A Hoscotch Approach: 10 Hops in the Right Direction
Our most recent “Construction Zone” article touched on peacemaking. We asked you to coment your practical tips that would help us all in this area. Today we continue with a few practical tips of our own. Feel free to add other tips in the comments at the end of this article. We said that peacemaking started with loving God and loving others. Today will focus on that latter phrase: loving others. In particular, loving others in the midst of conflict.
1. Listen. Really listen. When you find yourself in a difficult discussion, allow the other person to fully express their concerns and fears. Listen to understand. Too often we listen just waiting our turn at replying and therefore we never truly hear what is being said. In fact, we may be planning our next volley of words in our own minds and therefore we literally do not hear a word the other person says; we only hear our own inner thoughts. Listening is our God-given way of taking in the facts. Use this gift.
2. Try to understand the reason they are upset. Often the reason they say they are upset is not the true reason. Are they operating out of fear? Guilt? Anger? Hurt? Revenge? Jealousy? Insecurity? Ask questions to try to get to the root cause. Once again, listen carefully. Be discerning and trust your intuition. Notice what escalates their strong responses, this will lead you to the real issue; it shows you’ve hit a nerve with them.
3. Examine the anger being thrown at you. If they present with anger, you can usually be assured that there is more to it than that. Anger is generally a secondary emotion displayed instead of a primary emotion that is harder to deal with, such as hurt, fear, sadness, etc. Anger feels powerful, while hurt and other emotions a person has can make them feel vulnerable and in a weak postion. Anger can also ignite within a person the fight or flight response, a physiological response to what they feel is threatening them. Thus, they may lash out at you and attack you verbally or physically (fight) or hang up on you or run away from the challenge of dealing with the conflict (flight). Another form of attack is a more passive-aggressive approach where they do something covertly that is detrimental to you. These things will never bring resolution to a situation. They stall bringing true resolution and healing to a difficult situation.
4. Choose not to allow others to incite you to anger. You are in control of your feelings. Exercise self-control. Many things a person in conflict with you may say or do will feel like bombs being lobbed your way. Whether their behaviors are aggressive or their words are hurtful, cruel, or alarming, choose to remain calm: take deep breaths, follow scriptural principles, realize your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV
5. Try to diffuse a voltile situation. This will include things like:
- Speak calmly and gently.
- Talk with them in person if possible.
- If you’re talking in person, maintain a non-threatening, open body language.
- Rephrase and reflect their words back to them to make sure you understand correctly.
- Even if you don’t agree with their point of conflict, try to understand why it is important to them.
- Express your understanding and willingness to come to reconciliation.
- Don’t belittle or speak down to others.
6. Ask for God’s wisdom to understand the meaning and what is often left unsaid behind their spoken words. Pray, pray, pray. As you find yourself in this type of situation begin immediately to pray asking for wisdom, for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand and a will to obey. Ask God to give you clarity and understanding.
7. Allow God’s love to flow through you to the person opposing you. Human love is imperfect even with our best efforts. God’s love is perfect. Through prayer and putting our own self-will aside we can allow His love to flow through us. Through His love we can love people who would otherwise trigger us to hate them.
8. Keep the lines of communication open even if you are rejected. If you are hung up on or abandoned in the discussion, pray for and seek ways to continue reconcilation: a gentle non-threatening appeal, a call or kind gesture, enlisting the help of a pastor or spiritual mentor. (Note: Texts and emails are too easily misunderstood. Tone and individual differences in word meanings often make these written approaches more harmful than helpful.)
9. Go the extra mile. Do everything within your power to bring peace and resolution to the situation. Operate in the fruit of the Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
10. Don’t post anything on social media. Period. (We shouldn’t even have to say that.)
What are your thoughts and tips?