Are you dealing with someone difficult? Perhaps it is family, a business associate, teacher, manager, or perhaps a ministry leader. Conflict is never comfortable. But it’s important to recognize that often it is due to simple differences in personality, experience, culture, or our own triggers from the past.
Triggers are created when we experience a hurt that leaves residue. It then creates a cloud on our lens of life and can all by itself create conflict from misunderstanding.
Misunderstanding or disagreement is not inherently bad—it just reflects a difference of opinion. And that’s okay. As long as the issue is not one of honesty or integrity, then we need to embrace the fact that we may see and process things differently from someone else. It is when we become rigid in our way of thinking and processing, that conflict can happen. And conflict if left unchecked can become confrontation.
So how do we handle conflict, especially when it is with an authority figure? Unfortunately, there are few of us who haven’t been touched by some hurt from a boss, or worse within the church or church leadership. Why? Because people aren’t perfect. The ideal is that when these hurts happen, we can allow the issue to roll off like water off a duck’s back, forget it, and move on. But what if the wound is repetitive, vicious, and/or intentional? What if it hits one of our triggers? The ability to move on becomes increasingly more difficult. So what do we do?
While we cannot control the response of the other individual, we can control our own responses. And that is where we encounter the next step which is a heart issue. In essence it is about honor. We all know the Scripture, “Honor your father and mother…” If you had good parents, then this commandment is not so difficult. But what if your parents were abusive or cruel? What if they didn’t deserve honor? There lies the conflict and the key.
It’s not about what is deserved. It’s about obedience and about more than just our parents. We are to give honor, even to difficult people. Even to those who don’t deserve honor, we are to act with honor.
Two Kinds of Honor
There are two kinds of honor. Honor for the person and honor for the position. There are people we may not be able to honor who they are if they lack character, integrity, or kindness; but we are still to honor their position, whether that is a parent, teacher, peer, boss…or even pastor or president.
Honor is about the soil of our hearts rather than theirs. We can’t control their response we can only control our own.
When we find ourselves in conflict we need to first check our own hearts. Are we jealous? Are we dealing with an issue of pride or offense? Yet even as we ask ourselves those questions, we may not get an honest answer. For when pride is present there is often deception which hides truth from our view. The best thing to do when we find ourselves in conflict is to first pray. Ask the Lord to reveal and remove any issue of pride that may be hidden, not in the other individual, but in ourselves. If possible we should ask a trusted mentor or friend who truly knows us and who we trust to speak honestly into our lives, to see if they see an issue of pride within us in regards to the conflict. Sit for a moment after you pray, repent of any pride that may be hidden, and simply wait. If pride is present, you have just removed the stronghold if your heart is sincere.
Once our hearts are cleaned up and cleared out, only then can we move ahead to ask the Lord about the individual in which we are in conflict. The next steps we take are important. Even as we pray regarding the situation, we need to be cautious that we don’t find ourselves as one who has stepped into the role of the “accuser of the brethren.”
Is our prayer all about how God should change them? Instead, we need to pray for the individual, ask the Lord for insight and then bless them.
What? Yes, I know that’s a hard one. But if we can’t bless the individual and turn the other cheek, then we need to go back to step one and check our hearts. If we are walking in forgiveness toward the individual, then we should be able to bless them and even honor them.
Change the Atmosphere
When we honor those around us and recognize their gifts and abilities, we create an atmosphere of blessing. Conflict happens when honor is absent. When those in leadership do not understand honor, then a culture of dishonor is created. Unhealthy “kingdoms” are created when honor is absent. When a gift is ignored or unvalued, we too often make an effort to create value by establishing “kingdoms” within a community. That is one of the quickest ways to conflict.
I worked for a ministry for several years in which the leadership did not understand honor. When they did not honor their staff or volunteers, they unknowingly created a culture of dishonor. The results could be seen everywhere. Individuals then worked to create their own places of value and establish their own “kingdoms” to fill the void of what should have been provided by leadership. Conflict, anger, and disunity were often the result as frustration mounted when blessing and acknowledgement were withheld. Leadership which should have affirmed their staff either missed opportunities to acknowledge value or were actually critical. Although the ministry seemed to bear fruit in some areas, the body count of those wounded in the process stretched for miles all because honor was absent.
Perhaps you find yourself currently in conflict with someone or coming out of conflict. Perhaps you have been left bloody from the battle and unsure how to proceed. Let me encourage you again, that while we cannot control how the other person responds, we can control how we respond. And we are to respond with honor, forgiveness, and blessing.
It isn’t easy, especially when the conflict has crossed over into lines of abuse. And if it involves abuse, then I’m not recommending you stay in the fray. But even as you establish necessary boundaries, it remains an issue of the heart: roots of love, forgiveness, and honor.
When we create a culture of honor in our families, our workplaces, our communities, we can quell conflict as we create an atmosphere of acceptance and value even amidst differences … even amidst individuals who at least in our minds may not deserve honor. And yet when we give it anyway and give forgiveness, we unlock healing for ourselves as we give it to them.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NASB)