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About this series
God's Wisdom for Building Great Relationships
Relationships can be tough. Everyone has expectations of how relationships should work. Whether it's our behaviors, words, spending habits, how to raise children, or views of God - these factors affect how we interact with others. In this series, Chip explores eight essential life lessons that will help you build GREAT relationships that last!More from this series
I have this habit and this is a habit of observing people. When I go to the mall, I observe people. When I go to the park, I observe people.
And then I have this observation after doing this for as long as I can ever remember, even as a kid, even in high school is when you find two people that are talking intensely – I don’t mean casually – I mean when you’re at a little coffee shop and the table is right next to you, and there’s that buzz, that real intensity, that they are really talking about something. Not arguing. You can tell they are friends.
And the one person is listening to the other person, and this is an: “I’m comforting you, I am for you, we are going through life together.” My observation is: whenever you find, or almost whenever you find people talking at that level of intensity, they are usually talking about someone else who is not at the table. It’s very, test it out!
One person is listening and the other person is talking and the one that is very animated and they are usually talking about how unfair, how insensitive, how selfish, how ungrateful, or how wrong someone else somewhere has been to them.
And you can just interchange: it was their mate, it was their ex, it was their son, it was their daughter, it was their father-in-law, it was their boss, it was an employee, it was a person who just as they came in the parking lot, it was their high school reunion and you, “Ethel, you can’t believe what happened! After twenty-seven years! Can you believe…?”
And it seems that, at least in American culture and I’m guessing in human nature, there seems to be the role of a friend, and I’m not talking biblically, but the role of a friend is that person that, when I get hurt or damaged or I am struggling or I am frustrated in some relationship, this person nods approvingly as I tell them how bad and selfish and insensitive and unkind this other person was to me and their role is to look into my eyes, have body posture that says they really care, nod their head, and then occasionally, “That’s terrible. I can’t believe it. She really did that to you? After thirty-some years, are you telling me that…? You know what? When is your husband ever going to wake up and smell the…? That is, they did that to your child? That coach did that to your little-leaguer?”
And you just hear conversations like this go on and on and on. And whether I am sitting at the mall minding my own business, waiting on Theresa to come back from some store that I don’t want to go into or whether we are walking in the park and these people walk by us. Or last night, this gal on the phone, “I can’t believe what she did! Are you telling me…?” And she is just taking a walk. I’m taking – I don’t want to know this much about this lady.
And she is – Theresa finally said, “That lady is kind of loud, isn’t she?” She said, “Who is she talking to?” I said, “She is not talking to anybody. She is on her cell phone.” And my experience is is that sometimes when I am listening to people whine and complain about someone else who is not in the room, what really bothers me is when I find that the person I am listening to is me.
And I can look back over the last thirty years or so as a Christian and being a dad and being a pastor and being a husband that I, on multiple occasions, have found myself telling someone very close to me, like my wife or one of my kids or a close friend, about how right I am in this situation.
When you listen carefully to the conversations, what it really is about is someone is right and someone else is wrong. They didn’t get it, they didn’t see it, they didn’t understand it, they were insensitive, I was right. I did what was right.
And I remember early as a dad and being a little over the top, which none of you can probably imagine at this – but my kids all can – is things like you had a really rough day and there has been a lot of pressure and you say, “I will pick you up in front of the high school at door B at four thirty.” And you pull up in front of the high school in door B at four thirty and they are not there. And then it’s four thirty-five and then it’s four forty, and then it’s a quarter of five. Then you get out of your car and you walk around and there aren’t cell phones in those days and people don’t call them and my kids didn’t have them anyway.
And then pretty soon it’s five o’clock and you were supposed to be someplace else and you’re going to miss dinner and there’s a meeting after the dinner and you see your kid and he comes around the corner and what do you say? “Hi! I have missed you! Tell me how your day went, honey.” What do you say? “Where in the heck have you been? I’ve been at door B!” “Well, now, that’s not door B, Dad. This is door…” “Hey, I’ll tell you where door B is. I’m the parent. Get in the car.” And you know what? “Well, Dad, we were in door B and then we went to call to find you and you didn’t show up. You weren’t here at four thirty.” “I was here right at four thirty,” at four thirty-six, it was about four thirty in my mind anyway.
