Conflict can be described as a state of war, individual disputes, or battles between people, which manifest itself in attitudes, words, and actions. Perhaps you have found it difficult to handle others because of conflict in the relationship. Have you considered the issues that cause the conflict?
Actually, there are four key issues that tend to lead us into conflict. One of the main issues is differing personal preferences. For instance, you may like the toilet seat up, but your spouse may like it down. You may like to drive with the windows down, but your friend may like to drive with them up. You may like it cold in the house, yet your spouse may like it warm in the house. You may like to take risk where your friend may like to play it safe. These are personal preferences. A personal preference is neither right nor wrong. Therefore, if you like something a certain way, and others like something a different way neither is wrong or right. It is a matter of choice. What tends to happen is that one person believes their personal preference is a biblical precept resulting in believing they are right, and the other person is wrong—as a result conflict ensues! Take cooking for example. Perhaps you have learned a certain way to cook chicken that has been a tradition in your family for years. What happens if your friend cooks chicken a different way? Is that person wrong, or has he or she just followed a different personal preference. If you believe that person is wrong, you have just turned a personal preference into a biblical precept resulting in challenging the person about something that you believe is wrong when in essence it is a matter of choice. It is not the way commanded by a biblical precept, but is a way that you are free to choose. This type of thinking leads to many conflicts. People fight over personal preferences because they believe their way is the way. When I see issues such as these in counseling, I will ask, “Which one of you is right?” This tends to open a can of worms. As I calm them down, I seek to show them that it is not a matter of right or wrong because the issues are a matter of personal preferences. It is rather a matter of two people being wrong in their attitude and approach on the matter. Each needs to consider that they both are okay in their personal preferences but not in the way they are handling each other. One may need to yield to the personal preferences of the other showing consideration. Or, they may both need to consider a new preference that they develop together. If each person were considering the other accordingly, the issue would not have to lead to conflict.
Another issue that leads to conflict is a preoccupation with personal agendas. When there is selfish ambition in your relationship with others, you will find confusion, disorder, and every evil thing. Conflict arises when people are focused on what they want from the other instead of what they can give to each other. Sometimes we treat people as avenues to our satisfactions instead of as investments to the Kingdom of God. When this happens conflict is inevitable. There was a woman who spent much of her time praying for her husband to change. Much to her disappointment her prayers where denied. As we spent time together, I asked her what she prayed for and why. She began to tell me that she was praying for her husband to be a mature Christian so that she could have the love, affection, and attention she treasured. As we talked more, I was able to help her to see that the fights with her husband and the denied prayer request where due to her preoccupation with her personal agenda. Her husband was an avenue to her love, affection, and attention. She was not so much concerned with his well being as she was with his ability to provide her what she wanted. As a result there are many conflicts in her life.
Another issue that could lead to conflict is not having legitimate needs met. I tend to see needs in three categories: Social, Spiritual, and Physical. Social needs would be things such as employment or housing. Spiritual needs would be things such as forgiveness of sin, discipleship, or direction in the will and ways of God. Physical needs would be things such as food and clothing. When someone is responsible for providing these things and does not follow through, the other can respond in ways that create conflict. For example, imagine if you were responsible for feeding two sets of people, and in the process one set of people was being over looked while the other set of people was being taking care of. What do you think would happen? You’re absolutely right: Conflict between the two sets of people. This is exactly what happened in the book of Acts leading to the establishing of the first set of Deacons. Legitimate needs were unmet resulting in conflict between people.
Another key issue that leads to conflict is having flagrant, sinful attitudes and actions. When you find yourself cranky, rude, stubborn, sarcastic, prideful, or even disrespectful on a consistent basis, you will find yourself in conflict. As a teacher I run into a lot of students who, because they refuse to address their sinful attitudes and actions, have conflicts with other students. I have had to be mediator to many disputes. When we discovered core issue, we found a lot of sinful attitudes and actions not being dealt with accordingly. If these issues are not dealt with properly, we will find ourselves confronting others in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, leading to more conflict.
I do not know many people who like to confront others. I know fewer people who want to be confronted. Most confrontation is not done in the right way or for the right reasons. Most confrontation is done out of selfish ambition (Jam 3:13-16). When you are consumed with your own desires, you confront others according to those desires thereby creating conflict. When there are major issues between others, usually they have not confronted each other in the right way or for the right motives. Let me suggest to you four selfish reasons that tend to lead you to confront others in your life.
