted or am I more energetic and in shape?
  2.  How about emotionally?  Am I emotionally discouraged about my life?  Am I pessimistic about my future?  Or am I more encouraged and optimistic about my future? 
  3.  How about mentally, the third one.  Am I right now mentally bored or discontent with my life, my job, my relationships?  Am I bored and discontented?  Or am I more challenged and contented in my relationships, my job, my career?
  4.  How about spiritually?  Right now, am I spiritually dry and empty?  Or am I more spiritually growing?  I’m on the cutting edge.  I know things are right with God.  Where are you between spiritually dry and empty and spiritually growing and on fire with God? 

Notice what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:27 “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  What is a foothold?  It’s when the devil finds a crack in your life’s security system.  He hangs on to the space so he can grab more because he wants to control your life.  It’s like soldiers in a war taking over an island.  They first establish a beachhead.  They just barely get on to the shore, but once they’re there they just keep pushing, pushing, pushing to capture more and more of the island.  And the devil wants to establish a little foothold in your life once he’s got something there to hold on to.

What is the number one foothold that Satan gets in your life?  It’s any negative emotion – when you’re physically exhausted, when you’re discouraged, when you’re bored, when you’re spiritually dry, when you’re insecure, when you’re deeply wounded, when you’re secretly bitter, when you’re sad, when you’re alienated.  Any of those things can allow the devil to get a foothold in your life. 

Let’s say you’re worried and insecure and angry and hurt.  The devil’s going to come along and start saying things like this, “You deserve a little pleasure in your life.  You deserve a little comfort in your life.  I know this isn’t right but there are so many bad things happening in your life you need something for comfort, for relief.  You deserve a little excitement.  You need something to calm you down.  Because everything’s bad in your life right now you really need just a little bit of good pleasure.” 

He doesn’t tell you it’s only going to make it worse in the long run.  You have to know the condition of your heart.  “Guard your heart,” the Bible says.  If you allow these emotions to dam up in your life you are more apt to say “yes” when you should be saying “no way!”

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The Bible gives us a five point pathway to freedom from those temptations that we struggle to defeat.  I encourage you to take a piece of paper and write in large, bold letter your area of weakness.  You probably already have it in mind or you wouldn’t be reading this.  The first step in the path to freedom is this…


 What do I mean by that?  Everyone has a unique profile in life.  You have a unique thumbprint, fingerprint, and palm print.  Your voice has a unique voice print.  I did not know this until recently but your heart has a unique heartbeat unlike any other heartbeat in the world.  You also have a unique temptation profile.  There are certain things that tempt you and certain things that don’t.  There are things that tempt other people but don’t tempt you.  There are some things that will make you stumble almost immediately and some things that don’t bother you at all.  And that’s unique. 

Satan is a profiler. He knows exactly what trips you up.  He knows exactly when, where and how and he’s always looking for a way to trip you up.  So it would be wise if you figure out your temptation profile. 

If you can figure out where you’re most likely to stumble then you can predict where that’s going to happen and you can plan in advance to avoid it.  So the starting point in breaking really ingrained bad habits in your life is to ask five questions:

            1.  When am I most tempted? 

I’m talking about the day of the week and the time of the day.  Which day of the week are you most tempted?  Are you most tempted to be depressed on Monday?  Are you most tempted to be lustful on Friday night?  Are you most tempted to be irresponsible on Saturday morning?  You should know the days of the week and what kinds of temptations get you on certain days. 

You should also know the time of the day you tend to be weakest with certain temptations.  Is it morning, early morning that you’re the most grumpy and grouchy and short tempered with people?  Is it mid morning?  Is it lunchtime?  Early afternoon, late afternoon, dinner time?  Is it early evening?  Is it after everybody’s gone to bed at night that you turn on that cable channel? 

In my case, when it comes to food, my worse time is after everyone else is in bed.  In those hours, when snacks arise, game-set-match to the enemy!  I can handle any diet until noon.  I can go without food until noon.  It doesn’t tempt me.  But the longer the day goes on the more I want to eat.  You need to know when you are most tempted.

            2.  Where am I most tempted?

Is it at work?  Is it in the kitchen?  Is it when you’re in a meeting with your boss and tempers are flaring?  Where are you most tempted?  Is it in front of a computer?  You need to not only know “When?”  You need to know “Where?”, and when you know when and where you can kind of avoid those places.

            3.  Who is with me when I am most tempted?

Some of you are most tempted when you’re alone.  But others of you, that’s not the problem.  You’re most tempted when you’re with all your buddies and they all want to do the wrong thing and you think, “I’ll just do it too.”  Some of you lose your temper with certain people – a child, a husband/wife, your boss, a co-worker.  Some of you are most tempted when you’re in a crowd of strangers and you think no one’s watching.  Some of you are most tempted when you’re at home with your family.  You need to know that so you can figure it out.

            4.  What temporary payoffs do I get when I give in? 

There’s always a payoff for giving in to temptation.  Nobody would do sin if it wasn’t for the payoff.  In fact the Bible even says so.  Hebrews 10:25, “There is pleasure in sin for a short time.”  Even the Bible says sin is fun.  If it were an electrical shock you wouldn’t want that.  But the fact is there is a payoff.  But it’s a temporary payoff.  There is pleasure for a short time.  There’s a kick then there’s a kickback.  

