How To Handle Conflict In Your Life


Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.

Ronald Reagan

I recently discovered myself stuck in the middle of a situation.  I’m generally known to be a good listener, and I think I generally give pretty good advice.  But this is not always a blessing.  Every once in a while I find myself sucked into the vortex of a place I should never be.

My intentions were good when I initially started listening to a friend, but I think I may have gone a little too far when I failed to stop him from telling me about some disagreements he was having between someone else.  I honestly don’t believe he was trying to bring me into the problem.  I think he felt the need to vent and to get some outside perspective and council.

I happen to be good friends with both individuals involved.  And like a coin, there are two sides to every story and every disagreement.  Resolving disputes like this can be a scary proposition.

The Bible lays out pretty clear instructions for those caught in a dispute with their brother.  If you take time to follow these steps you have a much better chance of finding the right outcome for your dispute.

As I was processing this experience in my life, I realized it was a topic previously addressed here on The Stretched Blog.  In a guest post titled Managing Conflict, Frank Chiapperino shared practical advice for handling conflict:

Sometimes as leaders we need to be a guiding presence and help others navigate through conflict. There are times I will have a staff member or another volunteer leader at our church call me and say, “Frank, I need help. There are some members of my team that are at each other’s throats.” For some strange reason they don’t share my joy when I say, “THAT IS GREAT!” When I manage conflict I normally start where many Christian leaders do, following Matthew chapter 18:

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

  • Go to them privately and confront them on the issue
  • If a private discussion doesn’t work take a witness. That means someone who has seen the behavior you are speaking to them about.
  • If that doesn’t work attempt to involve church leadership to aid in resolution of the problem.
  • If that fails, end the relationship.

That is pretty much what Matthew lays out, and it is sound advice that works. However, I do have a few other guiding principles I follow that aid in confrontation and conflict resolution:

  • Be wise with your words. Everything you say in a confrontation will either escalate or de-escalate a conflict. Try to use words and responses that we de-escalate the tension.
  • Don’t discuss nameless people. Sometimes people will say, “Someone told me…” If they refuse to use actual names of real people, don’t acknowledge it as a leader in the church. It only leads to pointless discussion because you can’t get the real person behind whatever it is involved.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it right away. This is powerful in conflict resolution. Think about it for a minute. How often do you hear people actually admit they are wrong? Not often, it is a real sign of maturity and it will have an immediate affect on the situation.

Frank’s words of wisdom were a welcome reminder for how I should direct my friend who is trying to navigate his conflict.  For the rest of Frank’s post, click here.

What have you learned from handling conflict in your life?

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