It has been mentioned throughout this blog series that communication is a means of breathing life into others. However, not all communication is used that way. Some communication breeds destructive criticisms or conflicts that tear down rather than build up. At the same time, not all conflicts within relationships are destructive.
Conflict itself is more than just simple disagreements; it is relationship-challenging disagreements. It is an escalation from a disagreement about an issue to a disagreement about a principle that affects decision-making and the relationship. In other words, it is a differentiation of goals, and a supposed interference of those goals by the other person. Conflict can often involve much emotion, be long-lasting, and affect the quality of life. Still there remains some conflict that sets the stage for constructive relationships.
The Bible advocates the idea of shalom, or a relational approach of peace and justice. This shalom of appreciation and gratitude for God and others was the intent of God’s original creation. It was the intent of loving God and loving others as we love ourselves. It was a looking at people as people and not as viewing someone as something to manipulate or argue against to get our own way. This idea of shalom is what constructive conflict is based on. It acknowledges that we as people are different in many ways and have different goals; therefore, we cannot avoid all conflict. Yet at the same time, it recognizes how to humbly and faithfully respond in conflicting situations.
First, in accordance with God’s intent of shalom, we should remain humble when conflict arises. Practically, we need to be careful not to attribute meaning to the other person’s actions, nor should we judge the fact that someone has mixed feelings about an issue. We all have tensions that arise over different issues, just remember that those other people are human too. In addition to humility is the element of faithfulness, which in this sense is similar to commitment. This faithfulness combines with humility and seeks to come to terms with the person, not necessarily win the argument. Humility and faithfulness do not mean that you have to back down when something is wrong, but they rather mean to gently seek the good of the person as well as seek to honor of God.
Conflicts are inevitable during the Christian life, yet they are another process of communication that can be used to destroy or give life. Choose to build up and gently bring thoughts together instead of allowing negative conflict to flourish and plant a root of bitterness.
Schultze, Quentin. Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. Chapter 7