Healthy Conflicts Lead to Healthy Relationships, Part 2
In the heat of an argument, we often share our surface feelings. But these frequently are not the underlying reason why we are behaving and feeling the way we do. As we discussed in the last devotional, the goal is mutual understanding and bringing glory to God in your relationship. Therefore, a technique you can use to draw out the other person’s deeper frustration and thus understand him or her better is “mirroring.” Mirror back to the person what was said. Say something like: “I hear you saying” and then repeat back the exact or nearly the same words. This helps you to pay better attention to his or her feelings rather than just your own. It also demonstrates that you are listening. At times you can add something like: “Please help me to better understand why you are feeling this way.”
After you have let the other share his or her thoughts and feelings, share your thoughts on the matter. Try to avoid blaming or accusing the other person. Say something like “I felt _________ when you said / did __________. It would help me in the future if you would _____________. Again, try to avoid speculations or opinions of why you think he or she did or said something. Just share the actual facts, your feelings, and what would help you in the future. Also shy away from words like “always,” “every time,” and “never.” Using extreme words heightens, not decreases tension.
As Proverbs 12:15 says, we need to go into a conflict with a heart to listen and take advice. Even if the person is not a believer, the Lord may want to use him or her to help you become aware of something in your character or an area in which God wants you to trust Him to change. “Pride only heeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Proverbs 13:10). Having a humble heart before God and others, rather than an “I am right and you are wrong” attitude will greatly lessen the intensity of the conflict and help to bring resolution.
Another factor to consider is if the two of you need a little more time apart from each other. For example, during Covid-19, some are spending 24/7 with family members. We are not getting a break to go off to work, school, shopping, or recreational activities. We are not getting time with other friends. Thus we can easily become irritated with each other. Take time to do fun things alone or if possible, go walking with a friend (keeping social distancing). Exercise is a great way to release tension. We need mental and emotional breaks from the stress. Do not feel guilty to pamper yourself a little. Getting daily time with God in prayer, worship, and in His Word is also very important to your spiritual and emotional health. This will also have a direct positive impact on your relationships with others.
We are called to sacrificial love. However, I want to clarify a misunderstanding. Though some will have to endure persecution for the gospel, this does not mean that any time a person disrespectfully treats us that we should stand there and say nothing. Oftentimes, when the Pharisees criticized or belittled the poor, sick, or seekers of Christ, our Lord defended these people (John 8:7-11; 8:13-18; 9; Mark 3:1-5; 8:11-13; 10:13-16). When others speak lies, judgement, cursing, disrespectful or demeaning words to us, this is a form of verbal abuse. When they try to punish us emotionally through manipulation, intimidation, longs periods of silence, or harsh tones, this is emotional abuse. When they push, throw things, threaten to harm, or strike us or our children, this is physical abuse. When they make sexual comments or engage in sensual touching, this is sexual abuse.
In these situations, we are to put up boundaries. This means to tell your offenders during a peaceful time that if they speak or act in a disrespectful way (be specific and give examples), that you will walk away from them. When they speak lies and demeaning names to you, tell them the truth of what God’s Word says about you. If they continue to mock you, walk away. If they threaten you, seek help from someone who can protect you. Remove yourself from this offender. This may mean giving up a job, moving away, temporarily moving in with a friend, buying a new lock for the door, or talking to someone in authority or the law enforcement. You may have to take these drastic steps to protect your child from a bully. Pray a lot and ask God to give you faith that He will protect you and/or your children and show you a way out of this situation.
Quite often when we do not tolerate this abuse but remove ourselves from it, the abuser will stop. If it is physical or sexual abuse, it is usually best to remove yourself for an extended period of time or permanently from the relationship. If it involves your children, definitely immediately remove your children from this person. A promise to change is not enough. Insist that they get professional help before you will consider continuing the relationship. Loving your “enemy” means to pray for them and treat them with forgiveness and Christ-like respect. But it does not mean to subject yourself to their abuse.