While scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled onto an account where the influencer, a lawyer by profession, teaches his followers “to argue less so you can talk more.”
With more than 1.5 million followers, the account has clearly resonated with social media users. There seems to be a desire to learn how to be more assertive, present one’s case more effectively, discern how to have more effective arguments, and respond instead of merely react when thrust into a tense situation.
Of the 1.5 million followers, I found that only two of my friends in India followed this account. While that is far-from-scientific evidence, I would be correct to say that there seems to be resistance among Indians when it comes to conflict resolution.
Why Do We Avoid Conflict?
While psychologists deem that ‘fight or flight’ are automatic responses to conflict or danger, it is reasonable to generalise that Indians often choose the latter.
We tend to avoid conflict or we choose to approach tense situations with passive aggression. Instead of unpacking the issues at hand, we often turn them into jokes that spring from unexpressed hurt, gossip that stems from unresolved tension, or church politics that rises from situations that have been swept under the rug.
Why do we, as Indian Christians, seem disdainful or reticent about expressing ourselves in a difficult conversation? Perhaps it is an outcome of our hierarchical societal structure. In it, we are taught to comply with the person in charge and submit to the older family member. It could be that many of us, especially women, are conditioned to be “agreeable.” We do not want to receive the label of being “aggressive.”
Added to that, there is an unstated expectation among Christians that we are to be always peaceable and peace-loving. However, we have translated this to mean “compliant.”
Peacemaking Involves Difficult Conversations
While the Bible encourages us to be peacemakers, there is no mandate to be a peacekeeper by running away from conflict. In fact, peace-making may require that we jump into the ring in order to bring some issues into the light.
We tend to avoid conflict or we choose to approach tense situations with passive aggression.
One of the foremost examples of conflict resolution in Scripture comes from Abigail (1 Samuel 25). When her husband Nabal’s unwarranted aggression incited David to retaliate with violence, Abigail stepped in to play the role of peacemaker. She acted quickly to diffuse a tense situation, humbled herself, made reparations, and pointed David to the Lord.
We remember Abigail for her good judgement. She did not hold back her words or sit on the fence. Instead, she put herself at risk for the sake of peace. She had an astoundingly difficult, humbling conversation with David. As a result, she helped prevent a deadly massacre.
Difficult Conversations Are Opportunities
Conflict presents us with opportunities to display God’s redemptive grace and serve as his instruments of peace.
The apostle Paul reminds us that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1).
In today’s “you do you” world, our cultural conditioning may cause us to shrug with indifference at another’s shortcomings. But Scripture shows us that the most loving thing we can do is to gently speak truth and risk the awkward, vulnerable conversation with the person who may be slipping away from God.
Before dealing with a tense situation, soak in God’s presence through prayer.
Of course, there is no dodging the fact that we first need to address the log in our own eyes before we can point to the speck in another’s eyes. However, we are clearly encouraged to resolve conflict before we offer sacrifices to God (Matt. 5:23). The Word is clear: “Go and be reconciled” (Matt. 5:24).
So, how can we approach a difficult conversation?
Preparing for a Difficult Conversation
Sift Through Your Intentions
The Word of God and the Holy Spirit help us evaluate the ‘why’ behind the difficult conversation. Do we want to confront someone just to prove that we are right? Or do we want to approach them with the intention of bringing about restoration and reconciliation? Scripture reminds us that God reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5: 18).
Pray Yourself Humble
Before dealing with a tense situation, soak in God’s presence through prayer. We do not pray that we will ‘win’ the argument. We only want God to receive glory through the conversation.
The Bible points out that in whatever we do, whether eating or drinking—and I would add “conflict resolution”—we are to do it all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Pray for a humble, teachable, listening heart that longs to lift up the name of Jesus through the conversation.
Speak the Truth in Love
Speaking truth without love veers toward legalism and self-righteousness. Speaking only loving words without truth veers toward licentiousness and self-preservation.
If we long to have unity in the church body and help foster spiritual maturity in others, we will speak the truth in love (Eph. 4: 15). In preparing to have a difficult conversation with someone, may we be grounded in both truth and love.
Surrender the Outcome to God
While Scripture calls us to gently restore the fellow believer who has fallen into sin, we leave the results of our words and actions to God. Trusting God’s sovereignty over our relationships frees us to fulfil our calling without the futile attempt to change someone’s heart in our own strength.
Conflict resolution undoubtedly requires our obedience and humility, but ultimately it is to the glory of God.
In Christ, we have received eternal reconciliation with God through his initiative and his finished work. May we imitate the peacemaking heart of Christ in all our relationships.