Girls can be mean. There’s cinematic proof if anyone doesn’t believe me (ahem Regina George anyone?). Conflict is an inevitable part of life. But as women of God, we are called to handle conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and preaches grace.
Most of my life, I had little knowledge that Christ addressed conflict management in His earthly ministry. Tucked away in the book of Matthew, Jesus teaches His disciples that there is a way to handle a relationship that is broken (see Matthew 18:15-17). It is vital that we handle our relationships with care and that we follow His word in these situations because of the wounding and the scars that can result if done improperly.
By default, we can look at the “how-tos” and deduce “how not to.” Changing our hearts and avoiding these common responses can change our relationships completely, and help heal hearts in the process. These are my personal tips for handling conflict scripturally:
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” -2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV)
As girls, our natural tendency is to run to our friends and vent. It feels so harmless, and yet it’s one of the most toxic responses. Our friends (for the most part) will take our side and tell us what we want to hear. We’ve all been the one venting, and we’ve all been the one that’s vented to — either way, it’s a sticky situation. Often, we say things we don’t really mean or make assumptions we have no right to make. Bringing another person into the situation was not the first solution Christ suggested. Gossiping is one of the quickest ways to look nothing like Christ. Bringing those who have no business being a part of the drama creates more of a mess, and in the end, someone has to clean it up.
Check Yourself First
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” -Matthew 7:5 (NIV)
This one is the hardest for me. I am my own white knight at times. When I’ve been wronged, you’re going to know it! But the Word is clear all throughout the Old and New Testament, that we must get the planks out of our own eyes before we get a speck out of someone else’s. Two wise women in my life once told me that often what we don’t like or are offended by in someone else is a major problem we have with ourselves. Those words pierce and are a quick reality check for anyone who would (like me) rather change the world than change herself. We must be willing to admit and repent of our own sin and responsibility before we start pointing fingers.
Pray, Pray, Pray!
“Answer me when I pray, O God, my defender! When I was in trouble, you helped me. Be kind to me now and hear my prayer.” -Psalm 4:1 (NIV)
I can’t encourage this more. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, direct, and speak on our behalf cannot be overstated. Before ever sitting across from someone, cover that person and conversation with prayer. In our flesh, we can’t make someone see our side of things, but the Holy Spirit can. He is the only one who can allow true healing to occur and give restoration to the relationship. Giving the situation over to the Lord not only gives God room to work, but it reminds us that we aren’t perfect and that He can handle the situation much better than we ever could. Be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of the conversation before it even starts so that you can be a vessel through which the Lord operates.
Overflow With Grace
“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 (NIV)
Often sin (which is normally at the heart of conflict) is multi-layered, and the surface issue is a just the tip of the iceberg. Jesus modeled this often when He dealt with sinners on earth. Many wanted immediate healing for their earthly ailments but in reality, He was offering something much greater than a quick fix — He was offering them freedom. We’ve all been there, lashing out at a friend because something deeper was going on or unintentionally wounding someone because our lives felt out of control. Our behavior, while an issue, wasn’t THE issue. Anticipate this when talking through conflict with a friend. Most people don’t set about hurting those around them, especially close friends and family. Often the easiest way for me to forgive is to remind myself of what the Lord has forgiven in me.
Actually Let It Go
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” -Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
When you walk away from conflict, don’t keep revisiting it. Don’t second-guess what you said or didn’t say. Don’t keep re-examining old wounds. Release the wrong, along with all the feelings and hurts associated with it, to the Lord. Telling someone you forgive them and still holding on to pain is a quick way to become one bitter lady. Run from the temptation to allow the past to dictate your future with that person. I’ve experienced firsthand the restoration and freedom that comes with releasing pain to the Healer. He can shoulder the burdens.