Conflict has always bothered me.
Even before I had a relationship with God, it bothered me. I had a problem with it in the past due to the fact that I always thought I was beyond reproach. I was a “good person” and I never did anything to harm anyone.
That does not matter.
People who study conflict have this old expression: “Conflict is inevitable.”
It does not matter how “good” you are, there are those who will despise you.
For the Christian it is hard because Jesus said all the commandments can be summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Wow that is a high goal for any of us, especially when we have people around us who are really hard to love.
It raises the question: how does a Christian love the unlovable neighbor?
First of all, it is good to try to figure out the source of the conflict. Is it a content issue or a relationship issue?
Content issues are difficult enough because our world is full of issues that can cause people to disagree. Topics like civil rights for gay and lesbian individuals can cause a content conflict but even a topic like whether or not you like a movie can cause a fight. My point is, the subject does not have to be “serious” for a conflict to ensue. You just have to disagree on some content.
Relationship issues are the second major source of conflict and they are much more difficult to handle. People can disagree over a topic and eventually get over it. The old expression is “I can agree to disagree with you.” Relationship issues are rooted in problems that are personality based.
Let me see if I can give you some examples.
A person who wants to be in charge all the time is having a hard time dealing with the lack of control he or she feels when leadership has been given to another. They may lash out at anyone in authority because they feel they should be in authority.
Someone may want equal decision-making in a relationship but they are not getting that option. The other partner is making decisions without consultation and that causes conflict.
A narcissistic person may crave attention but they are getting very little. They may act out in an effort to draw attention to themselves, even if it is negative attention.
These are tough nuts to crack because the source of the conflict is deep within another person’s psychological makeup or their needs.
Often you may receive the anger, frustration and the negativity of the other person and you don’t deserve it. Their feelings are coming from a need which has very little to do with you.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5
Loving the unlovable is hard but Jesus calls upon us to do it and who said it was going to be easy to be a follower of Christ? No one.
I have no easy solution to loving the unlovable other than “do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” [Matthew 5:39].
This difficult piece of advice from Matthew is in line with what I used to counsel people who attended customer service seminars that I used to offer at the place where I worked. Do not act out on the level of the person who is acting out. That only makes matters worse. Then there are two people misbehaving. It is much better to be cool under pressure and “show” the out of control person the proper way to respond. Your behavior will be a contrast to theirs and may make them think about what they are saying and doing. Your behavior may make them calm down. Your misbehaving may just be “pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Yes, conflict has always bothered me. It still does. As a Christian, I struggle with it even more when another Christian is having a conflict with me.
I try to focus on the fact that when I have conflict with another, we are both humans and we both have our own set of flaws. Galatians 6 [referring to sin] says “We must carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each should carry his own load.”
Yes, conflict is inevitable but it does not have to ruin your life. It will pass if you keep on remembering the greatest commandment.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”