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Thursday, May 9, 2013
How to Fight Fair, Part III
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."6 "Don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil."7
Sixth, the next point in resolving conflict is: stick to the subject at hand. Oh boy, when people stuff their negative feelings and sit on their hurt and anger, look out! They will eventually either implode (turn their emotions inward and get sick), or explode. And it may be the "smallest" little thing that triggers the explosion, so beware. They may also go back to unresolved grievances from decades ago! To resolve conflicts, it is imperative to deal only with the issue at hand. Period! Other unresolved issues can and need to be discussed at a different time.
Seventh, give up the right to always be right. People who have a compulsion to always be right tend to be insecure and immature. Be willing to say, "I was wrong. I apologize." As the Apostle Paul points out, we are not only to speak the truth in love but also to grow up and mature in all areas of our Christian life.8 That includes humility and respect for others and their viewpoints.
Eighth, as the Bible also teaches, "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry you give a mighty foothold to the devil."9 That means we should resolve conflicts and angry feelings as quickly as possible. When we resolve to do this, the devil loses his foothold.
Ninth, speak softly. Most of us tend to raise our voices when we are upset. Research has shown that one effective way to handle yellers is to speak softly. This tends to make them lean forward and speak more softly so they can hear what you are saying. Yelling begets yelling! As Michel de Montaigne said, "He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak." The Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels."10
Tenth, pray. Pray first about yourself. One of the most powerful prayers I ever learned to pray was when I was at wits' end in a seemingly never-ending conflict. In utter frustration I literally begged God to face me with the truth of what I was contributing to this seemingly impossible situation in which I found myself. Within two weeks I saw my hopeless co-dependency (even though I hadn't even heard of the word at the time).
Once I saw the reality of what I was contributing, I knew exactly what I could and needed to do in order to resolve my part in the conflict. I wish I had learned to pray this prayer years before—even in Sunday School. Had I done so, I could have saved myself years of needless pain and frustration.
Finally, pray together. When two people are willing to face the truth about themselves, accept responsibility for their part in the conflict, and pray accordingly, there are not too many conflicts that can't be resolved. Remember, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."11
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in every conflict situation in which I find myself please help me to see exactly what I am contributing—whether it be positive or negative—and always take responsibility for what I think, feel, say and do. And help me to learn to be Christ-like at all times and always speak the truth in love. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
6. Proverbs 15:1 (NIV).
7. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT).
8. Ephesians 4:15 (NASB).
9. Ephesians 4:26-27 (TLB)(NLT).
10. Proverbs 15:1 (TLB)(NLT).
11. Psalm 145:18 (NIV).
<:>< Wednesday, May 8, 2013 How to Fight Fair, Part II
"But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"2
Author John Powell expressed this attitude poignantly when he said, "We defend our dishonesty [denying and not sharing our true feelings] on the grounds that it may hurt another person, and then, having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships."3
Fourth, in continuing our series on resolving conflict the fourth point is to use "I" messages. That is, instead of saying, "You make me mad," or "You really hurt my feelings," say words to this effect. "When you say (or do) things like thus and so, I feel hurt and/or angry, and I need to talk to you about it." This helps you take responsibility for your feelings and avoid blaming others. Many of us are like the lawyer in the Bible who, "wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"4 This was when Jesus told him that the greatest commandment was to love God and your neighbor as yourself.
Blaming others blocks resolution. As difficult as it may be, I need to admit that nobody hurts my feelings or makes me angry without my permission. As counselor Dr. Narramore puts it, "The other person is responsible for their action. We are responsible for our reaction!"
For instance, if I had a perfect self-concept—which I don't have—my feelings would rarely be hurt. What the other person said or did wouldn't upset me. But if I feel inferior or have low self-esteem, I will be easily wounded and/or angered. To the degree I overreact, however, that is always my problem. The other person has simply triggered my unresolved emotions.
Overreactions happen when unresolved issues or wounds from our past are triggered. The more I have resolved my issues from the past, the less I will overreact when negative things happen to me. This isn't to say that we won't ever get our feelings hurt or that we shouldn't feel angry at times, but we need to learn how to respond in the right manner … at the right time … in the right proportion to what has happened, not in proportion to our hypersensitivity.
