Resolving Conflict

That conversation sure deteriorated fast. They were long-time friends and met for coffee periodically. (No, these guys were not Gene Linzey and Louis Houston.)

It started out as a pleasant discussion about world events, but one of them hit the other’s hot button and verbal conflict ensued. After a few minutes of heated frustration, one man got up and left – letting those around him know what he thought about the world.

But why did he insult himself and berate the others by reacting that way?

Insult himself? Yes! He thought he was showing his manliness by vociferously giving his opinions, but he actually revealed his immaturity by responding like a kid throwing a temper-tantrum.

Every day we encounter conflict in some form or other: conflicts of personality, schedule, ideology, theology, politics, and the list goes on.

But speaking of Louis Houston – Louis was an author, co-writer, and a friend before he graduated to heaven. He and I got together every week that I was in town. I drank his coffee, we shared ideas – sometimes repeatedly – and we enjoyed each other’s company. Every now-and-then, we touched on a political topic about which we didn’t agree. What did we do?

I didn’t get angry and storm out of his house. Louis didn’t raise his voice to “give me a piece of his mind.” Those reactions would be disgusting. In fact, in the seven years we knew each other, Louis and I never said a harsh or negative word to each other. Instead, Louis and I discussed what we felt free to talk about; otherwise we took a sip of coffee and went on to another topic. The fact is, true friendship is hard to come by, and we didn’t let anything or anyone come between us.

In the business world, consultants are paid to help people learn how to resolve conflict. But there’s a flaw in it: trying not to be “religious”, many companies try to produce behavior modification without changing the cause of the behavior. That’s similar to trying to teach a cat not to meow. Therefore, at the end of the conference, most, if not all, of the attendees are the same going out as they were going in.

In 2005 I attended a conference presented by a business called Character First®. Based in Oklahoma City, they taught that behavior does not permanently change unless the character changes. They are correct. (Character First® has since been bought by Strata Leadership®.)

They taught that outward behavior is a manifestation of internal character; therefore changes in character produce behavioral changes. And positive changes in character produce maturity, an increase of integrity, and a greater joy in life.

When our character – the real “us” – changes, we mature and experience a reduction in personal conflict. Why? We stop being self-centered. We learn to accept others for who they are. We learn that we are not responsible to make the other person see things our way or become more like us.

We realize that ideological, theological, and political differences will always exist; but we don’t need to turn them into conflict.

(Note: Conflict is sometimes forced upon us, and that is another story.)

So, what happens if we disagree? Jesus said in John 13:35, “Men shall know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus didn’t say that we had to agree with each other on every topic. But we need to learn to understand each other, and give people the freedom to think for themselves. We are not God, and should not try to force people into our image.

Facing conflict in business, government, and church in a mature manner enables those organizations to prosper. If we have a problem with a local church or business, we should not berate it; rather we should peacefully go where we can freely worship or do business.

The Braum’s Company, with dairies in Tuttle and Shattuck, Oklahoma, is product- and family-oriented. They don’t want their drivers to be away from their families overnight, and they want their product to be fresh. So their restaurants are located within a 1-day round-trip distance from where the milk, ice cream, bread, etc. are produced and packaged. When more distant towns wanted a Braum’s restaurant, the company faced a conflict of interest. What did they do?

They resolved their predicament by remaining true to their ideals: the quality of family life and product freshness outweighed financial gain. Case closed.

That is how we should resolve conflict. We must remain true to Scriptural ideals and morals. And when our ideas disagree with someone else? Don’t generate conflict over it. Maintain your integrity and friendship, if possible, as you increase your love for God and understanding of others.

Our primary methods of conflict resolution are:

  1. Live in such a way that we do not generate conflict.
  2.  Understand that we do not have to control others.
  3.  Do not accept other people’s problems as our own.
  4.  Allow others the same freedom of thought as we desire for ourselves.

Of course, that is only a start, but you get the point. Have a pleasant week.

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