And, “Well, we went to call you,” and it’s all about whether you were at door B or door A and whether it was four thirty or four thirty-six and there are emotions that occur and a breakdown in relationship, that when you step back you look at it and go, “This is insanity.”
But at the heart of it was all about being right. And I wish it was just with my kids. I have had classic arguments about dinner with my wife. In fact, I have had classic arguments, heated, loving exchanges about how to discipline kids, about where money should go and where money shouldn’t go. About: “We agreed on this! What part of ‘we agreed’ and said when this happens and he does that, this is going to happen rather than you cry and console him? We said ‘discipline!’ Grounding. Let me spell this for you, Theresa! G-R-O-U-N…are you kidding me? This is the thirty-seventh time.” “Oh, but honey, he looks so sad and I could tell he was so hurting,” and we would…
And then forget about what happened to the kid the next three days. She’s not talking to me, I’m not talking to her and we figured out how to do that great thing when you go to sleep where she can stare at one wall and you can stare at the other wall. All about who is right.
My principle for you all that I guess if I had to get it down to seven or eight of the biggest lessons I have learned about relationships – number seven for me is this, is that right relationships are always more important than being right. Right relationships are always more important than being right.
And my little disclaimer here, I’m not talking about moral issues, I’m not talking about theological issues, I’m not talking about rolling over and giving the other person their way all the time. I’m not talking about saying – standing up for a just cause, “Well, I want a right relationship.” I’m not talking about peace at any price.
I’m talking about in the normal, everyday relationships with other people that you love and that you care about and the issues aren’t whether this is theologically true or not or whether it’s morally good or bad or not, the issues are about your perspective, your circumstances, your rights, your opinion being the way versus the other person. Do you get that? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not – this is not that, well, right relationships are more important than being right and you’re saying, “What about those big issues?” I’m not talking about those.
I’m talking about in the everyday, how you do life at home and in your apartment with two roommates or with your kids or with your wife or when you’re on the little league field and the umpire calls your kid out and it is obvious he was safe by a mile and you find yourself standing out on the little league field with a whole group of people looking at you, talking to a volunteer with veins popping out of your neck, talking about, “He was safe! And this is the biggest game in the world! He’s five years old! What don’t you understand?”
And you two people realizing now you go to the same very large church and you hate one another over this and a whole crowd of people thinking, Those are two idiotic people making fools of themselves right now.
But at the heart of it is a belief system in relationships: I’ve got to be right. Versus the principle that right relationships are always more important than being right.
Open, if you would, to Colossians chapter 3. There’s a great context. I want to give a little running start to this one. Colossians is a great book. It’s a parallel book to Ephesians. And it’s about how the Church is supposed to live out the faith. And the first half of this book, like Ephesians, is doctrine. This is who you are in Christ.
Then chapters 3 and 4, now, this is how you live out this new life. You could use, “This is how to be a disciple, this is how to be a genuine follower, this is how to be that Romans 12-type Christian.” And in the first four verses it will say it begins with your thinking. I have just told you all these things that are true in the first four verses, “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”
And then it says you’ve got to deal radically with some of your past habits and issues. As you look at verse 5 it says, “Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
And that little word consider there really is put to death. And it’s in a tense in the grammar that means urgently put to death, deal radically with, and I wish I had time to develop all these words. But, and when you look at “sexual immorality” is that word, but impurity, passion, evil desire – even the word “greed” is not just financial. It’s the idea of doing everything around your own self-interest, about your rights and your position and making sure that your way gets the way.
And what he is saying is is that’s how you lived before you knew Christ. And he says, “You’ve got put to death that stuff. And then he’ll go on and say, “Don’t lie to one another anymore,” and then he’ll talk about this renewing that has occurred out of the new birth and this renewal of a new knowledge and this new person you are in Christ.
And then he gets on the solution side by verse 12. And in verse 12 then he says, So then, in light of this brand-new person who you are, in light of this new position that you have, in light of these radical steps you have taken by God’s grace to put to death those old patterns that ruin relationship and separated you from God and bring God’s wrath, as a new born again person with a new mind and the Spirit of God living in you, so then, here’s how to do relationships.