Fifth, working with several hundred divorced people over the past decade or two, I have found that many divorcees primarily blame their former spouse for the failure of their marriage without taking a serious look at what they contributed. Conflicts can only be resolved when both parties acknowledge their contribution to the problem or misunderstanding. Yes, it is true that some people are belligerent, dogmatic, and abusive. Even the Bible implies that some people are impossible to get along with.5 But even then there is something we can do. It may be standing up for ourselves—that is, overcoming our overly passive or overly dependent, or super-sensitive style by saying to an angry, abusive person words to the effect that if they continue to treat you in this manner, you will have to distance yourself from them. And, if you make this statement, you need to stand by your words and do what you say you will do. And also assure this person that your door will always be open should they choose to stop being abusive. In these situations tough love is needed; for as long as we allow ourselves to be abused, we are a part of the problem. In every situation there is always some responsibility we can exercise.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in every conflict situation please help me to be non-defensive, quit playing the blame-game, and see how in any way I might be overreacting and use this as a motivation to grow and become a more loving, understanding and mature adult. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
2. Luke 10:29 (NIV).
3. John Powell, Why I Am Afraid to Tell You Who I Am, Argus Communications.
4. Luke 10:29 (NKJV).
5. Romans 12:18 (NIV).
<:>< Tuesday, May 7, 2013 How to Fight Fair, Part I
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."1
I recall hearing the pastor of a large church, when celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, declare that he and his wife had never had a conflict. I didn't believe him. Wherever there are two people, there will always be some conflict, misunderstanding, or difference of opinion at one time or another. About the only way to live without ever having a conflict is to live in isolation as a hermit, or have one partner become a doormat who chooses "peace at any price," but this is not conflict free. The conflict/s have just gone underground and hidden from view.
Handled creatively, conflicts and disagreements can lead to growth and increased mutual understanding. But to make differences of opinions productive, we need to learn to disagree agreeably, and to value the other person's perspective in the process. So how do we do this?
First, and foremost, listen…listen…listen—not only with our ears, but even more so with our hearts. We need to hear what other people are really saying—not just what we think they are saying. We need to listen to their feelings as well as their thoughts. Good communication and conflict resolution requires listening beneath the other person's words to their sometimes hidden emotions and unspoken needs or wishes.
Careful listening ensures that we won't distort what the other person is trying to say. This is necessary because we each tend to interpret messages through our own lenses. If we are extremely sensitive to criticism, for example, we may interpret our spouse's potentially helpful suggestion as a criticism. The more our seeing and hearing "lenses" are distorted by our personal unresolved problems, the more likely we are to twist the messages people are giving us to make them match our perception of reality.
Second, always strive to speak the truth in love. Remember that "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."2 We, too, need to precede truth with grace; that is, to always give loving, gracious acceptance. Some of us are long at speaking the truth but short on listening and short on loving. Unless we speak from a point of sensitive caring, people will not feel safe enough to share openly with us. Consequently, they may hide their true feelings, or become angry or defensive. Unless both parties can share their thoughts—and more so their genuine feelings—there can be no resolution.
Third, we need to be aware of our own true thoughts and feelings. If we feel angry, for example, it will be important to acknowledge our anger. But we should also be aware of what feelings and thoughts lay beneath our anger. Anger, for example, often covers anxiety or fear. Instead of being aware of our fear, we get angry. That feels safer. Not acknowledging this only makes matters worse.
At other times we use anger to stop others from getting close to us because we fear intimacy. Equally destructive, we deny our feelings altogether and pretend to be something we are not. Each of these reactions prevents conflict resolution. Unresolved conflicts create resentment, and festering resentment destroys many relationships.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, whenever I am in a conflict situation, please give me a listening and understanding heart so I will always hear and give consideration to the others person's point of view, and not be deafened by my own need to defend myself nor blinded by my own self-interest. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Romans 12:18 (NIV).
2. John 1:17.