Handling Conflict

I’m an “S” on the DISC profile which means among other things that I like everybody to get along. I am so much of an “S” that I’ve often said that I wish they would make movies where everything that happened to the characters was good and positive. I have advocated for movies without conflict and struggle, ones where everybody “just got along.”

My wife is a retired English teacher and she assures me that such a story would not work. She has responded to my utopian movie dreams by insisting that conflict is a necessary part of story. She has maintained that such a story would be boring and no one would watch it or read it. I have continued to argue with her, but I know she’s right. Conflict is a necessary part of story because it is an inevitable part of life.

It’s what we do with it however that is so troubling. It’s how we handle the conflicts of life that create such pain and difficulty. As I write this, there is new bombing and further complications in Syria all of which will affect thousands of people and create more and more refugees. There continues to be significant intractability among political parties here in the United States creating greater and greater divide. And the process of dealing with conflict and difference in too many of our local congregations is no picnic either!

I have observed first-hand the level of inappropriate action directed towards those who don’t agree with a given action or perspective. I have seen the church reduced to just short of an angry mob when stirred up by disagreement and conflict. I have witnessed friends, long time fellow congregants, separated over sometimes the smallest of issues in the life of a church. And all this plays out so often in the public arena of a community in which the church’s mission is supposed to be lived out. Sad.

Learning to deal with conflict in effective and helpful ways, ways that take seriously our differences while at the same time offering genuine love and care for one another is what the Church has the opportunity to display. What a witness we could be to a world caught up in consistently vilifying those with whom it doesn’t agree, if we chose to live out a process of dealing with one another that honored differences, and in the face of even stark disagreement always offering love and grace. While my “S” continues to wish for the impossible goal of life without conflict, I do believe that we who know God’s grace have the opportunity and in fact the calling to teach by example a different way of response when the inevitable occurs. May we choose to live our faith in just such a manner.


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