Ever wanted someone to agree with your opinion or do things a certain way? How did you deal with it? Did you confront them? How did that turn out? When you confront others in order for them to agree with your opinion or to do things according to your preference, it will inevitably lead to conflict. The confrontation is done out of selfishness.
Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you know something about somone, and confronted them creating conflict? However, you recognized at the end of it all you were wrong in your presumption? When you presume to know someone’s motives or actions and confront according to your presumption, you will produce conflict. You have to be careful about thinking you know things about others when you really don’t. You can’t read minds or motives!
Have you ever found yourself irritated or angry about the habits or patterns of others? They are not sinful habits or patterns, just corky. As a result, you find yourself pointing out things in their lives that you want them to change because it irritates or angers you. You want them to confess and change for your comfort and benefit. You are not interested in leading them to see sin that God wants them to confess and change for God’s glory and their benefit. Your confrontation is motivated by selfishness, thereby leading to conflict.
As you are reading this, are you starting to see yourself and others around you? Are you getting an idea as to why there tends to be conflict among you? Think back to a time where you knew you where right, and you had the Scriptures to back you up. Instead of helping others see their sin through the Scripture, you attacked them about their sins using the Scriptures, which resulted in conflict. When you use Scripture to attack others instead of using it to help others see their sin to confess and repent unto God, conflict is inevitable.
If confrontation was done for the right reasons with right motives, there would be less conflict and more resolution—things would be less hectic and more harmonious. All of what we have read leads us to conflict, but there is only one root cause or root source for conflict.The root cause of conflict can be traced back to desires you have turned into lusts and are demanding others to satisfy, thus creating conflict."What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your
pleasures." (Jam 4:1-3)
The desires from within wage war against your mind, will, and emotions. These desires cannot be satisfied by you. Someone else has to decide to serve you accordingly. Your appetite for these desires leads you to be overly preoccupied with satisfying these desires resulting in all types of conflict. Your appetite for these desires leads you to sin to satisfy these desires and to sin when these desires are not satisfied resulting in all types of conflict and self-serving prayers. Let me suggest to you a few underlying desires you tend to turn to lusts and demand your mate to satisfy thus driving the conflict between you and them.
-To be in control–to regulate what people say, think, and do according to your ideals or preferences
- -To be loved by others–to have others seek your highest good at all times
- -To be accepted by others–to be approved of
- -To be understood by others–to have others comprehend you accordingly
- -To never be hurt or disappointed by others–to always have people meet your expectations
- -To be respected by others–to be treated with reverence
- -To be served by others–to have your needs met accordingly
- -To have personal preferences accommodated at all times–to have others to do things your way all the time
- -To be viewed as competent by others–to have others see you as intelligent
- -To be approved of by others–to be well received by others
- -To belong to someone–to be in union with another
- -To be held in high regard by others–to be seen as somebody in the eyes of others
- -To be significant to others–to be valuable to others
- -To be satisfied by others–to receive pleasure accordingly
- -To maintain a favorable position with others–to never lose ground with others
- -To be secure-to be safe with others
- -To never be alone–to always have someone in your life
Look at the last fight you had. Which of these desires above did you turn into lust resulting in the conflict? The source of your fights stems from the desires of your heart that are out of control. It was neither the issues nor the confrontation. If you want to get to core of your conflicts evaluate the desires you are willing to sin to get and sin when you don’t get. When you are consumed with your own desires and are willing to sin to satisfy theses desires and to sin as a result of not getting those desires, you are making yourself a friend of the world and an enemy of God. Not that you have lost your salvation with God, but you end up breaking fellowship with God disconnecting from His privileges and blessings of being in the family. When you are more concerned with your agenda and walk in worldliness, you make God jealous. These result in Him handling you as an enemy until you repent."You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose. He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us. But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble." (Jam 4:4-6)
Look at your recent conflicts and consider how you have been friends with the world. Consider desires that have preoccupied you mind, will, emotions, and affections in ungodly ways leading you to be friendly with the world and compromising your fellowship with God. Look at your ungodly ways of thinking, speaking, and behaving in pursuit of your lustful desires leading you to be friendly with world and compromising your fellowship with God. Consider how you are using or hurting others to satisfy your lustful desires leading you to be friendly with the world and compromising your fellowship with God. Consider the areas of your life where you refuse to obey God in doing what is right with others leading you to be friendly with the world and compromising your fellowship with God.
I remember a couple I counseled many years ago. I had encouraged them to wait a while on marriage due to some character development issues I saw. In spite of my counsel, they chose to marry. Six months later I received one the most shocking phone calls of my life. The wife called and shared with me that her husband had died of a heart attack. She shared with me that most of their time together during that six month period had been spent fighting. Wow! Take care and evaluate the conflicts that are happening in your relationship.
Whenever you are in conflict with others remember the four “P”s we discussed in the chapter on communication. First, you want to pay attention to your perception of the conflict. Focus on conversations where you tend to discuss matters and concerns from your limited interpretation alone making yourself the hero or the victim. Generally whoever tells the story is the hero. We tend to look at others and their issues more than we look at ourselves when it comes to conflict. Second, pay attention to your preference in the conflict. Identify areas in your life where you are more concerned with things being done your way above loving others. When your way is more important than God’s will, conflict is inevitable. Third, pay attention to preoccupation with pain in the conflict. Notice areas of conversation whereby you tend to talk more about how you have been disappointed or let down by others above how you have disappointed and let down others. It’s hard to be objective about a matter when you are consumed with your pain. Fourth, pay attention to passion in the conflict. You are so consumed with having what you want that you are grumbling, complaining or angry as a result of not getting what you want or getting what you don’t want exposing how you treasure getting your way above loving God’s way. When you are ungrateful or consumed with being denied, you find that conflict is inevitable and loving others difficult. These four “P”s tend to be connected to the conflict that arises in relationships. Listen to this dialogue to give us the picture:
“I don’t believe you love me.” (Perception)
“Why do you say that honey?”
“You never handle the money the way I ask you too!” (Preference)
“That not true honey, Yesterday I did what you had requested.”
“I am so sick of your lies. You keep hurting me with your lies!” (Pain)
“Why don’t you believe me?”
“When have you ever done anything to please me?” (Passion)
May you pay close attention to the four “P” s and deal with your conflict accordingly.
So what is the solution to resolving conflict? James 4:7-8 says:Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
You must submit yourself to God, and resist the Devil. You must turn from sin in action and in heart. You must remorse over your sin while humbling yourself before God. In other words you must free yourself from sin while you submit yourself to God. This is done by confessing, repenting, remorsing, and replacing the sin through submission to godly thoughts, desires, words, actions, and relationship patterns according to the situation. So how can we apply this to conflict resolution? First, examine yourself to see where you have sinned in the conflict. Ask yourself:
- -Were my words seasoned with grace or sin?
- -Was I grumbling, complaining, slandering, or gossiping?
- -Were my words negative, critical, hurtful or destructive?
- -Have I exaggerated the truth?
- -Did I handle my responsibilities in the matter?
- -Did I keep my word in the matter?
- -Did I respect or rebel against God given authority?
- -Would I want my spouse to treat me the way I treated them?
- -What desire was I preoccupied with and what did I do to satisfy it?
- -Did I withhold love?
Second, confess your sins to God and to others, and begin to alter your attitude and actions in the area you have confessed. The process would be as follows:
-Talk with God about your specific sin and renounce it immediately.
-Admit to others how you have specifically sinned against them in attitude and /or action.
-Ask their forgiveness of your sin against them.
-Accept the consequences of your sin and make the necessary restitution.
-Alter your attitudes, actions, relationship patterns to line up with the standards of God.
(Process adapted from Ken Sande in his book Peace Makers)
Third, at the appropriate time, address the sin issue of others with the intent to restore them, to resolve the matter, and not with the intent to destroy them. You would do this by:
-Speaking the truth in love
- -Helping him or her work through the faults accordingly
- -Allowing him or her time to respond
- -Resting and waiting on God to do His Will
- -Be at peace with the your spouse as much as it depends on you covering it and moving on when the issue is resolved
Fourth, if the issue remains unsettled, you want to get others involved to resolve the issue not to take sides in the issue. The goal is not to get people to take your side. The goal is get people involved that will honor God on all sides and help you both deal with the problem. You want people involved who will promote two “P” s in the matter. You want people who will consider the Precept on the matter. They will interpret the situation from a biblical perspective with specific principles from the Bible that govern the problems accordingly. You want people who will consider the Practice in the matter. They will identify specific ways to think, communicate, behave, relate, and serve that will help you both put off the sin problem and put on the right way of living to the glory of God.