The problem with temptation isn’t that it’s not fun but it’s fleeting fun.  It’s temporary gratification with long term pain.  That’s the problem: temporary satisfaction but long term consequences.  So you need to think what is the payoff when I tend to fall in this habitual area that I’ve dealt with for years and years or maybe all my life.  Is it comfort that I feel?  Is it release that I feel?  Is it excitement that I feel?  Is it a false sense of confidence?   Why do I eat that extra donut?  Is it because you feel better about yourself when you do that?  You need to look at the payoff, what are the consequences (size 38 waist instead of 32!) or you’ll never be able to understand temptation.  And you’ll also know that when those things happen you’re getting ready for a temptation. 

            5. What are my emotional triggers?

Do you get tempted when you’re frustrated?  Do you get tempted when you feel lonely?  Do you get tempted when you feel unloved?  When you get depressed?  When you’re worn out?  When you’re weary?  You need to know the triggers that move you into temptation.  The truth is for some of you, you’re tempted when you’re bored.  You need to know the answer to “How do I feel right before I get tempted?”

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1. Sharpen Your Arguing Skills

I really hope you didn’t think that you and your teenager would never have conflict.  Conflict is okay. It’s part of the maturation process for them and you.  Your teen’s growing independence is naturally going to cause him to question your values? I still don’t see eye to eye with my parents on everything (Don’t tell them ’cause I’m not sure they know).

Conflict happens. Why not use those times as an opportunity to develop your teen’s independent thinking. You will also be allowing them time to process your side of the argument. They’ll never place value in your side until you at least validate their right to theirs.

Here’s what I am saying: don’t allow conflicts to hinder your relationship with your teen. It’s okay to have a heated discussion from time to time. But scripture reminds us to “Be angry, but don’t sin.” I would suggest the following boundaries for arguing;

  • Never, never, ever let an argument get physical.
  • Never be disrespectful to each other.
  • Never be demeaning.
  • Know when to call a time out to allow emotions calm down. Resume the discussion on more respectful terms.

Even if neither mind has changed, end the argument on a loving note.  A good way to do that is to make a rule that every argument must end with a hug. That’s the goal. Even if you can’t agree, you are the grown up, and you can at least agree to disagree because it was all talked out.

2. Continue To Engage Your Teen

Have you ever heard a parent say, “Just get out of my sight?” I hate to be the one to break this to you but that is a MISTAKE!  That may be ok until everyone has had a chance to cool off and respect is restored but ongoing avoidance will only serve to build walls between you and your child. Instead, by engaging in discussion you will let your teen know you’ll continue to love them and spend time together even though there is a disagreement.

I have shared this with the kind congregation at Wahoo a number of times because of its impact.  A young couple went to a toy store to by a gift for their child.  When they engaged the sales clerk they told her that they were looking for a toy that will keep their child busy and be educational.  They told the clerk that they want the child to be able to love and hold the toy when she gets afraid or lonely.  After showing the couple several toys, the frustrated clerk told them that she was afraid that she would not be able to help them.  She said, “It sounds to me that what you are trying to find are parents and we don’t sell those here!”

Kids need to know that you are there for them even through the stormy waters of rebellion.  Make sure you are scheduling time for them in your day and engaging them in conversation.

3.  Model Positive Problem Solving Skills

Life is not a TV sitcom where major life problems are solved in an hour or less.  For the most part, teens are somewhat limited in their ability to solve problems. They often don’t have the maturity to unravel life’s bigger issues, and they don’t understand how to change their behavior in ways that are beneficial to them. That’s where a parent comes in. Demonstrating your own resources for managing frustration is one good way to teach your teen how to handle their frustration. Tell them how you go about solving problems at work, or with your spouse. Let them know you need God’s help, and that you don’t have all the answers. Help them learn how to use different behavior as a way to solve their own problems or to change their situation for the better.

4. Choose Your Words Carefully

Don’t set yourself up for failure by the words you use. Avoid words like “you” or “always.” Speak in broader, less offensive terms. Be more open to what you will and will not support. I know you’ve probably heard this but I am going to remind you of it: pick your battles carefully.

I read this just today. Be clear on your limits. Don’t say, “It’s your choice,” or “What do you think?” It is better to say, “Here are my limits…what I will and won’t allow in this situation. Then take some time to explore their needs and ideas and try to find a way to meet each other halfway, listening more and talking less.

5. Let Them Know You Are Stubborn With Your Love For Them

I guess what I am saying is (and here’s that word again) model before them God’s love.  Teens need to know that there is nothing they can do to make you love them any less and there is nothing they can do to love them any more than you have always loved them. I did my internship for my doctorate at a nearby children’s home. The one problem most kid’s I counseled dealt with was feeling like a failure.  The relationship with their parents was performance based and they felt as if they could never perform up to their parent’s expectations.  So they gave up.  Try a “grace based” relationship instead of performance based.  They need to know that they have your unconditional love, acceptance and worth.

Conflict, when handled properly, can improve relationships rather than tear them down. You can be certain that your teen will have conflict with their future college room-mate, their future spouse, a future employer, and even their future children (turnabout is fair play- Cha Ching!). So, engaging with your teen in conflict now is more about teaching them how to manage conflict in the future and less about who wins today’s argument.

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