We were sitting in our “living room” - the room where we meet with couples we are preparing for marriage and where we mentor married couples who are pressing in to upgrade and increase in their commitment of love and covenant. The room, in many cases, where life returns in response to a commitment of values and covenant that become real, doable, and intentional.
The couple we were with, friends - our peers, were in a challenging season of their marriage and simply put, needed encouragement, some perspective, and a few tools to increase their communication and connection. They unpacked their current situation and we could see straight away that their personality style differences were putting a demand on the need for increased awareness of their communication styles - but also on understanding and valuing the legitimate needs they each have that were not being recognized or validated.
We asked the question, “What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word CONFLICT?" Quickly and without hesitation, the husband, a retired military veteran blurted out, “WAR!”. “Yah, lots of fighting”, added the wife. And actually when we ask that question in marriage retreats, leadership teams, and ministry schools we hear a variety of answers not so dissimilar.
Contention. Resistance. Crying. Loosing. Ignoring. Arguing. Fear. Anger. Loneliness. Dis-connect. Offense.
These are all words people often use to describe conflict. The truth is… this is often the result of conflict that goes unrecognized, unresolved, unreconciled, buried, or ignored.
Conflict, simply put, is when what I believe to be true, meets with an experience that is in-congruent to what I believe as truth… “You told me this morning how much you love me, but those words and your attitude feel pretty unloving...” Wouldn’t it be awesome if this was our normal first response to conflict? So often we answer conflict with stuffing, excusing and permitting bad behavior, allowing dis-honor, ignoring an issue that actually needs attention and deserves a resolution and healing.
Here are a few tips in moving from CONFLICT to CONNECTION
• BE POWERFUL - establish an environment in relationships that put a demand on the greatness you both carry to show up and show off in a great way. Don’t excuse hurtful behavior - acknowledge and reconcile it! Be powerful by lovingly and honorably speaking the truth, season it with grace, release forgiveness, and move forward with a commitment to protect connection and hold one another's heart in a way that is consistent with your commitment. Do this in a timely manor - don’t allow days and other “stuff” to be added to the original conflict.
• ASK “What Is My Part?” - don’t be a WIMP! If we learn to ask Holy Spirit what our part of any given conflict is, we offer the gift of humility and may even initiate a bridge to re-connect. Take personal responsibility for your part - even if it’s only 10%. Sharing in the responsibility of a dis-connect goes a LONG way in re-connecting our hearts.
• THINK WIN-WIN - even in the midst of really hard situations, tuning your heart and intention to the goal of a win-win immediately re-focuses your attitudes, actions, and words toward life-giving communication. Our brain actually needs a goal in order for our will to submit. This is why, “I’ll try” doesn’t work. Your brain actually reads that as an escape route. Set your mind… on a win-win.
• DEAL WITH THE REAL ISSUE - continually dealing with only the surface issue, “Your words were unloving” will keep you from looking at and dealing with the REAL issue - but it has potential to lead you to the REAL issue. Could be a lack of quiet time in His presence that empowers you to live out of your Kingdom identity; unmet legitimate needs; a collection of other unresolved issues in the relationship… Dealing with the REAL issue sometimes takes some time getting to and you will need good communication tools to do so - it may even require someone to help you navigate the process. Reconciliation is absolutely key to stopping a pattern of bad and hurtful behavior and developing a new way of relating and behaving with one another.
• COMMIT TO UNDERSTANDING - often we miss understanding because we’re quick to contribute, or respond (react?) to what has been said. By Reflecting what we understand, Affirming what we can agree with before we Contribute our thoughts, input, perspective - we accomplish several things;
~ we are more easily able to respond than react, which
~ keeps the conversation open and invites deeper levels of communication, this
~ protects the connection, and that
~ empowers us, even in the midst of conflict,
~ to build trust and increase intimacy
A few thoughts to consider -
• In what relationship (or area of a relationship) does God want to lead you from Conflict to Connection?
• What part of your identity is positioned for revelation to empower you to be a power-filled person in a power-filled relationship?
• What beliefs regarding conflict, relationships, being power-filled in relationships is Holy Spirit highlighting and inviting *repentance into? (*changing the way you think)
• What revelation is Holy Spirit giving you about who you are, what you bring to relationships, and how He desires to empower you for life-giving and joy-filled relationships?