This relational paradigm is tested when people disagree with you. It isn’t hard to empower people who agree with you or not control people who are making good choices. It is when they’re making dumb choices and running people (or you) over in the process, making your ability to stay true to your choice to honor others difficult.
People are people though, and so conflict is inevitable. There will always be disagreements, differences in values, and miscommunication, so we will always have opportunities to get better at building up one another.
The key to successfully navigating conflict in relationship is to properly handle the tension that arises as a result of disagreement. This tension will naturally arise in any relationship within the process of conflict. It’s actually a good thing; it means you value the relationship. You don’t feel tension with people unless there is something you care about at stake.
The way we handle that tension makes all the difference. The important thing is to distinguish between the tension that arises within the relationship and the issue that is provoking the disagreement. The issue may affect the relationship, but it really is outside the relationship. Where people go wrong is they lose the relationship as the context for addressing the problem. When this happens, people wind up letting the issue come into the middle of their relationship and split them to opposite sides of it.
In God’s Family, no issue is big enough to sacrifice our relationships. God defines His relationships with covenants; He’s not splitting relationships over disagreements. His commitment is bigger than any issue we may not see eye-to-eye on. As a result, we can approach conflict safely. We don’t tiptoe into conflict worried about losing the relationship because our commitment to each other as people goes deeper than whatever issue is at hand. We have The Holy Spirit to lead us in Wisdom.
When handling a conflict within the context of hierarchical relationships, there are a few principles that are helpful to keep in mind. In order to successfully navigate conflict while honoring and empowering others, our goals are to:
Introduce consequences into a situation in order to teach and strengthen.
There is a difference between consequences and punishment. The difference is that with consequences, people are empowered to clean up their own mess whereas with punishment, people are forced into compliance and hence disempowered. Every choice has consequences; there may be a breaking of trust in a relationship, or loss of privileges that the person is no longer considered worthy of. When people face the consequences of their actions, a road back to intimacy is created. If someone intentionally makes a choice to hurt us, one consequence is that we may not feel safe around that person anymore. We make it clear to that person that as a result of what he or she has done, we don’t feel safe with him or her anymore; and until he or she is ready to own the fact that his or her actions have hurt you and work through that, you’re not going to be around him or her. This informs the person you still love him or her, empowers the person to clean up the mess, and extends an invitation to restored relationship when the person is ready to take responsibility for the consequences of his or her actions.
To learn how to manage relationships this way is a complete change for most of us. Take time out to pray and ask The Lord to lead you by The Holy Spirit in all your relationships. “Father God help me to model You in all my relationships.” Amen!
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