He says, “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other. Whoever has a complaint against anyone,” that’s pretty broad, isn’t it? “Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things that I have listened – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another – put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
And then he is going to go on and talk about some specific internal devices that God has given us about how to regulate how relationships are going, about the peace in our life.
But what I’d like to do is take just a moment and have you circle the first three words. I think these are the key to practicing the principle that right relationships are more important than being right. “So, as those who have been,” circle the word chosen, circle the word holy, and circle the word beloved.
If you miss those, you can’t do those commands. See, at the heart of it, whether it’s with my wife, my kids, a fellow employee, a little league game, a pickup basketball game, an issue over a parking spot at the mall, an argument with someone in a business deal – when I start to fight and when you start to fight and relationships break down, usually my significance, my acceptance, or my security gets attacked. And either I feel like you are dissing me or I think it’s unfair or I think I’m getting a raw deal or you don’t respect me or what you’re doing is something that is going to really injure me and so I have to stand up for my rights.
And isn’t it interesting, he says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God.” How much more significant could you be? See, we don’t do relationships out of “I need to be significant in someone else’s eyes.” We do relationships out of this sense that all the people – God chose me. God chose you. He loves you. If there were ball teams lined up, He would say, He would point to you and say, “I want you on My team.” And so, you are significant. That’s not something we’ve got to get out there and prove.
The second, notice, chosen of God and holy. What makes us unacceptable is our imperfections. But He has already told us that because of what Christ did on the cross and His blood shed for us, and our being united with Him by faith, we died with Him, we have been raised with Him, and our position before God is He sees us even as He sees Jesus. We are holy; we are set apart. What does that mean?
Well, it means you’re accepted. It means there aren’t flaws. It means that in God’s eyes, at this moment, you are seated with Him in the heavenly places. You matter, you are significant, you are holy, you are accepted. Now, do you have to live that out in practice and is that a journey? Of course. But your position is Christ – you are holy.
And then notice, I like this, it says “beloved” or the idea is you are dearly loved. You are accepted. Of course, do I want everyone to accept me? Of course, and so do you. But what happens is when a roommate or a wife or a business associate or someone on a little league field or someone in line or a parking space when someone cuts in front of you – all those things threaten our security. They threaten our security. “Who do you think you are? I had this spot! I saw you!” This is, here we are, I have driven and there is a long mile of a mile and a half and I have been waiting in line for an hour and fifteen minutes to go through this light. And then there’s this right turn only lane. And I have watched you drive by a mile full of people and then because I have a big truck in front of me and you are smart and you know the big trucks are slow, this big truck goes and you put the nose of your car in there and everything in me wants to floor it. And if I had a junker, bam! I would take you out right now.
And so, on highways all over America, gestures are exchanged that I don’t think are saying, “We are number one!” And people are screaming and yelling, and at some points rolled down their windows and get out guns and shoot one another, over what? Over what? Who is going to get through a light one car ahead of someone else?
See, what is being attacked here is significance and security and that I am more important. And what is being violated is personal rights. And what the apostle Paul is saying is: You know what? Right relationships really do matter more than being right. But the only way you can live that way is if you know you are chosen by God. You are holy and you are dearly loved.
Now, out of what you have already received, now he is going to talk very specifically about: how do you treat people? He says, “Put on a heart of compassion.” That’s that interesting word where you actually feel what other people feel to the point of action. The word is splagchnon. It was used every time Jesus had compassion in the New Testament.
It was a feeling depth in the bowels of a person for the needs of another person that leads you to action. Compassion is not empathy. Empathy is you see someone and you go, “Man, I really feel bad for them.” Compassion is I feel bad to the point that I am going to do something to alleviate that situation.
And so notice where he says, “Put on a heart.” If you read this passage carefully, 12 through 17, the word heart is repeated three times. This isn’t just about some external discipline of behavior that you work up to act compassionately. This is about something that comes out of who you are, because the Spirit of God is producing this in you.
And so, put on compassion. So, you feel. You think, I wonder what that guy went through. I wonder why someone would be that upset over a game with five or eight or ten-year-old kids. I wonder why my kids are so upset about this or why I am.
