We’ve all had our fair share of conflict and surviving it isn’t the difficult part. It’s the overcoming, prevailing, and being victorious over strife that can be a bit tricky. Conflict close to the heart can be even more difficult, especially when it comes to divorce. Broken relationships tend to proceed with months or even years of unresolved conflict. And it’s that unresolved conflict that can eventually lead to divorce. Contrary to what a lot of people think, you don’t just walk away from your marriage and leave conflict behind, especially if children are involved. If you want to truly survive conflict, you need to learn how to overcome it.
What You Need to Know to Overcome Conflict
Types of People
To overcome conflict, it might help to understand that there are typically three types of people: 1) Those that love conflict; 2) Those that avoid conflict; and 3) Those that see conflict as a necessary stepping stone.
- People who love conflict are always looking for a fight. They love pushing other’s buttons to get a rise out of them. They usually need always to be right and rarely admit fault. People that like conflict tend to leave a wake of broken relationships in their rearview mirror.
- People who avoid conflict usually let others walk all over them. They have a difficult time standing up for what they feel is right and will typically give-in to avoid conflict altogether. They tend to have low self-esteem and suppress their feelings and opinions, which can eventually lead to a victim mentality.
- People who see conflict as a stepping stone tend to have a good arsenal at their disposal for dealing with conflict. This is what we should be working towards. These are the people who manage conflict well. They don’t put up with bullying or bully, but they know that constructive conflict resolution can lead to emotional growth and strengthen their relationships with others.
The Bible doesn’t address surviving conflict, but it does tell us about how to be victorious and overcome it. There is simply no way to avoid conflict in our lives. We also have internal conflict within ourselves between spirit, mind, and flesh. You know what I mean…when you make the wrong choice even though you knew in your heart that it wasn’t the right thing to do. So even though conflict can’t be avoided there are tools you can use to manage it better.
Tools for Managing Conflict
There are 4 basic steps for managing conflict. And following these steps will do much more than just help you manage conflict. These steps can help mold you into the type of person that can use conflict to grow and strengthen relationships with others – yes even ex-spouses.
- Speak the Truth in Love – Speaking the truth in love is a lot harder to do than it sounds. I forget that there are two sides to this coin-truth and love. When emotions are running high, especially when fighting with an ex, it is easy, to tell the truth especially if it makes the other person look or feel bad. But that’s where love comes into play. If you know what you are going to say (even if it is the truth) is going to hurt the other person then most of the time it is better to not say anything. Speaking the truth in love is not only about what you say but how you say it. Being truthful to others is just as important as being truthful to yourself. Let’s face it when a marriage ends in divorce there are undoubtedly numerous lies and mistakes by both parties. It’s never too late to clear the air and move toward the willingness to forgive and ask forgiveness.
- Express Your Anger – Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry but do not sin.” Anger is a God-given emotion, but if it isn’t handled properly, it can lead to sin, resentment, and bitterness. If you were to consider why you get angry, is it usually because the world or someone in it isn’t doing what you want? You can’t control other people, but you can control your reaction to others. Anger is a self-centered emotion but this doesn’t mean getting angry is wrong, but it is important to understand what is making you angry. People who don’t manage their anger might end up expressing it in a hurtful way. And just as destructive is the person that holds their anger in without ever addressing and releasing it. Both scenarios will lead to broken, bitter, and resentful relationships.
The best thing you can do with anger is to work through it. Ask yourself, “Why am I angry?” I can honestly admit that there are times when I don’t remember why I got angry or realize the reason is something as petty as a car driving too close to me. If our anger is petty and unimportant, we should acknowledge it and let it go. There is no need to waste time, energy, and bitterness on unimportant things. Another key step for working through anger is admitting you are angry. I’ve seen it; I’m sure you have as well; you know you are angry, but every time you are asked if you are angry, you deny it and only succeed in getting angrier. Stop denying your anger and admit to it. If you are angry and feel justified in being so then, this might be a good time to talk it out with the person you are angry with, and it never hurts to ask God to change your heart. Remember, you are doing it for you not them so let go of expectations of getting your way. Lastly, forgo vengeance! Getting even is only going to end badly.
- Watch Your Words – It is my nature to speak first without giving what I am going to say much thought. I’ve lost count how many times I have said something that I later regretted. Telling the truth with the wrong words and the wrong tone isn’t helping anyone; neither is saying hurtful things just because you’re angry. Our words are supposed to build people up, not tear them down. Divorce leaves a lot of open wounds that take time to heal; many of these wounds are from hurtful words. Bite your tongue if need be and watch your words.
- Don’t Live in the Past – I hate living in the past! Nothing in the here and now ever seems good enough, I’m not good enough, and I am always left wanting. Where does living in the past get you? Living in the past has several outcomes; anger, bitterness, hard-heartedness, resentfulness, and can lead to physical health problems. Living in the past prevents healing and the ability to see the blessings that are currently in your life. Let go of the past and let God show you the future He has in store.
So there you have it. You’re not going to be able to avoid conflict but the better you are at dealing with conflict will benefit the relationships you have with others and will reduce the number of burnt bridges you leave behind. We all get angry, and we all have been hurt by someone, but that doesn’t mean we have to be victims nor does it mean we can’t express our feelings in a healthy way.