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The Inevitability of Conflict

Conflict is inevitable. It is simply part of life. The question is not whether conflict will happen, but how do we handle conflict when it does happen? Conflict, when viewed in the proper light and handled with consideration, can produce needed discussion, compromise, and change.

There is a story in the Bible about Nehmiah rebuilding the temple. He faced conflict after conflict. Understanding those conflicts gives insight into some of the reasons why we experience disagreements in our families and communities today:

1. Ridicule – people are sometimes afraid of change, the future, or even the successes of others

2. Exaggeration – problems are often presented in an unbalanced fashion

3. Recruitmen – when people feel disenfranchised they might recruit others to join their cause

4. Exhaustion – when humans are tired their thought processes, emotions, and even spiritual foundations can be unstable

5. Clutter – too many things take up space and time making people feel out of control

6. Feelings of failure – often people use the wrong measuring stick for success

7. Fear – people look at “what ifs” instead of reality

In the midst of struggle, Nehemiah brought assurance, encouragement, and clarity to his accusers and was able to resolve most of the issues of concern. He did not walk away or deny that conflict existed. He addressed the issues in a constructive manner with confidence and courage.

When possible, conflict should be viewed as a win/win situation:

1. See the controversy as a mutual problem

2. Engage with everyone involved

3. Encourage open and honest expression of ideas and feelings

4. Be sure that everyone has opportunity and is encouraged to contribute

5. Use effective communication skills – both when sending and receiving

6. Seek and clarify differences in opinions and ideas

7. Bring underlying assumptions out into the open

8. See that disagreement is not taken as personal rejection

9. Recognize that similarities and differences of opinion are clearly understood

10. Validate emotions

11. Require equal power among those present

12. Understand that some level of tension can be expected

(Adapted from Conflict Management for Church Leaders – Berean Bible School)

I am among those people who do not like conflict. But maybe it is not the conflict that I find so disturbing as the manner in which I have observed conflict handled. It is hard to say, “Happy New Year, and best of luck with your future conflicts” in the same sentence. I think it feels better and more peaceful to have the two thoughts separated.

Happy New Year!

May you be healthy both personally and in your relationships in 2022!

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