In 2009 I noticed a pinching in my back. I was most aware of it on my 8-hour drive home after sitting in one of my 20-hour weekend graduate classes. You probably are thinking, as I did that anyone’s back would hurt so I ignored it hoping it would fix itself once my classes were done.
The presence of this pain continued until 2014 when I was diagnosed with a bulging disk between my left L4/L5. I did some PT which dulled the pain to a low 3 on the pain scale. Then 2016 rolled around and the pain snuck back up to a 6-7 on the pain scale. Luckily I found a strength trainer who worked with me for a year focusing on back and hip alignment along with core strengthening which put everything back into place until 2020. Once again, I ignored the pain, until I could no longer stand to walk around the block with my husband and dog 3 years later.
Each time I allow the pain to continue before addressing it, the healing time increases and is much more painful. You see, when something goes undiagnosed or ignored for so long, the root issue goes untreated which makes the healing time much longer.
The same thing can be said of our conflicts.
Experiencing the same conflict over and over is often due to the fact that the root cause hasn’t been dealt with. We can go years with unresolved conflicts unaware of the toll it takes on our relationships. The same issue flares up from time to time until it causes so much pain that it can no longer be ignored.
When we finally realize that we have been under the control of one conflict for so long, our hope of resolving the conflict and finding healing seems overwhelming. Divorce, in any capacity, (marital, quitting work or friendships, leaving your church) happens when hope is gone. We feel there is no option but to call it quits!
So, let’s pretend that you are ready to figure out what the root cause of a conflict is and you are aware of the wedge built between you and your most valued relationship. Where do you start? How can you find true forgiveness and move toward reconciliation?
Before we get into the stages, be aware that resolving conflicts rests first on you and second on the other person involved. We always have heart work to do that will profoundly affect any given conflict positively or negatively. So, as you read the stages the first action is to apply them to yourself.
Discipline your mindset to be eternally focused.
Simply, during this stage we need to continuously ask ourselves, “what would honor God in this situation?” When we focus our mindset on eternity, we will not be influenced by the way the world would have us react.
The world tells us to look out for ourselves, that we can make anything happen, strive for fame, fortune and comfort. We are only as good as our last good deed or sale, you deserve only the very best. My question is, who decides what is the very best?
However if we are focused on the truth of the bible, (which is focused on eternal living) there is no room to live the way the world tells us. Sure we may be abundantly blessed in our finances and possessions, have great looks, and are far more talented than others. But when we first focus our thoughts according to what would honor God, these things become GIFTS to be used for eternal purposes.
So, let’s put this in the context of healing from conflict. Offering forgiveness for the sake of ending the conflict so you can get back to whatever you were doing is not being eternally minded. Instead, putting in the time to identify and confess your part in the conflict is putting God first and the comfort of our flesh second.
The question “what would honor God in this situation” is such a powerful question. Since I was introduced to it, I can’t tell you how many times it has kept me from going off the deep end of selfish ambition. During tense moments when I asked myself that question, my reaction turned from selfish to serving. If you are asking yourself, what if I don’t want to serve that person that has hurt me; s/he will think that they won and I lost?
My response is this, how much peace are you experiencing by holding back peacemaking efforts? Doing the right thing in the eyes of God because you love Him provides much more peace than positioning yourself “over” the one who hurt you.
The other person may not respond in kind, but you can be assured that you did the right thing and you will not have to account for adding to the conflict when you finally meet God in eternity.
Identify and Confess
These two really go hand in hand when it comes to forgiveness. You can’t make something right that you have not identified, and you won’t identify an issue if you are not willing to Confess.
To identify your part in any conflict ask:
- What do you think about most?
- (Do you find yourself thinking that if I only had _____________________ then I would be happy?)
- Is the desire for that thing (that you think about most) being met?
- Does meeting this desire take precedence over the person you wish would fulfill the desire?
After you answer these questions it is up to you to come clean to yourself about how your answers contribute to any conflicts. If that’s not hard enough, it’s then time to take your answers, to others, and repent for how you contributed to any conflict.
When we identify & confess thoughts and actions that hurt others, we break the power of keeping our wrongs a secret can have over us. Expose it and release its power over you and anyone else it hurts.
Commit to offer love and mercy to the other person no matter what.
This could be a difficult stage for many of us because our sense of justice or “rights based” thinking can really keep our focus off loving people, as God loved us.
God chose to love us and extend mercy unconditionally. We give him so many reasons to revoke that decision, but because he is an unchanging God, he will always hold to his decision. Likewise, we can make the decision to desire the best for someone, and offer every opportunity for them to experience mercy even though it may seem undeserved.
- How long do you want bitterness to rule your heart and keep you from enjoying the life you are called to live?
- In light of Romans 12:20-21, what actions can you take to serve the friend, spouse, family, or coworker you are in a conflict with?
“if your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Ask for forgiveness. Don’t just leave all of your confession out on the table with no lasting benefit. Ask the other person if they can forgive you for the part you played (no matter how small a part) in the conflict.
Keep their heart in mind when you ask for forgiveness. Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking for forgiveness:
- Tell them you understand how much you hurt them and BE SPECIFIC
- Ask them what they may need in order to build their trust in you again
- Put in place some actions that will show that your confession and apology is pure. You don’t want to do all this hard work to find wholeness for nothing.
Do not worry if the other person doesn’t respond with a list of their sins and actions to make right. In the proper time, you will have the freedom to call them out because you first took care of “your side of the street!” It may help to take a look at the instruction in Matthew 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Finally, I am here for you. If you have a conflict that is robbing you of your peace, don’t try to figure it out alone. Reach out to me to discover how you can get the support you need.