Jun 14 2012
- An offense occurs.
- A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
- Friends take up the offense.
- Sides begin to form.
- Suspicion on both sides develop.
- Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
- Exaggerated statements are made.
- In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
- Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
- Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
- Integrity is challenged.
- People call each other liars.
- Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
- Many are hurt.
This reminded me of the introductory passage in Getting to the Heart of Conflict that introduces where conflict really comes from:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy. In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.
Jesus provides us with clear guidance on this issue. During His earthly ministry, a young man approached the Lord and asked Him to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15).
This passage reveals a common human pattern. When faced with conflict, we tend to focus passionately on what our opponent has done wrong or should do to make things right. In contrast, God always calls us to focus on what is going on in our own hearts when we are at odds with others. Why? Because our heart is the wellspring of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore the source of our conflicts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).
The heart’s central role in conflict is vividly described in James 4:1-3. If you understand this passage, you will have found a key to preventing and resolving conflict.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
This passage describes the root cause of destructive conflict: Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. If someone fails to meet that desire, we condemn him in our heart and quarrel and fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way. Let us look at this progression one step at a time.