Seven Principles of Effective & Defective Confrontation
Posted by Orrin Woodward on February 5, 2010
Dr. Joseph Mattera recently wrote an article on conflict resolution and I will repost with my comments since it has some solid thoughts on conflict resolution. Leadership is about influence and community, making promises, following through, encouraging one another and resolving conflict in a Godly manner when it arises. With increasing frequency, I am seeing top leaders applying ungodly methods to resolve conflicts that only exacerbate the problems and destroy unity in the community. I have said for years that as a leader, Conflict Resolution will either make you a millions or cost you millions in dollars and relationships. If you cannot resolve conflict, you will lose your community, but if you are courageous enough to resolve conflict, you will strengthen your community and your leadership. This is a non-negotiable skill that will be a determining factor in how high you rise in leadership.
I have witnessed relationships on the edge of breaking be completely restored by the proper use of these Biblical principles and I have witnessed relationships break by the abandonment of Biblical principles. If you are going to do the work of building a community (science side), be sure to develop the principles for holding communities together (art side). I do not relish conflict anymore than the next guy, but know that conflict will happen. One of my mentors used to say, “More animals in the barn, more doo-doo to deal with.” Isn’t that the truth? If you are going to lead a large community, conflict is a given, but resolution is a choice that only leaders will make. I encourage you to choose conflict resolution vs. (fight or flight) – this will make a huge difference in the results you experience. Some will question why the Bible should be brought up to resolve conflict, but I believe it is by far the best manual on human relationships given to man. Thousands of years ago, the key principles were explained and even pragmatically it cannot be argued that they do not work, when applied correctly. I hope you enjoy Dr. Mattera’s article as much as I did and choose to apply them into your leadership journey. God Bless, Orrin Woodward
In this covenant-breaking society and culture it is very common when those involved in a conflict or disagreement respond in ways that are not conducive for healthy relationships. Unity is so fragile that Jesus had to pray that His glory would be revealed in it (John 17:21-23).
The following are ungodly ways people deal with conflict and confrontation:
1. Attempting to totally avoid contact with the other person
Since no one enjoys conflicts or disagreements our first tendency is to avoid conflict and run from it. This is the worst thing to do. Every time we happen to be with that person our unspoken conflict will become the “elephant in the room.”
Even if we avoid the person we are still carrying the baggage of the situation with us everywhere we go. Only when we face and confront those we have issues with can we hope to resolve situations.
2. Communicating sensitive information via email or text message
If a person doesn’t avoid confrontation but still doesn’t want a face-to-face confrontation, they will utilize the internet to communicate their feelings. This is still a cowardly way of dealing with serious and sensitive conflicts since the person sending the email or text does not have to be the recipient of a response because there is no interaction. Emails and text messages are not meant to communicate anything but academic or business-like communications and should never take the place of face-to-face meetings for important issues that arise.
3. Talking behind others’ backs to vent frustration
One tendency is to express how we feel. If we don’t express our feelings with the person we have an issue with, then we will feel compelled to express our feelings with another person. Matthew 18:15-18 teaches that if someone sins against us then we should speak to them and them alone. We should not go to another person before fulfilling this process. Satan works in the dark; when we bring things out in conversation most of the time the differences begin to melt away.
4. Abruptly divorcing ourselves emotionally and personally
Many people do not have much tolerance for dissonance and conflict. Thus, in order to function comfortably, some internally distance themselves from all folks who don’t agree with them or who have a conflict with them. This is disastrous if a person practices this with their spouse, children, pastor, or those they are called to work with closely. Any person practicing this will be relegated to experiencing superficial relationships until they learn to deal with conflict in a godly manner.
5. Becoming defensive and justifying our own bad behavior
Some of the hardest people to reach are defensive people. When a person is defensive they often deceive themselves because they are building up a case in their mind about why they are not wrong, instead of being open to the truth about themselves and the situation. Defensive people rarely grow in conflict and remain like children emotionally until they learn to be open and repent for wrong behavior.
6. Exaggerating negative aspects of a relationship and disregarding all the positive traits of the other person
Unfortunately, when someone is mad at a person the tendency is to focus only on what the other has done wrong, causing that person to formulate a picture of the other person that paints them in a bad light. This is common in conflicts between spouses and in any close relationship. Until and unless the true picture of that person is taken into account the relationship cannot be healed.
7. Making alliances with others who will fortify us and sympathize with us against the other person
When in a conflict with another person the tendency is to find allies who will agree with us. This is done mainly out of fear since we all feel threatened or afraid when we have a conflict with another person, especially if that person has influence with others we know and depend on.
When this is done, most of the time it only makes the conflict worse since only one side of the story is being given, usually while making others swear to secrecy.
Godly Principles of Confrontation
1. Always endeavor to walk in the light
First John 1:7 teaches that we need to walk in the light with one another, meaning transparency and honesty. This involves immediately going to a person for clarity if you are offended or if you hear something that disturbs you about that person. Living like this develops trust between people even in cases that require confessing a fault or correcting someone for a wrong that has been done.
Satan works in the dark. Most of the time we will avoid falling into the snares of Satan if we communicate on a regular basis.
2. Be willing to hear the other side of the story before you render a judgment
It is a huge mistake to render a judgment about another person without first hearing their side of the story. When we speak or act before we hear the whole story we get into trouble and cause major rifts in our relationships. The general rule of thumb is to give a person you are in a relationship with the benefit of the doubt until you hear otherwise.
3. Use godly confrontation as an opportunity to deepen relationships
Over the years I have looked at disagreements as God’s way of bringing me closer to the truth. This is one of His ways of developing more trust and openness between me and others. Done the correct way, a disagreement can actually become a catalyst for more trust and love to be expressed in the future.
4. Be honest but gentle
The Bible teaches us to be kind and tenderhearted to one another (Ephesians 4:32). We need to be gentle and compassionate when in disagreement with another person. We should put ourselves in their shoes by treating others and understanding others the same way we would want them to understand us.
5. Allow love to be the motivation rather than proving your point
When we get into conflict the first thing we in our sinful human behavior want to do is prove we are right and the other person is wrong! God has a greater purpose than this. Conflicts are opportunities for forgiveness, brokenness, and humility to be worked inside of us and the other person so that His church is strengthened and we are deepened in our relationships.
God is more interested in what kind of spirit we are walking in than who is right or wrong.
6. Allow God to redeem the situation for His glory
Satan only wants to divide relationships and churches. God wants to use disagreements and conflicts as ways to reveal truth and grow in grace. God always wants to work all things out for good for those who love Him. We need to seize every disagreement or conflict as an opportunity to discern what God is really doing in the situation to undermine the plan of Satan and get the glory for Himself.
The first step in allowing God to redeem a situation is to forgive all those involved so their sin doesn’t remain attached to our emotions, which would cause unnecessary baggage indefinitely.
7. Intercede for the other person and the situation before you confront
When in a serious situation it is important to be in prayer and get God’s heart and mind for how to deal with the other person and also to see what God is looking for in the way of an outcome. Sometimes the worst conflicts in the world can result in a person getting broken before God if they are dealt with in the right way. Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and do well to those who use us or abuse us. This is the only way we can stay in a right spirit and not allow the sins of others to become attached to our lives and poison us.