Put on a heart of compassion. Kindness is just that word for something that is beautiful and winsome. You want to do nice things for people. Unexplainable. You just come back to the office and you bring an extra cup of coffee and you give it to someone and you jot a note for no reason that says, “Thinking of you, love you, prayed for you today.”
You put a check in the mail to someone or some cash in an envelope for someone that is struggling and you say, “You know what? It has been hard. Why don’t you take your wife or your roommate or whoever out to dinner? I just want to bless you.” That’s what kindness is. Kindness is just doing nice things for people to express concern.
Humility is putting the needs of others ahead of yourself. By the way, that was not a virtue in the ancient world. When this was written, humility wasn’t looked like as a good thing. This was like, “Humility? Why would anyone do…?” It was the idea, “I’m bigger, I’m badder, I can knock you down.” That’s what you ought to do.
And here you have this teaching that actually revolutionized the world that said, “Consider others as more important than yourself.” Don’t ask, am I getting my rights?” Ask, “How could I put the needs of someone else ahead of me?” This is a radical way to do relationships.
And then the word gentleness here is that same word and the old King James, remember, I memorized this in the old King James and Matthew 11 where Jesus says, “For I am meek and lowly of heart.” That word meek is gentle.
In the ancient Greek literature, it was used of a wild stallion. Meek is not weak. It’s a wild stallion that has been trained with a bit in its mouth that takes that power under control. And so, it’s not that you don’t have the power to exert your rights. It’s not that you can’t power up on someone and say to them, “Hey, hey, that’s my parking spot and that’s the way it is.”
It’s that you say to yourself, I have the power and I have the rights and I even have the position in this situation or in this company or in this work, but you know what? I am going to step back and I don’t have to exert my rights here. I am going to put on a heart of compassion and kindness. I am going to put their needs ahead of my own. And in this certain situation, you know what I’m going to do? I am going to allow my rights to be under control to meet the need of someone else. I am going to be considerate.
The next word there, he says patience is just that, it’s a combination of makro – long – and something that heats up. And it’s the idea of just putting up with junk. It’s just you have, the word picture for me, not that the word means this, but the word picture for me is that you just have a really long fuse. That’s what patience is. That you know what? That person irritates me. And without patience, they irritate you once and you say, Mmm, I’m going to let that go. Irritates you twice, Mmm, you do that again…!
Patience is: you know what? Longsuffering. And in case you didn’t understand what he really meant and how specific he wanted to be, after the word patience he says, “bearing with one another.” And this is actually the faults and idiosyncrasies of people.
This is saying, You know what? The way they chew their gum in my ear every time we are talking, it makes me cringe. Every time when they take their silver and they do it like this at the table right before they cut their meat, I just want to take a knife and throw it across the room. Every time they make the same lame excuse…
This is looking at the idiosyncrasies of people that make you crazy and it says, “bearing up with them.” You put up with it. And then it goes beyond that and says, “Forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone.” How would you like to work at a place, or how would you like to be in a family where there was a commitment by supernatural power that people said, “You know what? I’m going to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And I’m going to bear up.”
Because the fact of the matter is all those people have those idiosyncrasies that make you crazy. Can I let you in on a secret? You have those little idiosyncrasies that make them crazy, right? And then, and notice, honestly, then it’s not just that you keep them under wraps. He says, “Forgiving them.” The word means to release. It means to let go. You forgive them. You don’t – at the heart of a lack of forgiveness is vengeance or payback. The heart motive behind not forgiving another person is they did this to me, you know what? They took the credit for that project at work, they put their kid in the lineup ahead of mine and my kid is batting six-sixty-six and his kid has not gotten a hit all year. And I want to pay them back.
And so I am going to say things very discreetly, because Christians have to be discreet when we try and really mess up other people. And I’m going to…
But forgiving is you release. And you forgive them, notice the motivation. “Just as God has forgiven you.” I think forgiveness is the hardest thing to do in the Christian life. I could be wrong. When you really have been wounded, when it really is selfish, when it really is unjust, when someone has really done something bad to you – and what do you want? You want what I want. I want justice. I don’t think anything makes me more unfair – I want justice for my kids, I want justice for my wife, I want justice for Christians, I want justice for what is right and I want justice for me.
