What Does the Bible Say About Conflict Resolution?

by Sue Miley

People claim to avoid conflict to keep the peace.  They believe that conflict is bad, and if I participate in conflict, bad things will happen.  And if nothing else, I will certainly feel bad.

We believe that addressing conflict is the equivalent to starting a fight.

Conflict hurts people’s feelings.

Conflict creates problems in the relationship.

Conflict will only turn things into a big mess.

The Myth About Avoiding Conflict

This is a myth.  It really is a deceptive myth.

People who avoid conflict say they just want harmony and peace.

But conflict avoiders,

  • are not up front; they do not address the person or persons that they have conflict with.
  • believe that this person knows how they feel and doesn’t agree or care.
  • assume that saying something will cause an actual argument or verbal fight; uncontrollable chaos.
  • assume that any disagreement or clarification is disrespectful.

This view is backwards.

In Actuality…

Let’s look at an actual example.  Adrianne is frustrated because every time she has the shift after Don, the mid-day reports haven’t been run and extra staff hasn’t been sent home.  It is so frustrating to Adrianne because it takes her 30 minutes to run the reports and figure out where she is for her shift.

Her shift begins less than an hour from the restaurant’s dinner rush.  Don leaves right in the middle of the slowest time; what could he possibly be so busy with that he doesn’t finish the responsibilities required to finish the early shift.

She was complaining to a co-worker one day and they suggested she say something.

“I don’t want to start trouble.  He already doesn’t like me.  If I say something things will just get worse.”

Natural Consequences of Avoiding Conflict

Meanwhile, her frustration is building.  She can barely look Don in the eyes when they make the handoff.  The rest of their staff notice the tension when both managers are there together.

Don is confused.  He doesn’t know why she is so unfriendly and cold.

He used to work the night shift and he never had anyone hand off to him with everything all ready to go.  What is her problem?  If she isn’t going to appreciate it, I won’t go the extra mile.

Behind the conflict that both Adrianne and Don are making personal, is a simple issue.  Don always closed.  He didn’t know about the process of running mid-day reports and sending home extra workers.  No one told him when he was the night manager that they had sent anyone home.  They were just gone.  He has been a manager for a while and when he shifted to day manager, the owner just assumed he knew.

If one of them would break the ice and discuss the conflict, it would go away completely.  Instead, a self-fulfilling prophesy is created.

After several weeks of not saying anything, they really don’t like each other.  They think the other is rude and/or incompetent.  They can’t even look each other in the eye!

This is all to avoid conflict!

See it doesn’t work.

What Does Jesus Say About Conflict Resolution?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24,

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift

even if the situation has bubbled up to a legal debate, Jesus wants us to proactively address it,

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.  Matthew 5: 25-26

Jesus warns us that the consequences are worse when we do not settle our differences!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bradley J. Moore February 3, 2011 at 4:08 am

Good advice. It seems that some people just have it in their personalities to avoid conflict, so need the push sometimes to face things head on. The funny thing is that often this is nothing more than just taking initiative to communicate, to understand one another. It has nothing to do with coflict, except in our own heads. A good manager will find ways to communicate clearly and often.

David@RedLetterBelievers February 4, 2011 at 7:26 am

This is one great post. It’s a true statemetn that conflict avoidance only continues to build. It never really fixes anything. I have been an avoider my whole life and have nothing but problems in the wake. I’m learning to step up, duke it out, fix it, and then move on, arm in arm

harry williams July 26, 2012 at 3:50 am

The word od God says that offenses are going to come our way, but it’s not about the offense it’s how we respond to them.

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