by Rachel Tiemeyer
Some of the most glorious and, at times, messy parts of my life have involved deep, gospel-driven friendships. But, these types of friendships don’t come cheap. They reach far beyond shared hobbies, play dates with the kids, and commenting on one another’s Facebook pictures–although those things can certainly foster relationships on one level. These deeper friendships require much more–taking initiative to love and serve your friend even when you don’t feel much like it; opening up your life to that other person—warts and all; spurring one another on to grow in godliness; and yes (gulp)…working through conflict the right way.
Today I want to tell you a bit about what I’ve been learning about dealing with conflict and about a friend who recently confronted me in the right way.
The Gospel Changes How We Deal with Conflict
Over the years, the most important conflict resolution strategy I’ve learned is simply the gospel—what Jesus did through his life, death, and resurrection for those who believe. When we “get” the gospel, it can radically change how we view and deal with relational difficulties. And, this belief can move us toward the intimate, life-changing, real relationships that we all long for.
If we understand the Gospel then…
- We can be humble and open to input from others… because the gospel tells us we are sinful and need God’s grace just as much as our friends do.
- We can forgive our friends when we are wronged…because we have been forgiven more than we can imagine through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us.
- We don’t need to find our ultimate worth or fulfillment in earthly friendships…because we are already loved and made much of by Jesus, our greatest Friend.
- We are freed to love and serve others despite the way we are treated…because we know that Jesus loved us so much that he died for us while we were still enemies of God.
Now, you may be thinking, like I have before, “I understand the gospel. But, I still don’t know what living it out looks like practically in a friendship…especially when it comes to resolving conflict.” Let me tell you a story that may help flesh out these gospel principles a bit.
Gospel Application: My Friend’s Phone Call
A few months ago, one of my best friends felt herself growing irritated with me about an issue that kept coming up in our conversations and called to confront me about it. Here are few ways I noticed her resolving conflict the right way:
- She called me quickly, as soon as she began to feel upset with me about the issue, so it didn’t fester and blow up into something bigger than it needed to be.
- She didn’t talk to anyone else about what she was upset about, except her husband. The only reason she spoke to him was to sort through her feelings and ask him if it was even something to talk to me about. He was a good choice to discuss it with because she knew he would give her solid, godly advice and not talk to anyone else about it.
- She prayed for God’s wisdom and perspective before calling me.
- She told me upfront that she values our friendship and was bringing up the issue because she didn’t want anything to get between us. What a great way to say, “Hey, we’re on the same team here. I care about you and want only the best for our friendship. So, it’s important that I get perspective on this issue and we resolve it quickly.”
- She assumed the best in me. “I know you probably didn’t have any malintent when you….” She reiterated that several times. This completely diffused any anger or feelings of being attacked, because I knew that she assumed that my heart wasn’t to hurt her.
- She explained a few key conversations and/or actions by me that had hurt her feelings and why. She was not attacking me or my character but instead explaining the concrete facts of the situation and how they made her feel.
- She asked me if she was understanding the situation correctly. My dear friend admitted that she could be wrong and she wanted to get a right perspective. She was being humble and teachable.
- My friend hasn’t brought up the conflict since we resolved it. She’s moved on and doesn’t hang it over my head. This is the meaning of forgiveness. This is what grace looks like.
The End Result of Resolving Conflict the Right Way
Ultimately, because of the way my friend dealt with our conflict, our friendship can grow and continue to flourish. It’s a very freeing thing to have a relationship that shows love to one another on this level. Resolving conflict the right way has taken a long time to learn in my life…and I certainly haven’t “arrived” yet. But, I’ve seen that taking baby steps to resolve conflict the right way reaps great benefits in my life, my relationships, and even in the lives of the “little eyes” who are watching in my house.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rachel is a pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom of three young kids and part-time Family Events Director at her church. She also co-authors the blog Thriving Home, where she shares parenting resources and encouragement for moms, healthy kid-friendly recipes, and tips for natural living. Find out more about Thriving Home here or you can follow them via Facebook, Twitter, or email.