Except for when it comes to how I want God to deal with me. Right? She walked out on her husband, he walked out, he’s not paying his alimony, that’s an ungrateful kid, they took credit for that, they used our idea and then they copyrighted it before we could…that is wrong! We are, we are going to sue their pants off! We are going to, we are going to, justice, justice, justice.
And, yet, the fact of the matter is the command is: God wants me, relationally, to extend to others what has been extended to me. And I will tell you that the older I get, the more I see what is in my heart, the more I get so overwhelmed, God, I don’t want justice, please. God, if You give me justice, oh my. I see things in my heart and even I can look back and think maybe twenty years ago, I thought my motives were right but, boy, looking back now, man, that was – you were just one arrogant idiot. And, boy, I don’t want God to deal with me that way.
And it has been the most profound motivation in my life to say, Lord, I am willing to let go of my vengeance and lack of forgiveness and extend mercy because I certainly do not want You to treat me the way that I want them to be treated.
And notice here, it’s just whoever has a complaint against anyone. And then, if that’s not enough, I don’t know about you, but those are pretty strong words to justify the principle that right relationships are more important than being right.
And I will say, you have grown up in a world, by the way, American culture, your rights are what matter. You have a right to that! You deserve a break today! That’s your place in line. Don’t let anybody – you have been brainwashed to believe that you are so the center of the universe that you better defend your rights.
And so, our knee-jerk reaction to almost any relational conflict is to exert our personal rights. But you know what? If you’re really significant, so much so that you are chosen by God, and if you’re so accepted by Him that you are holy and without blame, and if you’re so dearly loved that you’re the object of His affection that you must be secure, you know something?
All that piddly stuff about who gets the parking spot and who goes through the light or whether they were there at four thirty or four thirty-five or door B or door A, or whether dinner was supposed to be at this time or that time or whether we agreed on spending money this way or that way – you need to talk all those things through, but most marriages that I have talked to and I have done tons of counseling, unfortunately, and lots of them that ended in divorce. When I try and say, “Now, what was this argument about? What was this really about?” It’s amazing. They can’t even remember. They can’t even remember: what was it that started it?
But I will tell you, what started it was a very small thing and where two fleshly like me and like you begin to exert their rights and then what do we do? We just, it’s like throwing a little grenade over the wall and there’s a little explosion and that hurts the person so they get hurt and they throw a little bit bigger grenade over the wall. And that hurts them so they get a bazooka out and they shoot the bazooka over the wall. And so, then you say, “Well, hey, bazookas?” You bring a tank. And then pretty soon there is damage everywhere because everyone has exerted their rights instead of saying, “You know something? Whether it was door A or door B, probably a great relationship with my kids will matter more long-term than what time I picked them.
And whether supper was at this time or that time, or you know what? It does bug me and I need to go through the right process, but whether that person in the company got credit for my idea or whether I get credit for it, God probably understands all that. And He will probably smile more on a great, loving, godly response and I’ll trust Him to promote me more than the office politics.
And what that does is it gives you an incredible perspective and a power to relate differently to people. And I think that’s what it means to be a real disciple, a Romans 12 Christian.
And then if you wonder, Well, gosh, how do you know when it’s resolved? How do you know if you’re in the right spot? Look at verse 15. It says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called into one body and be thankful.”
The word peace here, he says – why do we do all this? “Forgive just as we have been forgiven, beyond all these things, put on love which is” – what? “the perfect bond of unity.” What is the idea here? We belong to one another in the body of Christ. Loving each other and putting up with stuff so that we genuinely have right relationships is more important than my rights.
And then he goes on to say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Literally, the word rule is: act as an umpire or an arbitrator. If you’re not sure, when you don’t have peace in a relationship with another person, it says, “Let the Holy Spirit,” that lack of peace say, You know something? Maybe you need to make something right with someone. And all you may need to do is forgive them. Or maybe you need to apologize. Or maybe you need to write them a note.
