Healthy Conflict

kenya_angelasevin_nikon_14639_hMy friend Brian wrote about how employers approach terminating an employee and how it should never come as a surprise.  He’s right.  It shouldn’t, but yet often times it does.  Why?  There are several reasons, but I would say one reason has to do with how we handle conflict.  We don’t like it.  It is easy to want to avoid it.  We overlook things in order to bypass the discomfort that conflict can bring.  In an employer-employee relationship this can certainly end badly.

Conflict can just be icky.  Conflict however is necessary at times, and if handled appropriately can bring about great good.  A marriage can be restored.  Friends reconciled.  Employees turn a lackluster performance at work around.  A wayward friend brought to repentance.

If you look at the Bible you can see that Jesus didn’t avoid conflict.  Just look at his interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Neither did the Apostle Paul.  One great example is when the Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter.  Peter who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples.  Peter, formerly Simon, whom Jesus literally renamed “rock.”

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14, ESV).

Paul didn’t shy away.  Peter was wrong, and Paul knew the truth.  He was a brother in Christ and he needed to be corrected.

A couple of things to note from this encounter.

  1. Paul was direct.  He “opposed him to his face.”  He didn’t beat around the bush.  He didn’t gossip.  He didn’t try to drop hints.  He told him directly.  Jesus instructed us to go to a brother or sister who sinned against us privately, but directly, (Matthew 18:15).
  2. He spoke the truth.  The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15 that “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

Speak truth in love.  Be direct.  Go to them in person.  If they don’t listen then bring on the witnesses, but not until you first talk with them directly.

Then listen.  James says that we are to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” (James 1:19, ESV).  God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Also remember that love cover a multitude of sins, (1 Peter 4:8).  There are times we should look past a personal offense.  Sometimes we should brush off times we feel slighted.  Sometimes we’re being overly sensitive or when we believe an offense has occurred it could be a misunderstanding, miscommunication or just a difference in personalities.

But at times we need to confront, do it in person, do it one to one, speak truth (don’t get your facts and feelings confused), be loving and then listen.

Photo by Angela Sevin (Creative Commons – Attribution, Non-Commercial)

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