Living at peace includes co-existing with others harmoniously. In this article, I’ll introduce some key behaviors straight from the Scriptures that can help you resolve the relationship conflict that exists in your life.
Use these links to jump to the points quickly:
- Resolve to stop PROCRASTINATING.
- Re-evaluate your EXPECTATIONS.
- Get competent, outside HELP.
- Refuse to allow ONE relationship to ruin your life.
- Remember a right RESPONSE is more important than being RIGHT.
Is there anything harder than relationships?
Marriage brings countless opportunities for strife and dissension; same with raising kids. What about your unresolved issues with parents or old friends? At church and work and in our neighborhoods we’re asked to co-exist with people who see life differently and come from completely different backgrounds and cultures. Disagreements and friction are a given, and yet God tells us to live peacefully with others.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
This doesn’t mean to pursue peace with those whom you believe will accept your offer of reconciliation, or appreciate your request for forgiveness. It means everyone.
As we explore the behaviors that will help to resolve relationship conflict, let me ask: Whose face do you picture when I ask you to consider who you struggle to live with peacefully? Are you in a difficult season with a child? Is your marriage struggling, and when you really think about it, has always struggled? What about your lifelong friend who recently disappointed you?
Consider each of the action steps in light of this individual and ask how you can work towards the direction of peace with them.
Let’s take a look at what true peace varies from the world’s peace, and that might help us understand how to achieve it in our lives.
The world’s peace means the absence of disturbance and hostility, free from internal and external strife. The picture this paints is one of calmness. Everyone is naturally getting along.
But God’s peace is different. His peace, called shalom, is described as:
- Complete soundness or wholeness of health
- Harmony in relationships
- Success and fulfillment of purpose
- Victory over one’s enemies
The bar is high — shalom is more complicated than simple calmness, and yet we aren’t expected to go it alone. God has given us examples and tools within His Word that will help us in our peace-building work. Essentially, we have the tools we need to resolve relationship conflict in our lives.
PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS TO RESOLVE RELATIONSHIP CONFLICT
The principles for diffusing quarrels in this article are gleaned from the situation referenced in Philippians 4:1-5:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the LORD in this way, dear friends!
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the LORD. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near.
During this time, the Apostle Paul is in prison. While he was away, the church grew and saw God’s hand in amazing ways. Paul begins his letter with an affectionate reminder of their heavenly connection and instructs them to stand firm.
Then he addresses the dispute among two good, godly women in the church. It appears that nobody was particularly at fault; there was some kind of disagreement, and Paul sent out a plea for someone to help them work through their disagreement.
He closes by reminding us where our relational focus should be — seeking Him during this conflict. Stop having anger fantasies about how the other person is wrong and how you’ll “show them.” Focus on joy!
Lastly, he closes with instruction about our personal responsibility — gentleness. Or as one commentator said, “Let your sweet reasonableness” be evident to all. In other words, be willing to accept less than you’re due in this relationship for the sake of the broader message of the reputation of Christ.
Let’s take Paul’s wisdom and apply it to our lives today. What does choosing peace look like on a daily basis? What actions can we take to start settling a disagreement with our families, friends, small group members and co-workers?
5 Positive Behaviors That Will Resolve Relationship Conflict Today
1. Resolve to stop PROCRASTINATING.
Like Paul urging the church to help settle the dispute between the women, don’t delay in making efforts to achieve peace with others. Resolve relationship conflict as soon as possible.
Here’s one way we justify putting off conflict resolution: we get caught up in taking the other person to court in our minds because they legitimately wronged you.
Yes, it might be true. It’s likely also true that you might have wronged them in some way as well.
Can you look at the situation and ask yourself, “From their perspective, how could they see themselves as being right?” Because you surely see yourself as right … right? Let’s give them grace.
You don’t have to agree, you just have to consider what is right in their eyes. Whatever it is they did, or however they behaved, the way they’re acting makes sense to them.When you disagree with someone, attempt to consider what is right in their eyes. Whatever it is they did, or however they behaved, the way they’re acting makes sense to them. Seek to understand. Click To Tweet
Understanding is the first step toward any kind of restitution, healing or forgiveness.
