Embrace it! When conflict is good.

“Conflict is not merely inevitable it is necessary if one wants to grow both character and the depth of a marriage.”

Dan Allender

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?”

Micah 6:8

What a great reminder! We are to love kindness. We are to prioritize compassion. The Hebrew word “kindness” has also been translated as “mercy”. The emphasis in that phrase is that we rejoice in offering understanding and benevolence even when justice should definitely be served.

When conflict ensues, our posture, approach, and demeanor would most likely not be described as kind, compassionate, and merciful. It’s very important here to be clear - we must embrace conflict. We all need to be challenged as well as cherished. No one needs a spouse who celebrates unhealthy patterns. When closeness is cultivated, and we become our spouse’s biggest fan, it creates a safe place to work through our differences. All while we keep in mind that we are going to face the conflict head on, together.

When Conflict is Unproductive

There was a point in our marriage that Tammy and I (Roland) became aware of how unproductive our conflict was. The root of our inability to resolve an issue stemmed more from the heart. We would feel devalued and emotionally mistreated. Then we'd handle things in a way that didn’t consider the role of God’s Word in our own lives. We would rely more on the deception of our own heart rather than the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit.

Both of us can admit that we would say to each other exactly what we wanted each other to hear. No question we needed our rough edges smoothed out. Unfortunately our approach felt more like a stiff arm to the face rather than a loving arm being put over our shoulder. We want to repeat this quote because it's so relevant to this topic:

“Conflict is not merely inevitable it is necessary if one wants to grow both character and the depth of a marriage.”

Dan Allender

Don't Waste It

Do we still get on each other’s nerves? Yes! But we don’t stay on each other’s nerves. We work it out. Talk it out. We walk it out (literally, take a walk). I, (Tammy) am a firm believer in getting outside and clearing my mind, thoughts, and praying through the difficulty I am feeling at the moment. Also, praying for Roland and asking the Lord to give me understanding where I lack it. When I allow myself to pray, I also am invited to listen to His voice.

Our kids aren’t the only ones who need a “time out”. We need it to. They need to see us working things out. They need to also see us struggle to come together and fight for oneness not just one-sidedness.

Make time to work through the conflict. There should be a mutual commitment to resolving conflict without the underlying need to be right. We each want to be all God desires us to be, and experience deep intimacy. We know that doesn’t happen without hearing from one another in ways that, at the time, may seem unpleasant.

Here are Six Markers of Healthy Conflict:

  1. Recognize that you are undeserving of God’s love, and in our most unlovable moments God’s love for us is unwavering.
  2. Approach each other with a willingness to listen to what the other has to say without putting up a wall of defense.
  3. Ask questions to make sure you are really pressing in to the root of the conflict, and seeking to understand each other.
  4. Eliminate any “I told you so” statements. Mistakes are going to be made.
  5. Put down the magnifying glass of hyper-analyzing each other’s every action, and focus on looking at the mirror of God’s Word to expose your own shortcomings.
  6. Choose to love kindness and compassion!

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