But he says, “Let the peace of Christ act as an arbitrator.” And then notice this little command, because it’s going to get repeated, “…and be thankful.” See, sometimes we go through this and we start becoming a martyr. I did the right thing, I’m not going to hang on to my rights. Boy, but I’ll tell you what, this situation sure stinks and…
We get this grumbling, complaining, whining attitude instead of, Thank You, Lord. And you say, “Well, why should I thank God?” Because conflict, as we’ll see in just a second, is not an exception in a fallen world. It’s predictable and it’s normal. And God has allowed conflict, sovereignly, to come into your life and my life to do one of two things: either help me learn something about me that I need to learn to grow and become more like Christ, or help me learn to love someone who is unlovable so I can become more like Christ and they can receive Christ’s love.
So, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful. And then where do you get the resources? How do you do this? How could anyone live out – these are supernatural-type attitudes. Well, “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you,” and what is the basis, then, of how you relate to one another? “…with all wisdom,” that’s God giving you, doing relationships His way, “with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your,” again, “hearts to God.”
It’s about the right relationship matters more than my own, little turf and me getting my way. “Whatever you do,” just in case, just in case, Colossian Christians, you didn’t quite get the point, “whatever you do in word or in deed,” which covers just about life, doesn’t it? “…do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Well, what is the other option? All in the name of getting your rights. All in the name of justifying yourself. All in the name that people need to know the real story. All in the name of about me. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
And then notice the third repetition and, by the way, it’s a command, “Giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” I think this is one of the strongest relational passages in all the New Testament. And I think what it really says to us is: when I get violated and when I struggle and when life is unfair and when I am that person at the coffee shop or in the park or at the mall pouring out my side of the story I need to remember that right relationships on things that are not theological and things that aren’t moral are way more important than my rights.
I’m going to give you three practical ways to put this into practice. Number one is: refuse to see conflict as negative. Instead, embrace conflict as God’s tutor for learning and/or loving others. I think a lot of us would just, we have been engrained: conflict is bad. Conflict is wrong. Oh, we’ve got a problem! There’s conflict! What are we going to do? It’s terrible. It’s not terrible. If you think it’s terrible then life is going to be terrible.
You’re going to have conflict with your roommate, you’re going to have conflict with your mate, you’re going to going to have conflict if you have kids, you’re going to have conflict with your grandkids, you’re going to have conflict with your boss, you’re going to have conflict everywhere!
But if you unconsciously see conflict as bad and negative then, boy, you are set up for being a defensive person. Conflict is normal in a fallen world. So, choose instead of seeing conflict as negative, see it as God’s tutor.
Don’t you want – doesn’t everyone want a coach? Doesn’t everyone want someone to put their arm around them, help them be who – everyone, if I, when you came in the door, if I gave you a little card and said, “I want to be like Christ.” And there was a checkbox that said “yes” or “no.” I think most people would have checked “yes.” I mean, “No, I don’t want to be like Him.”
Well, if you said, “I want to be like Christ,” and on the checkbox it says “yes” and God said, Well, I have a tool, I have a tutor, I have a personal coach, I have a way that every day of your life, I am going to provide sovereignly ordained and allowed opportunities to help you learn to become more like Me and since it’s a body, I’m going to use you to help other people experience My love.
Because what does it mean to love someone? Love is giving another person what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost. I don’t want to do that, but that’s what Jesus did for me.
So, conflict, rather than saying is negative, it’s my tutor, it’s my coach, it’s my teacher. Now, I’ve got a conflict situation [gasps]. My first thought is, Oh, I’m threatened; I’m fearful. What is going to happen to me? About my security, what about my significance, and will I be accepted, will I be rejected? What if I’m on the outside after this happens? What if this person leaves me? What about, what about, what about?
I am chosen, I am holy, I am already dearly loved. There is not a job, a circumstance, or a person on the face of the earth that has the power to make or break my life or yours. No one has the power to ruin your life that you don’t let them. A mate can’t, a kid can’t, a grandparent can’t, an organization – no one can ruin your life. You are chosen, you are holy, and you are dearly loved. And you are on your way to heaven.
You can have a few bumps in the road but no one has the power to ruin your life that you don’t let. And so you say to yourself, Well, wow, I guess God is going to teach me through this conflict about seeing something in me that I guess I didn’t see before that He wants to change.
Because I don’t know about you, I don’t change, I don’t wake up and say, I don’t read my Bible in the morning and wake up and say, Oh wow! I see a major area in my life I just think I’m going to change. Everyone has seen it for twenty years and it’s a blind spot and I’ve never seen it but yippee! I see it today and I’m going to…
Every major change that has happened in my life has been that major change that needed to happen I ran head on to someone else’s major change that needed to happen and it was in that conflict I saw stuff in me that was, I didn’t want to see.
