The Art of Conflict Resolution

“In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves.” Abraham J. Heschel

The longer my husband and I are involved in ministry, the more we find ourselves helping people, couples, teams, and organizations solve problems. Life and ministry are rife with problems. The moment you try to move forward and accomplish anything worth doing you will meet roadblocks, snafus and encounter people who have different viewpoints.
Sometimes a great deal is at stake when you are helping solve problems. Sometimes a marriage, a ministry or organization that impacts many lives.
Before I delve into this, let me issue a disclaimer. I am not the ideal person to write about problem solving. My husband is very good at it. He waltzes through complex problems, getting people to shake hands when they are done and feel good about the outcome. Most of the time. And he doesn’t make enemies in the process.
Me? I often view it as a chore. Hopefully I have matured, but my tendency was to cut to the chase and tell everyone involved the truth. But that can shut down communication and hinder forward movement if the person is not ready. I wanted to deal with the root issue and perform open-heart surgery,  Thankfully, I am not the Great Physician. God is and we are His minsters of reconciliation.
What if problem solving could be viewed more like an art? What if we could feel invigorated as we respond to conflict and help others through it instead of sapped of our strength? Not all stress is negative. Eustress is defined as “stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings. Eustress is a process of exploring potential gains.” Potential gains. If we respond to conflict biblically, we and those we help can experience great gain. The central focus of conflict resolution is the Gospel. We can make peace with one another through love and forgiveness only because God has made peace with us through Jesus Christ. When we receive His forgiveness and love, we are transformed into His likeness and can break free from harmful patterns of dealing with conflict.
This week I heard a speaker from Peacemaker Ministries talk about how to respond to conflict biblically. First he outlined the common escape and attack tendencies we resort to when conflict arises. The escape responses include denial or flight. We don’t want to deal with the problem, so we stay away from the person or people who are involved. Attack responses include assault or litigation. If we lean towards this way of responding, we are more interested in controlling others and getting our way.
Then he outlined four G’s of peacemaking:
Glorify God
Instead of considering our desires and what others may do, depend on God’s forgiveness, wisdom, power and love as we obey Him in every situation.
Get the log out of your eye
Take responsibility for our own contribution to conflict and teach others to do the same. This includes owning up to our sins and seeking to repair any harm we have done.
Gently restore
We can overlook minor offenses, but it the offense is too big to overlook we should seek to restore the person or people involved rather than to condemn. We should also only talk to people about the problem if they are directly involved.
Go and be reconciled
Actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation. Seek out just and mutually beneficial solutions to differences.
When negotiating between parties, use the PAUSE principle:
(Phil. 2:3-4, Matt. 7:2)
Affirm relationships
Understand interests
Search for creative solutions
Evaluate options objectively and reasonably
And lastly, how can we know if true forgiveness has occurred?
We stop dwelling on what happened, we do not use it against the other person, and we do not talk about it with others. (Matt. 6:12, 1 Cor. 13:5, Eph. 4:32)
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