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Did you know that conflict can provide opportunities?

In this season of uncertainty, unrest and division we can feel discouraged or even hopeless.

Some of us may experience fear of the unknown or fear of the known. Others find they are experiencing deep sadness over relationships that have hit rocky spots in this contentious time. But, a very common feeling during this time is anger which quickly- too quickly! - finds its way into relationships if we are not careful.

As I reflected on this, I was reminded of Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker (Sande, 2004). I grabbed it off my shelf and began combing through it again. It was encouraging to see the words:

But some people have learned that conflict is an opportunity to solve common problems in a way that honors God and offers benefit to those involved” (p.22).

Learning how most people attempt to solve uncomfortable feelings during times of conflict was helpful. Sande states the following:

1. Some use “escape” responses. This means their tendency is to avoid the conflict. They do this through denying that the conflict exists and some avoid the conflict by running away (unfriend, unfollow). None of these is beneficial to relationships.

2. Some use “attack” responses. Most who use this behavior have one agenda: to win the conflict. Their method involves assaulting others with words (or memes) or actions which include irreparable damage to reputations. None of these methods resolve conflicts or provides benefit to relationships.

3. The response that takes more thought and intention is the “peacemaking” response. Sande cites several ways to be a peacemaker and the good news is that each aims to preserve relationships rather than cause further damage. A couple of his suggestions include:

· Overlooking an offense (keep scrolling). This is “a form of forgiveness and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger” (p.25).

· Reconcile. If you find that you were hurt by the offense (posts, videos, memes) you can step out to let the other person know (message them privately) that it has wounded you and potentially the relationship. This requires courage as you bring attention to the offense with truth and love.

The good news is that conflict can provide opportunity to demonstrate Christlike love to others. We do not have to be victims of broken friendships or relationships. With thoughtfulness and intention, we can maintain relationships during difficult and contentious periods such as 2020.

Sande, Ken. 2004. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Books.

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