God has no respect for my comfort zone!
Every time I've picked up the Bible over the past week or so, the Holy Spirit starts talking to me about one thing in particular. After I finish reading every day and begin thinking about what I've read, the primary message I keep hearing is an admonition to use my speech more wisely. And while this is not a new thought in my life, it seems that maybe I'm ready to hear it now. Maybe...
Last week, I wrote and asked Do I Choose Wise Words when I speak. Today, through Proverbs 15, God gave me the 3 Ps of Godly Conflict Resolution to consider. As it turns out, though, the 3 Ps are largely about the same thing. Choosing how to respond to others instead of reacting to them.
This is toughest to do when conflict surprises us. You know, when the coworker accosts us on the way out the door after work. Or when one of the children (or spouse) gets mad when we say it’s bedtime or ask them to clean their room (or the garage). But it’s how we respond in these situations that people will remember. It’s how we respond that gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to enter the situation. And only He can calm fears, soothe hearts or help us understand the other person’s point of view.
Throughout Proverbs 15, Solomon counsels us to remain calm in conflict. He doesn’t say that directly, but you can’t follow his advice if you’re in a huff. For example, in verse 1, he says, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” In verse 4, “the soothing tongue is a tree of life.” In verse 18, “the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” And in verse 23, “a person find joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word.”
This leads to the first P of Godly conflict resolution. Pause.
In that time between someone spewing anger at us and our response to it, we can choose life instead of death. Choose peace rather than war. So intentionally stretch that split second into a few seconds. Say a quick prayer for Godly insight and guidance in how to respond wisely.
In that time between someone spewing anger & our response, we can choose life instead of death...peace rather than war.
While you never know how God will answer your prayer, you can rest assured He will. As Solomon says in verse 8, “the prayer of the upright please Him.” In verse 9 he says God "loves those who pursue righteousness.” And in verse 22 that, “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
There are times, of course, when conflict doesn’t sneak up on us. We’ve all had to have tough conversations at work, at home or even at church. Conversations we knew were coming for days or weeks. Conversations we stewed about and fret over because we knew they were going to be full of conflict.
In those situations, falling on our knees in prayer is absolutely essential. It’s in these times of calling out to our Heavenly Father in frustration, lament and anger that He can (and will) change our hearts. He'll often give us a fresh perspective on the situation and how to handle it.
I’ve found that when I pray intently for the person I have the conflict with and not just for the conflict itself, God often softens my heart and gives me compassion for them. Then, before the meeting, I pray for God’s presence to be in the discussion and for His Spirit to bring about a calm and clear discussion. Of course, what actually happens depends on the other person's responses as well. But if we go into the meeting prayed up and focused on having a Godly discussion, we can trust the results to God.
One of the most effective ways I’ve ever seen to reduce tensions and gain understanding is to follow Solomon’s advice in verse 14: ask clarifying questions.
Asking questions allows the offended person to explain the situation as they see it. This usually gives us invaluable insight into how to respond in a way they’ll find helpful. Their answers also give us time to think and pray. Just make sure you don’t stop listening to them. Let them finish and then consider your response. The words they use and the way they say things can be very enlightening. Wisely-worded questions can sometimes lead the person to a solution too. It can even lead them to see things from your perspective.
Solomon gives other tips on how to respond as well (see verses 2, 4, 7, 12, 14, 26, 26 and 33, and Ecc 10:12-13).
Now that we’ve prayed about the conversation and worked to figure out a gracious and loving way to approach it, the last P is a reminder of our true motivation for resolving the conflict in a Godly manner.
It’s hard to remember in the heat of conflict, but God calls us to be a light to everyone around us. We're to be a beacon of His redemptive work in a dark and conflict-filled world. As Solomon reminds us in verse 3, “the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good,” and in verse 20, “a wise son brings joy to his father [God].” God is watching and His greatest desire is an unbroken, devoted relationship with His creation. It’s our responsibility as His agents to represent Him well and do our best to make sure people remember how our words and actions reflected Him. Even in the toughest of situations…especially in the toughest of situations.
The toughest part of responding to conflict in a Godly way is that the conversations are always between at least two sinners. Two broken people. Throughout the conversations, though, we have to be constantly in prayer and remember to remain calm, respond graciously and keep our focus on the true end goal…redemption of us and the situation.