How do you handle conflict? Recently, I was in the middle of one big huge chaotic conflicted mess. I didn’t know what to do. I took it out on myself, internally. I spoke about it to all my friends (who don’t judge me fortunately). I moved it forward to my family (who didn’t deserve my anger). Then one day I realized, “I need to deal with this.” I prayed about it, unknowingly. I thought I was praying for the person I was in the conflict with, but actually what God said to me, was you need to make a change. Hmmm… “Why do I need to make a change, God? I told you, I was mad at the person for the bad choices. What do I have to do with this? Why do I need to work on something, shouldn’t that person be the one with work to do?” As I allowed God to melt away the hardness of my heart, I realized that I was reacting to this person and the choice they made. I was reacting to their problems, not mine. Why was I reacting to them? What did those problems have to do with me? “Nothing” is what God replied. They had nothing to do with me. Something was sparking a fire within me; something that this person did brought out the bad in me; something that I really didn’t want to see in myself. Why?
Well as time passed, I realized that I needed to do just what God had said, change me. I am a work in progress on this. I realized that when I nitpick at others, gossip about people’s lives, and judge how people do things and what they do; that I need to look back at myself and find those same sins in me. It allows me to see people differently. It gives me empathy which I so obviously need!
One of my problems in dealing with conflict is I love to ignore what is going on so that I can pretend that it isn’t. I can pretend that there isn’t an elephant in the room. I can pretend that the person’s choice is not making me angry. I can pretend that it is easy to love someone who is so different from me. Guess what? That isn’t working so well for me. When I ran to my friends for help, I really was running to my friends so that they would be on “my team.” I wanted them to feel sorry for me. I wanted them to see how horrible the other person was. I wanted someone to say that I was right and the other person was wrong. I was lifting myself up, so the other person would look bad. Shame on me. Once I did a little self-reflection, I realized that I could find those same choices in me. They were just portrayed in different ways. Kind of like when I try to come up with creative ideas for meals for my family. About the 3rd night of chicken, they say, “Chicken again!” You can only make chicken look different in so many ways until they figure out that they are having chicken again! This person was doing something that angered me so much, yet I did the same thing, I just made it look a little different. I tweaked it to look a little prettier, or so I thought. The conflict ensued when I thought I was the winner at making my own version look better. “They should do it like me,” I would hear myself say. Ouch. That was the key right there that I needed to look in the mirror. My reflection wasn’t looking so pretty either.
You see, this conflict made me feel horrible about myself. It made me see things in me that I didn’t want to acknowledge. It embarrassed me that others might see my low points. It really wasn’t about the other person’s choice (bad or not). It was about how I reacted to that choice. I was trading poor choices for more poor choices. Wouldn’t it be so much better if I actually traded poor choices for good choices? It was hard work.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
God calls us to follow the human example that He gave us, Jesus Christ. In all circumstances we should mirror our lives after Jesus who gave His life for us, the ultimate sacrifice. We should lay down our lives for others. Conflict will happen. In fact, it will happen on a daily basis. How we react shows our true colors. In order to really act like Jesus would in a conflict, all of us need to change our hearts.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
At the end of every conflict, you should be able to recite 2 Timothy 4:7 with no doubt that you have acted as Jesus would. Not with pride, but with humility. So are you wondering how my conflict ended? It hasn’t. As I have said, I am a work in progress. I still struggle with my pride and “winning” the battle. I still struggle with allowing God to take over. I still struggle with self-inventory of myself and my own sins. I still struggle with anger. I spend time daily with God asking for help and telling him I am a sinner. Baby steps. Every conflict that I can recite 2 Timothy with humility, I give myself acknowledgement that I have accomplished conquering conflict for that day.
Conflict is hard, but remembering that I am a sinner and I too make poor choices (even if I present them to be pretty) helps me move through my day with compassion and love for even the “hard to love” people in my life.