But I got to see it to the point where it was so undeniable, I came out of my denial and realized, God wants to deal with that, Chip. You need to come to Me; you need to repent.
And conflict is a tool in His hands to help you and to help me. And the other is conflict has been a tutor where there are times, I think, that I have actually given someone what they don’t deserve or had some gentleness and some humility and some compassion and some forgiveness that actually worked in someone’s life whose life wasn’t going very well and I can look back five or ten years later and say, “I got to be an instrument of grace.”
And I will tell you, I can list the people on my hand who, in conflict, have forgiven me and loved me and believed in me when I didn’t deserve it and they were an instrument of grace. So, practice number one is: refuse to see conflict as negative, instead embrace – notice I didn’t say, “tolerate.” Embrace conflict as God’s tutor for learning and for loving others.
The second practice is: be willing to own fifty percent more of any problem in a relationship than you think is fair. That sounds crazy but I literally, I have just, I’m big on this. I have had lots of conflicts and – that’s probably not a really good testimony but it’s true. I’ve had lots of conflicts and I have strong opinions and I have a strong personality, which none of you probably could attest to.
And when I have just, I never did this before, but I always wanted to get it, man, I think maybe I’ve got forty-nine point eight-seven percent of this but over fifty percent is this guy’s. And what I realized is I always have huge levels of denial. And everyone does.
And when I found out, I just thought, Okay, you know what? I’m going to assume over fifty percent of the problem. It doesn’t matter whether, okay? I just assume I was at door A instead of door B. “Kids, sorry, okay, from now on, is this going to be door B? Right. This is door B, right? Got it. Great. Get in the car. Let’s go home.”
Who cares? I can argue and have division over, “Now, did we say five thirty or six o’clock dinner? Now, did you say we were going to do this or do that? Did you say the budget was going to be ‘x’ dollars or ‘x’ dollars?” You can work out the details, but just assume fifty percent more of the blame than in your heart of hearts you think you deserve. And say, You know what? God is bigger than this.
And the more that I have learned to do that, because what we are afraid of is, at the heart of it, it’s an arrogance issue. We are so afraid that someone is going to think less of us, that our reputation is going to be decreased.
And what we are constantly trying to protect is our image and our reputation rather than saying, “You know what? If God knows the truth, I’m not sure of the truth, why not just step up and say, ‘I thought this much was my fault in my heart of hearts before God. I am going to go ahead and take another step. I am going to own this much. Will you forgive me for this and will you forgive me for this as well?”
I’m going to own mine. And you know what that does? It is amazing how that melts conflict. Because down deep, people have a pretty intuitive sense of probably what they own. And when someone is willing to take the step across the line to own more. And sometimes I probably think I’m owning more and probably I’m just right. It really is a good fifty percent. But I am hoping it’s only thirty-five percent and I’m giving about fifteen percent grace.
But when you do that, I am amazed that people can see and they will just basically say, “You know something? I’m not going to go there either.” And what happens is the right relationship gets to be the priority instead of who is right.
The final practice that has been very helpful over the years is: ask yourself, Why is it so important to be proven right or to get your way in this situation? I don’t like to ask that question but what I have found is, with my wife and my kids and issues, I just found out, what is it? What is this little energizer bunny in Chip Ingram? I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be right. At the heart of it is I must not believe I’m really chosen. I must not believe I’m already holy. And I must not believe I’m already dearly loved. Because I’ve got to be right to prove to me and to prove to all these people I’m really significant! I’m really secure! I’m really a somebody! I did all the work! I did the research! You’ve got to know this is right!
Well, what is behind all that? Just flesh. Just ego. Just pride. And what kills relationships? Flesh. Ego. Pride. When you don’t care about that, and I don’t mean you don’t care like you pretend it’s not there. You own it reasonably but if you back up and say, Well, You know something, Lord? You know what is right. And I am accepted by You. And you know what? This little phrase has been so helpful: I really want and desire people’s approval, but I don’t need people’s approval because I have God’s approval.