“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.” James 4:1 (MSG)
The Bible has a great deal to say about conflict and how to handle it. As much as you may wish to avoid it, God uses conflict for connection if we understand the rules of a fair fight. In the next few days, we’ll examine four ground rules for a fair fight that will lead to deep and abiding connection.
The first rule is to stay in the ring. You’ll never reach connection by avoiding the conflict or jumping out of the ring when it’s time to engage the issues. Relationships aren’t easy; but, with the right perspective, they are certainly worth fighting for. Have you ever considered what kind of fighter you are? Most of us fall into one of these types of fighters:
This is the “no way” opponent. They refuse to counter and just take the punches. There is nothing more frustrating than when you are in the ring with a rope-a-doper! Thinking they are peacemakers, these people are really peace fakers.
I call these types the “my way” opponents. The problem with this kind of fighter is that you can win the fight but lose the relationship altogether. In conflict, you want to attack the issue – not kill the other person.
These are the “your way” fighters who refuse to fight at all. They just tap out or throw in the towel from their corner before you ever even begin. Thinking this may resolve the conflict and appease the other person, the truth is that it creates bitterness and resentment that undermines the relationship until, one day, the other person just walks away.
While this type of fighter stays in the ring, he only seeks a compromise rather than reaching connection. This is the “half-way” fighter.
The best way to reach connection out of conflict is when you fight for the relationship vs. with one another. These fighters are really seeking consensus to find “our way” together instead of demanding their own individual way.
Connection out of conflict comes when you care enough to confront and risk the awkwardness of addressing the problem. God expects us to face conflict head on. When Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount, He dealt with conflict resolution. He said,
“So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the alter and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matthew 5:23,24 (LB)
Jesus is saying that you cannot worship with bitterness in your heart. To reach connection with God and others, we must face our conflicts head on and fight fair. What kind of fighter are you most like? What adjustments do you need to make to resolve the conflicts in your relationships?