Learn more tools for choosing peace in all circumstances in my book, I Choose Peace.
2. Re-evaluate your EXPECTATIONS.
In our Christian circles, we tend to make the extremely false assumption that believers won’t act regretfully or speak out of turn or sin in their anger.
In actuality, it happens.
We need to have realistic expectations of others and assume the best. Most people won’t wake up looking for ways to ruin relationships!
In our natural makeup and differences, we approach life and discord differently — every one of us. And when there is strife, it’s not unusual to have a bit of an “anger fantasy” about justice being served and your “enemy” coming to you begging for forgiveness and congratulating you on your composure and maturity.
But do you see where that will lead?
The path that will lead to understanding is when we acknowledge the beauty and benefit of our differences, and set our expectations accordingly.
Sometimes, we disagree over non-doctrinal, non-moral issues of style and philosophy, and nobody is a bad person.
Re-evaluating expectations will make space for grace.
3. Get competent, outside HELP.
Like Paul suggesting the leaders help the women in a dispute, sometimes our disagreement requires more tools to solve the problem than we have.
Do you call a plumber when your pipes are clogged? Or take your car to the mechanic when it needs repair? Similarly, there are times when individuals aren’t making progress in their attempt at reconciliation, and contacting a professional is a wise choice.
When I was first married, it took a lot of convincing to get me to finally see a therapist with my new bride. We’d been trying to “sort out” our issues for a while, and we were clearly getting nowhere fast. I had to swallow my pride and, when I did, became well equipped to proceed in our union with a new set of tools to resolve relationship conflicts.
Be humble enough to know when you need some outside help. I pray you will have the wisdom to know when you need to make that call to help to resolve your disagreement.
4. Refuse to allow ONE relationship to ruin your life.
During a particularly hard season of ministry, I had one connection that was causing deep pain in my life. I wasn’t treated well, it’s true, but I just couldn’t shake my anger. I had no peace about the situation whatsoever.
I began meeting with a faithful, truth-telling friend who heard my story. He asked me to commit to meeting again the following week and then said, “I want you to pray for seven days. And I want you to list all the mistakes that God reveals to you that you made in the situation and all the specific ways that you sinned against the people in question.”
This wasn’t a fun activity, but after that week, I had a revelation. God revealed the ways that I had contributed to the dispute, and as a result, I had my own sin to own and confess.
The reality is that I wanted God to show me mercy for all that I had done, and then give me justice for their wrongdoings. We can’t have it both ways.We want God to show us mercy for all that we’ve done, and then give us justice for those who've hurt us. We can’t have it both ways. Click To Tweet
Sometimes resolution doesn’t come with a bow, and we have to let some stuff go. But you can agree to disagree, you can forgive, and you can move forward as far as it depends on you.
5. Remember a right RESPONSE is more important than being RIGHT.
This is an especially difficult point because it requires every one of us to set aside our right to be heard and instead consider the long-term impact of our response to disputes.
Most of us will admit to wanting long and healthy relationships with those in our family and outside our immediate circle. But the fact is, if you want to achieve this kind of connection, there will be moments of refinement.
- Do you dream of having a great marriage? There will be sparks.
- Do you want a great connection with your adult kids? Then you bring up stuff that is uncomfortable and anticipate some temporary discomfort.
- Is your vision of friendship deep and long-lasting? There will be moments of tension and awkwardness to work through.
Don’t shy away from these opportunities for growth, and yet approach them humbly and truthfully. Remember what Paul implores: gentleness. Even in confrontation — gentleness. Let it be evident to all.
I hope you’ll apply these 5 behaviors to resolve relationship conflict that has developed in your life. Living at peace with others doesn’t just happen, it takes a plan and effort. Peace is a choice.
When you are quick to address disagreements, adjust expectations, get help when needed, and set aside your right to be right, you will experience God’s peace in your soul and within your relationships with others.
That is shalom, and it’s my prayer for you.
Find more practical tools that will help you unload anxiety and experience peace in a chaotic world when you watch my Daily Discipleship Course on YouTube called I Choose Peace. Find other helpful resources on our website, including my book by the same name, I Choose Peace.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip