The Fear Of Conflict
“To be human is to be in conflict…To be human in light of the gospel is to face conflict in REDEMPTIVE dialogue.” –Theologian John Howard.
Can conflict actually guide us to anything REDEMPTIVE?
If this is true, which I believe it is, why don’t I see conflict more as an opportunity to redeem things. In fact, I actually know it’s true—for example, in my 25-year relationship with Debbie—conflict DOES lead to greater intimacy in our relationship. My own experience demonstrates this truth:
To the degree that Debbie and I care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers [conflict] in our relationship is directly measured in how closely we are growing toward each other.
Nobody likes conflict, but conflict is inevitable during human interaction and it is even critical for effective team development. There is such a thing as constructive conflict and it is significantly different from that filled with sarcasm that often is emotionally charged and deconstructive.
The real enemy in conflict is not the conflict itself as much as it is our emotions.
Too often, it’s our emotions that are creating the distance we sense from others while the conflict is presenting the opportunity to open-us-up to one another in ways that can bring us closer together—not drive us apart!
For conflict to lead to redemptive dialogue, we need to help one another GAIN DISTANCE FROM OUR EMOTIONS, usually through greater sensitivity to timing, structured listening and sharing and controlled feedback, and a full awareness that our emotions have the potential to redirect any conflict in the opposite direction of redeeming dialogue if not kept in check.
Goal: to de-escalate emotional tensions long enough to make space for rational dialogue.
Also, redemptive dialogue does not have to result in disagreement being eliminated. But, the way we disagree impacts us, and that determines the outcome as much or even more than the content of our disagreement.
So, HOW we disagree matters more than WHAT we disagree about. We CAN disagree and move forward through conflict in redemptive ways!
Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit…Ephesians 4:3
UNITED Leaders Strategy for Constructive Conflict:
IN THOUGHT: accept conflict, affirm hope, commit to prayer, see conflict as opportunity to lead to redeeming dialogue.
IN ACTION: Go to each other, …in the spirit of humility, be quick to listen, be slow to judge, be willing to negotiate and work together.
IN LIFE: Be steadfast in love, be open to mediation, trust community, be the Body of Christ!