Conflict…whether the people involved are family, friends, or romantic partners, conflict is never something we want to get caught up in. Likewise, very few of us know how to navigate the choppy waters of conflict while keeping our cool. The truth is that how we communicate with one another—especially when we disagree—will determine the health of our relationships.
We’re not always going to get what we want. The question is, when this happens, how will we respond?
Jesus introduces a new way of responding to conflict in Matthew 5:38-40: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
This usually isn’t our first reaction to conflict. We tend to get defensive and combative, focusing the conversation on what’s been done to us, or why the other person is wrong. We’ve seen the results of this kind of conflict.
Jesus calls us to handle disagreements, and the communication they require, with a different kind of attitude. Instead of self-pity, defensiveness, or accusation, this new kind of conflict involves seeing and caring for the other person.
When we care about someone else, we communicate our needs clearly and kindly. We ask what they need. We understand that the conflict doesn’t encompass or define the relationship. And we set aside our pride long enough to make sure the other person feels cared for and valued.
The next time you find yourself in a dispute or disagreement, ask yourself these questions: “Does the other person feel heard, cared for, and valued? How can I take responsibility for my part? How can I communicate my needs and wants in a way that moves us toward resolution?”
When we communicate in this way, we’ll truly be showing those around us a new kind of conflict.
Dr. Derek Grier