One sultry evening while living in steamy Singapore, I attempted to talk to Jim about our daughter’s wedding plans. It was a few months away and would be held in Oregon.
But, our house in Oregon was rented to friends for the year and I didn’t know how we could host a wedding without a home base.
Jim lay on the sofa under the ceiling fan reading the paper, while I conducted a monologue.
“What should we do about hosting your family for the wedding,” I asked?
“Where will we stay?”
“Why can’t you call the States and get our housing situation sorted out?” I said loudly, glaring at the newspaper.
With no feedback, nods, or grunts to indicate my laid-back, phlegmatic husband heard me or shared my concerns, I grew increasingly irritable. Finally, frustration at being ignored turned into fury. Grabbing the short, chubby candle off the coffee table, I hurled it at Jim’s prone body. Being a pathetic shot it fell on the floor far short of its intended target.
Horrified at what I’d done, I burst into tears, fled down the hallway and threw myself on our bed. Jim glanced up as I ran past then returned to his newspaper.
While I lay there sobbing in shame and shock, my inner parent lost no time in telling me off. Poppy Smith, the little voice in my head said, what is the matter with you? You’re a Bible teacher, a mentor to younger women, and look at how you just behaved!
Two days later, after I had calmed down and was in a fit emotional state to apologize, I suggested we talk about what happened.
It was an opportunity for both of us to discover what we needed from each other. And for me to realize that asking for what I need before I lose it is a lot more effective than throwing the nearest object (which, to be honest, I rarely do).
Conflict Happens—in marriage, in families, at work, in neighborhoods, on school committees, and in churches. So how can you and I grow from this common, human, experience?
Here are five helps from my book: Why Can’t He Be More Like Me? (See Ch. 8 for more ways to defuse and grow through conflict.) More important, they reflect Biblical wisdom!
- Determine not to blame or resort to name-calling. Pray for God’s help when tempted! “A person who lacks judgment derides their neighbor” Proverbs 11:12.
- Define the problem you’re dealing with and stick to that issue. Don’t recite history! “When words are many, sin is not absent, but the person who holds their tongue is wise” Proverbs 10:19.
- Don’t tell the other party what to do, or assume you know their motives. An angry response only inflames the conflict. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” Proverbs 15:1.
- Show respect and a willingness to hear the other’s viewpoint by careful listening. “The person who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to the one who searches for it” Proverbs 11:27
- Summarize what you believe is the other’s position without scorn, criticism, or threats. Having modeled this, ask them to calmly tell you how they see the problem. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” Proverbs 18:15.
I love the fact that Jesus never blew it with inappropriate words or actions! With his Holy Spirit in each believer, hope exists for the most hot-headed among us. Digest these wise words from Scripture, brood over them, and then ask God to help you zip your lips and change your attitude!
Qu. How have you handled conflicts—and how have you’ve grown through them? Let me know and I’ll rejoice with you!
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