A husband and wife went to talk to their friend to resolve their conflict. The husband presented his case to the friend, and his friend responded by saying “You are right!” The wife presented her case to her husband’s friend and he responded by saying “You are right!” The husband and wife looked at him and both responded by saying, “How can we both be right?” And he responded, “I guess you guys have a point.” This is not the kind of person you want to help you resolve a problem. You do not need “yes” men; you need men who will honor God and serve you. As you and your spouse evaluate this chapter make sure you both are honest with God, yourselves, and each other so that you can resolve conflict to the glory of God and the benefit of each other.
Use this guide below to help you work through some the conflict you are having with others:
1. What is the problem or situation?
2. How does the Bible address or discuss this problem or situation?
3. Is this problem or situation based on personal preferences (the way I want something to be) or
is this problem or situation based on a violation of Biblical Principles (the way God wants
something be?) (Romans 14:1-15:3, Philippians 2:1-16)
4. Is it a problem or situation whereby: (Circle the answer that seems to fit your problem or
- You both have faulty views on the matter and need the truth of God’s Word to clarify and clear up the matter?
- You both know the truth on the matter but refuse to obey God in the truth you know?
- You both know the truth in the matter but do not know how to apply what you know to the matter?
5. What are the underlying desires you have turned into lusts and are demanding the other
person to satisfy in this problem or situation? Is the conflict between you and the other
person? Circle the ones that apply to your situation. (James 3:13-James 4:3)
- To be in control – to regulate what people say, think, and do according to your ideals or preferences
- To be loved by others – to have others seek your highest good at all times
- To be accepted by others – to be approved of
- To be understood by others – to have others comprehend you accordingly
- To never be hurt or disappointed by others – to always have people meet your expectations
- To be respected by others – to be treated with reverence
- To be served by others – to have your needs met accordingly
- To have personal preferences accommodated at all times – to have others to do things your way all the time
- To be viewed as competent by others – to have others see you as intelligent
- To be approved of by others – to be well received by others
- To belong to someone – to be in union with another
- To be held in high regard by others – to be seen as somebody in the eyes of others
- To be significant to others – to be valuable to others
- To be satisfied by others – to receive pleasure accordingly
- To maintain a favorable position with others – to never loose ground with others
- To be secure- to be safe with others
- To never be alone – to always have someone in your life
6. What ways have you both been dealing with each other in the problem or situation?
7. What personal preferences(the way I want things to be) of yourself and the other person seem
to be coming up in dealing with the problem or situation?
8. What attitudinal, verbal, behavioral, relational sins need to be confessed to God and to each
other as result of how you both have been dealing with each other in the problem or situation?
9. What do you believe should be done by you to resolve the problem or situation?
10. Is your insight based on personal preferences (the way I want things to be done) or is your
insight based on biblical standards? (the way God wants things to be done)
11. What do you believe should be done by the other person to resolve the problem or situation?
12. Is your insight based on personal preferences (the way I want things to be done) or is your
insight based on biblical standards? (the way God wants things to be done)
13. In what ways do you need to consider the personal preferences of the other person in the
problem or situation?
14. What personal preferences do you need to let go of that you have for the other person in the
problem or situation?
15. Based upon the biblical passages reviewed, personal preferences discovered, the sin issues
uncovered, the desires unfolded and the suggestions of what you believe should be done by
you and the other person, what is the plan of resolution?
16. What specific thoughts, words, actions, relational patterns and service towards the other
person needs to be developed to bring resolution and build God-honoring character in your
life and the life of the other person?
17. What things are you unwilling to do? Why?
18. Do you have biblical grounds for why you are unwilling to do it?
19. What are the tangible measures to determine if you are progressing or digressing?
20. Who will hold you accountable to continue working through the plan of resolution?