Especially in our closest and most important relationships, conflict has the potential to become volatile and cause severe, lasting damage. But in Christ, our conflict has the potential to display the grace of God and actually strengthen the relationship. This redemptive fruit is not automatic, though. We must depend on God to help us approach conflict in a new way that is so opposite from the natural bent of our flesh. While navigating conflict in this new way is a complex matter, I would sum it up in two key strategies: love and listen.
LOVE | Be committed to unity. Love doesn’t keep score or manipulate. Try to approach conflict with a cooperative, rather than competitive, attitude. You’re on the same team; you’re sitting on the same side of the table. Let your communication be characterized by humility and selflessness. Love and honor each other as people created in God’s image and given value by Him.
LISTEN | Usually in conflict, you will find a clashing of perspectives and desires. Each person is coming at it from a different angle and is interpreting things according to their own interests and experiences. And each party views one particular aspect as the most important consideration or most pressing concern. So be grace-centered in your approach by seeking to understand each person’s point of view and interests. Rather than assuming you know how the other thinks and feels, ask clarifying questions with a desire to truly understand their heart. Then respond with empathy and compassion. Lay down arms, seek God, and work together to reach a wise solution that honors God above all.
Doing conflict from a place of love and grace is hard. We won’t always get it right; we will often hurt those we love. But we can cultivate a pattern of humble confession and merciful forgiveness, and keep moving forward together as we learn a redemptive way to walk through conflict.
* My perspective has been influenced by Ken Sande’s book Peacemaking for Families. I highly recommend it as a valuable resource for understanding communication and conflict in relationships.
Sometimes people operate from the position that counseling is an entirely personal, private matter. They won’t tell people they are close to that they’re even in counseling, much less share details about what they’re learning and how they’re wanting to change. But this attitude toward counseling eliminates an important element from the process: community. Why should you consider sharing this intimate journey with your community? Here are just a few key reasons…
The counseling relationship is limited and temporary.
At best, you may see your counselor for an hour each week. Your counselor can’t walk through daily life with you. There are certain limitations in your counselor’s insight and impact that are inherent in the nature of the relationship. While some people may need a longer period of counseling care than others, it’s generally a temporary situation that concludes or becomes less frequent once its purposes are met. As counselors, our goal is to help you address the current issues and struggles, give you tools for growth and change, and then launch you back out to continue the journey in the context of a gospel-centered, discipling community. You shouldn’t rely on your counselor as your sole source of encouragement or nourishment.
Sanctification happens in the context of relationships, and within the local church body specifically.
Biblical counseling is all about sanctification — pursuing heart change as we walk with God and are shaped by His Word. And that kind of change doesn’t happen in isolation; we’re designed to live and grow in community. The church has been united into a family, and we need one another. It’s in relationships that we are sharpened and challenged, and where we learn to love and forgive.
You need other people to help you remember truth, to hold you accountable, and to encourage you.
I’ve found that counseling is so much more effective when the people you live life with are aware of the content and progress of the counseling. This allows them to be involved and supportive in specific, tangible ways. And you never know how God will use your story to impact their lives as well.
Counseling can be a painful process, and it’s intensely personal. But sharing it with your community will be invaluable. What’s holding you back from opening up and including others in your journey?