We Need to Talk
When I was in high school I had a huge falling out with my best friend. It was very ugly, I was hurt and angry and had no idea how to deal with it. The only response I knew was to run away, so I proceeded to ignore my once BFF and just decided to never speak to her again. This was obviously a really mature and helpful way to deal with it. JKS it was a really bad idea.
Over the years I’ve been forced to learn how to deal with it when my friends and I don’t agree, or hurt each other. I often think back to that old best friend and how I could have done so much better, but I just didn’t know how. God shows us perfect love and perfect forgiveness. He teaches us right from wrong, but He never condemns us when we mess up. Time and again He calls us back to Himself by forgiving us and calling us to be better people. Why can’t we do the same for each other? In telling others when they hurt us and in seeking forgiveness when we are wrong we help each other to grow holier andeach other better.
Here are some tips I’ve learnt the hard way about resolving conflict:
- Know that feelings are feelings, they come and go. They are not the facts, they are how our emotions have responded to the facts.
- Speak about how you feel and how situations/actions affected you. Whilst your feelings are real and important, it’s important to remember that people aren’t generally out to make you feel terrible. Speaking about how you feel versus about what you think they’ve done means you’re not going to jump to conclusions about their intentions and they aren’t going to feel attacked or condemned (they’re also more likely to show you compassion!). You know what they say about what happens when you assume…
- Be ready to listen. And maybe to even hear that your response was more about you than it was about the facts of the situation. People come from such different families and cultures that most conflict just happens because of miscommunication. You felt like Sally was saying you were fat, but actually when she meant ‘curvy’ as a positive thing!
- Humbly accept fault where you were wrong and seek forgiveness genuinely. If you assumed that they meant to hurt you but they didn’t, admit that. If you responded out of your own hurts or previous experiences, that’s okay. Resolving conflict is really about growing closer together and closer to God, it means sometimes having to change and address your mess.
- Forgive others readily. If you don’t have the strength or capacity, ask God to help you forgive. Allowing other people the space to make mistakes mean they will do the same for you. If Jesus can bear all our mistakes on the Cross and love us totally, completely, then we can forgive our friend for being broken.
My friendships are stronger because of working through big or small issues. Every time we sit down and talk about hard things, my friends and I remind each other that we love each other. When we say ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you’ and when we listen to the hurt of others we are really just telling them that that are worthy and loved.
Jesus died on the cross so that we could come back to Him again. He tells us that He does not count our sins or hold them against us, He just wants to offer us forgiveness and love. In forgiving others, we offer them an encounter with God’s love. In taking the time to tell others when their behaviour is hurtful, we offer them the chance to grow more like Jesus and to love others the same.
Resolving conflict is hard and it takes courage and practice. People will not always respond the way we want, they might get angry or not listen. But they might respond well. The chance that our friends will grow in holiness and that our relationship will be happier and healthier is worth the risk that they might reject us. When a friend decides they don’t want to hear my hurt, it hurts me even more. But my advice would be to talk to God about that. Jesus was pretty badly rejected by people He loved completely. He knows that pain and He has the answer to it, share that with Him and try to forgive them for hurting you anyway.
If you’ve read this and thought ‘nah I’ll just avoid conflict for the rest of my life’, I have some harsh news for you: you can expect to lead a very lonely life. We are made for relationship and relationship can never be genuine unless we resolve conflicts. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour.” Roman 12:9-10