“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18 (NLT)
If I want to make the most of my relationships, I need to learn how to fight fair. Developing deep, personal and meaningful relationships doesn’t exempt you from conflict. In fact, it’s more likely that you will face conflict if your relationship is to go to the depth God designs. None of us are perfect, and we are all in the school of relationships. How can our relationships weather the storms of conflict that are sure to come? How do we stay connected when our feelings are hurt? The New Testament writer, James, offers us seven rules for a fair fight when we experience conflict in our relationships that will enable us to work through the conflict instead of walking away from the relationship. It’s really amazing how these seven rules unfold in this passage.
- Always check my motives. James begins by saying, “… the wisdom from above is first of all pure.” When you address the conflict in your relationship, check your motives. Are they pure or selfish? Do you want the relationship to go deeper or just tear down the other person?
- Never attack the person; attack the issue. James adds, “… the wisdom from above is also peace loving. …” The goal in wise fighting is to seek a deeper peace in the relationship. Don’t start the conversation with “you” statements. “You make me so mad!” “You always…!” “You never …!” Start with “I” statements. “I feel insecure when you do …” “I felt hurt when you said…” Stick with the issue, and don’t attack one another.
- Never raise my voice. “… the wisdom from above is gentle at all times.” How often is God’s wisdom gentle? James says at all times not sometimes. The truth is when you yell, you fail. Raising your voice doesn’t strengthen your argument. 4
- Never interrupt. “… the wisdom from above is willing to yield to others.” Learn the art of listening. Too often I’ve found that when I’m engaged in a conflict, rather than really listening to the other person I’m too busy thinking of my rebuttal. Years ago, we gave out small pieces of tile flooring to our church as a reminder to listen when someone else had the floor. If they are holding the tile the other person yields the floor to them without interrupting and focuses on listening to what they are saying and how they are feeling.
- Never keep score. “… the wisdom from above is full of mercy.” In 1 Corinthians 13:5, the Bible says that love keeps no record of wrongs. Real forgiveness means to release the offense and the offender, to let it go. That’s mercy! It will set you free, as well as your partner. You’ll never get to a deeper level in your relationships if you hold on to the hurt and continue to bring up the past offense. If you want to win, quit keeping score.
- Always follow talk with action. “… the wisdom from above is full of good deeds.” Image may communicate a brand, but your actions tell the real story. Be careful not to over promise and under deliver. Make whatever changes in your behavior that are needed to rebuild the relationship. Be radical with those changes. Surgeons operate to remove cancer cells to save the patient.
- Always speak from the heart. “… the wisdom from above is always sincere.” The first step to healing is revealing your feeling. Drop the guard around your heart and risk rejection to reveal your heart.
Your relationships are worth the effort! Before giving up and walking away from a relationship, give God the opportunity to employ the wisdom of His Word in handling conflict. Experience the depth and intimacy He brings into your relationships!