When I was a kid, my Gram used to give me the task of walking to the grocery store and picking up one item. This was in part to keep me out of trouble, something not easy to do, and to teach me responsibility. As I walked I would add the challenge of finding an empty can and kicking it down the road as I went along...I’m easily entertained.
As an adult I discovered I kick the proverbial can down the road with things I don’t want to deal with. One such ‘can’ is conflict. I will kick any conflict as far down the road as I am able.
I do NOT like conflict.
It stresses me out and I will do just about anything to not have it. That aversion has led me to put a great deal of effort into “keeping the peace” in relationships.
It’s embarrassing to say how many unnecessary apologies I have given, how many flesh-driven “kind” acts I have done, and how many carefully crafted words I have spewed forth in a desperate attempt to keep the peace. I’ve accepted responsibility for things when I should have allowed the other to accept their part. I’ve ignored things that I should not have ignored and put on a smile instead.
Truth be told, all of my peace-keeping tactics are really for me.
They are to keep me safe, to keep me happy, to keep me unbothered, to keep me okay.
Apparently, my dear friends, no conflict is not the same thing as peace!
Even if we equate them to be the same, it is usually tolerance rather than peace, which is still the devil’s playground. We avoid conflict with others for a variety of reasons but fear is typically at the root it...
Fear of disconnect, rejection, or abandonment in a relationship
Fear of other’s views of us or of making a fool of ourselves
Fear of the backlash it will bring
Fear of not knowing what to say
Fear that what I feel or believe is wrong
Fear of harming another
Fear it will not resolve the issue or make a difference
Here’s the problem with fear, it makes us focus on ourselves.
We immediately go into self-protection mode in an attempt to lessen the damage we anticipate will happen. Conflict has a way of stimulating our fear centers and dodging conflict is a means of avoiding pain. We kick the can further down the road.
When peace in a relationship is about us - I’m going out on a limb here - then that’s not real peace. Not true peace. Not the peace the Lord can and wants to bring. God is the great resolver.
Spoiler alert: no conflict means no growth!
When we idolize stability, we miss the opportunity to develop and instead we stagnate. Constantly avoiding tension teaches the brain that this avoidance behavior is what is keeping it safe from unpleasant feelings, like discomfort or pain. We may have a sense of relief in the moment, but in the long run, it increases that fear, no growth happens, and the issue remains. We kick the can further down the road.
So what are we to do?
What not to do:
Ignore the issue and hope it goes away.
Let it fester until it leaks out if not explodes out.
Stick a temporary band-aid on it that will eventually just fall off.
Kick the can down the road and not press into growth.
What to do:
Deal with it.
How we deal with it can vary so we need wisdom!
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
Wisdom on how to navigate those potentially treacherous waters. James 1:5, tells us to go to God when we need wisdom and He will graciously provide what we need. God can and will give you guidance on how to deal with conflict HIS way.
Acknowledge it, pray about it, seek Scripture, and possibly get sound counsel from others.
**Join me next post as we talk about real peace in relationship.