There are moments in my life when I have been disrespected, mistreated or even despised. How about you? We all have bad experiences in one way or another. How do we then ‘flush out’ all the hurts, disappointments and ill-feelings? Is there an epic formula to conflict resolution that leads to genuine healing and restoration?
In everyday settings we experience conflict as a disruption in the natural flow of our relationships. We notice or feel that something is not right. Suddenly we find ourselves more attentive to things we had taken for granted.
Conflict is often based in perceptions rather than reality and feelings rather than facts. But in all cases, it needs to be resolved by dealing with perceptions and feelings. Conflicts are inevitable realities in life.
Turtle, Teddy Bear, Fox, Shark or Owl?
I recall an interesting analogy of different conflict management styles. The turtle (avoiding) says “I should stay out of conflict.” The teddy bear (accommodating) says “The relationship must be preserved at all costs. People are fragile.” The fox (compromising) says “It is impossible for everyone to be satisfied. Everyone must give something.” The shark (competing) says “The only two outcomes are winning and losing. I will win.” The owl (collaborating) says “people are capable of confronting differences without being personally hurt or hurting the relationship.”
(Adapted from Mediation Institute)
What is your conflict management style? Would your family and friends agree? I am leaning towards the owl and the teddy bear because I prefer to listen to different viewpoints first and to keep the peace where possible. Conflict is both a challenge to overcome and a gift to be unwrapped. It is worth noting that our preferred conflict resolution style is not necessarily our personality.
In my case, it is based on my Christian worldview. The Bible is my compass and foundation in navigating conflicts.
The Epic Mindset
The epic story to conflict resolution I have discovered is the insights from the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew chapter 18 verses 21 to 35). Jesus told the parable of a servant whose master cancelled a large amount of debt out of compassion for him. But when that servant went out, he was hostile to his fellow servant who owed him some money. He not only grabbed and choke his fellow servant, but also threw him into prison until he could pay the debt.
When the master heard what had happened, he was outraged. He called the servant and said: “I cancelled your debt because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” He handed the servant over to the jailers to be tortured and his original debt re-instated.
This parable is a reminder that no matter how much I think others have offended or owed me something, they are so insignificant compared to what Christ did for my life. Meditating on this truth helps me to experience God’s grace and mercy in a deeper way and gives me a renewed strength to overcome the pang of heartache.
In his book The Peacemaker, Ken Sande outlined the peacemaker’s pledge. Instead of focusing on our own desires or what others may do, we rejoice in God and bring Him praise by depending on His forgiveness, wisdom and love. Instead of blaming others for a conflict, we trust in God’s mercy and take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts.
Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist or talking about others behind their backs, we overlook minor offenses or talk to them personally and graciously. Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation, forgiving others as Christ has forgiven us. This is the epic formula to conflict resolution.
Daniel Jang is a senior advisor with Ministry of Health New Zealand. He is an experienced writer, speaker and mentor to Press Service International (PSI) community. Daniel holds an MA in Applied Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and GradDip in Theology from Laidlaw College.
Daniel Jang's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-jang.html