Throughout my sixty years on the planet, I have met very few people who have a healthy attitude toward conflict. Rather, I have come across individuals who are either conflict creators or conflict avoiders. Conflict creators thrive on conflict and crave it. They therefore go out of their way to create it. Conflict avoiders are uncomfortable with conflict and run from it as if running for their life.

Needless to say, neither of these approaches grows out of a healthy attitude toward conflict. As far as I’m concerned, a healthy attitude toward conflict means you don’t create conflict for the sake of creating conflict, nor do you shy away from conflict when someone else initiates it.

As a former approval seeker and people pleaser par excellence, I fell into the category of conflict avoider. I gradually came to see though, that conflict is not inherently good or bad. It can be either productive or destructive depending on how it’s handled. It also seems to be an inevitable and unavoidable ingredient for change, whether on a relational level or on a social and/or political level. It’s too bad it has to be this way, as I’m sure civil rights workers and women suffragists would attest to. However, it is what it is.

As I developed a healthy attitude toward conflict I gradually came to see that there are actually some positive aspects of conflict. Some of these are: 1.They make us aware of problems in relationships that need to be resolved; 2.They facilitate change and personal growth; 3. They help you understand what you are like as a person; 4. They can deepen and enrich a relationship; and 5. They can stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving through exposure to different ways of viewing problems and situations.

In church circles, I have met many people who believe that conflict and controversy in the church is not okay, and that it is not okay to question or challenge church leaders. If you believe this, I encourage you to read the four gospels and the book of Acts. They are full of accounts of Jesus and his apostles and disciples confronting and challenging the religious leaders of their time. If they hadn’t, Christianity would never have been established and taken root.

Finally, if you are not sure how to go about resolving conflict in a relationship, here are some tips for constructive conflict resolution:

First – convince yourself that conflict is natural and is resolved through open and honest communication.

Second – Understand and accept the reality that this communication will not be tension-free.

Next – before discussing the conflict take whatever time you need to cool down and try to see the other person’s point of view as well as your own.

When discussing the conflict use “I” statements (I feel, I’m hurt, I’m angry NOT you are…); stick to one issue, do not bring other issues or problems into this discussion; focus on the issue, not the person: and listen for the feelings under the other person’s words.

Finally – know that it is okay to agree to disagree. Resolving the conflict does not mean you have to agree, it means you understand each other’s thoughts and feelings and have devised a solution that works for both of you.

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