Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Conflict & Smelly Fish: 5 Helpful Steps to Navigate Disagreements

Few of us enjoy conflict. Personally, the thought of facing conflict can give me an upset stomach. Do you ever feel that way?

Dealing with disputes among friends, co-workers, family members, or others, can feel overwhelming.  Our minds can become so fixated on brewing strife that we think of little else. It can be a hefty distraction to say the least. If we’re not careful, we can allow conflict to steal our joy.

I know a select few people who have learned to manage conflict effectively. However the majority of us tend to hold to the wishful thinking that “if I ignore this problem, it will go away.”  Avoidance might be comfortable in the moment, but it is not the healthiest nor the most productive option. An alarming 25% of employees report that conflict avoidance resulted in sickness or absence from work. When conflict arises at home, calling in sick is not an option.

There’s no doubt that facing conflict and working through issues is the better route.  My pastor often shares this analogy:  

Serving fish for dinner will lead to a particular aroma that can penetrate the whole house. At the conclusion of the meal, if we were to heap the scraps and leftovers into the garbage and let them sit overnight, the entire house would smell even worse the next morning!  We’d avoid that stinky situation at all costs and purposefully take out the trash right after dinner, wouldn’t we? 
So it should be when trouble brews in our relationships.  The longer we allow a problem to continue unaddressed, the smellier it will become. Our best solution is to “take out the trash!” Confront issues in love and in a timely manner to avoid smelly problems.  

The question is: HOW should we do it?  Please know that while I still handle conflict very poorly at times, I have learned some things that help me navigate a little more quickly and effectively.  I share these points, not with an attitude of accomplishment, but with the heart of a student who continues to learn and grow:

1) Realize that disagreements are a normal and healthy part of all relationships.  We can’t possibly agree on every point with every person. If we do, something’s out of whack.

2) Pray over the matter.  Ask God for wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17)  Seek the Lord’s leading that both parties would agree with Him and His will for the situation.  If we independently seek the Lord’s plan and approach Him with moldable hearts ready to comply and obey, before we know it, we’ll also agree with each other.

3) Examine yourself carefully.  Maybe… just maybe, your opponent’s complaint has some truth to it.  Ask yourself (and also ask the Lord) what responsibility you have in the matter, what things need repentance, and how to make amends for any wrong you’ve caused.  I know - this isn’t easy and it can be a painful process, but it’s necessary.  As much as we hate to admit it, we’re not always right and we often make mistakes.  Let’s own up to them.

4) Move forward in humility and gentleness.  The Apostle Paul teaches that we should consider others more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3). He instructed Timothy to pursue peace and address opposition with patience and gentleness (2 Timothy 2:22-26).  When we present a defensive attitude, try to “win” an argument by justifying our actions, or belittle another in the name of unity, we’ve profoundly missed the mark.  Humility and gentleness will always earn greater favor than aggressive confrontation.  This does not mean neglecting to present our points, but doing so with grace and mercy. 

5) Consider the character of the other person when seeking to understand their words or actions.  This has been monumental in my marriage and I strive to apply it to relationships throughout my life. (I’m making progress.) If my husband hurts my feelings or causes emotional pain, I remind myself that he is my greatest ally. He is my God-given partner with whom I walk through life on a daily basis. From what I have learned about his character through more than 30 years of knowing each other, it is never his intent to cause harm.  Bringing that certainty to the front of my mind helps me gain a healthy perspective on a fresh disagreement. I can then gently let him know how I feel and ask him to clarify his point. More times than not, this helps us conclude a disagreement before it really begins. We can then navigate as partners and teammates rather than opponents. 

This is not a magic formula. It’s intended to offer a starting point that allows for positive progress.  Sadly, in some cases of conflict, the other party wants nothing to do with reconciliation and may refuse to take steps to move forward.  My advice in these situations: continue to pray for the relationship and the Lord’s healing. Then, wait on the Lord and His perfect timing.  Keep an open heart and maintain a willingness to move forward as the Lord prompts. 

There is only one person we can control in any given situation:  ourself. As long as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with others.  When we do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, He is sure to bless and honor our efforts as we glorify and honor Him.

Your Turn:

Would you rather avoid a conflict or navigate through it?

What is your most effective advice for overcoming conflict?

Continue the conversation by commenting below or join me on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

27 Comforting Bible Verses

As follow up to my earlier post, “When a Friend Needs Comfort,” below is a list of 27 comforting Scripture verses.  Needless to say, there are far more than the 27 I’ve listed below, but these are some of my current favorites. They’re the words from God that I visit most often when my heart hurts.  They can offer comfort and consolation to a friend, and I pray that God’s Word will move in your heart as you review them.

1. Genesis 16:13 (NIV):  She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me.”

2. Joshua 1:9 (NASB):  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

3. Psalm 30:5 (NASB):  For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

4. Psalm 37:3-6 (NASB): Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.   Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. 

5. Psalm 46:1b (NIV):  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

6. Psalm 91:4 (HCSB):  He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. 

7. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB):  'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

8. Isaiah 43:1-3a (NIV):  But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

9. Isaiah 43:25 (NIV):  I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

10. Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV):  It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

11. Lamentations 3:31-32 (NIV):  For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 

12. Hosea 11:4 (NIV):  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

13. Matthew 11:29 (NASB):  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

14. John 14:1 (HCSB):  Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 

15. John 14:27 (HCSB):  Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.

16. John 16:33 (ESV):  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

17. Romans 15:13 (HCSB):  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

18. 2 Corinthians 4:17 (HCSB):  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.

19. 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV):  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

20. 2 Corinthians 5:15 (HCSB):  And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.

21. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (HCSB):  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

22. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV):  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

23. Philippians 4:13 (NIV):  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

24. Ephesians 3:16 (HCSB):  I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit 

25. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV):  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

26. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV):  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

27. Revelation 21:5 (HCSB):  Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look! I am making everything new." He also said, "Write, because these words are faithful and true."

These verses may spur you and others into deeper faith for we know that God’s Word does not return empty without accomplishing what He desires (Isaiah 45:11).  However, we must keep in mind that God created us for community - to rely on one another for comfort and blessing. 

We have the responsibility to take an active role in comforting those around us. There are people near us who are in desperate pain and we must not only preach the Word of comfort and pray the Word of comfort, we must also serve to personally offer comfort.  

I, for one, fail to do this well, but keep striving to reach out to those in need. It's only by the grace of God that I can serve Him as He directs.

Your Turn:

What scripture verses have you found most comforting?

In what ways have friends of loved ones offered personal comfort to you?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or meeting me on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28