A couple years ago God convicted me in the area of gossip and conflict resolution. I found myself dialing up a phone number so I could vent whenever an issue occurred with someone. God was gently prodding me to not do this anymore. Instead, He was telling me to come to Him. Talk to my Comforter. Tell Him my hurt. I began to earnestly pray each time I was hurt over a situation. I did this faithfully. I would pray and pray and even cry out at the injustice and heartache I was experiencing. I would not stop praying until His peace came over me. As I have continued to pray the Holy Spirit has softened the fleshly daggers of spite that wish to lash out and has replaced them with the tenderness of the Spirit because of God's peace. When His peace comes over me I no longer feel the need to gossip about it with my girlfriend. His peace has also given me the strength to confront issues and handle them biblically.
Last week we discussed gossip and how it often stems from unsettled issues or conflicts with another person. Instead of talking about our issue with someone else, we need to heed the instructions of Matthew 18 and go directly to the person involved in hopes of reconciliation. Many people do not like conflict and therefore don't want to deal with confrontation. Dealing with people can be hard. People can be mean and unjustified in their actions. Regardless of our aversion to dealing with conflict, we can be just as wrong by not handling it biblically.
The passage in James is a hard-hitting truth. How can we praise God one minute and tear down our brother or sister the next? The very people we "talk about" are also made in the image of God. Ridiculing those made in His likeness has no place for those seeking to honor the Lord with their tongues. We must beware of tongue trouble.
With this said, let me add, I do believe seeking godly counsel is different than gossiping. It is a tightrope to be walked, but I believe God knows the intentions and purity of our heart if we are truly seeking godly counsel concerning a situation.
Conflict is part of life. Whether we are dealing with co-workers, family, our spouse or my personal favorite, our children, there will be conflict! Why do some people avoid conflict? Are we afraid of confrontation? Do we avoid resolution because we think we're not ready to forgive someone? Do we want to minimize the offense? Are we afraid of admitting that we might be the one who is wrong and we don't want to confess it? A spiritually mature person will humble themselves and admit when they are wrong. They will seek healing and forgiveness when they have hurt someone else.
A girlfriend came to me in college to confront me about something I had done that hurt her feelings. I remember getting a little defensive and almost immediately started justifying my actions in my mind. It hurt me to hear her tell me these things. She was right, I was wrong, and she handled it biblically. I realized I was too prideful to admit I was wrong. I struggled to humble myself and acknowledge I had hurt her. We did reconcile the situation and we are still great friends today.
How should we respond if we are the one who is confronted by another? Here are a few tips I have learned:
- Receive the correction, meaning listen and don't interrupt!
- Do not try to justify your actions.
- Accept responsibility.
- Seek Forgiveness.
Harboring bitterness is bondage. I honestly believe because I had not handled my hurt earlier with these people, it clearly inhibited my healing with dealing with the grief of losing my mother. I had been stuck, unable to progress to a healthy place in my life. Even though at the time I felt justified to feel the way I did toward them because of my hurt. I wanted to be freed from this prison. The poison of bitterness and an unforgiving heart was sucking the life out of me.
Seeking the forgiveness of another is hard. However, it is necessary for our own health and spiritual growth. I humbled myself and went to both of these individuals at different times and through tears asked for their forgiveness. The forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and peace that took place is exactly what God desires for us. True healing can occur when we humble ourselves enough to confess our part. My relationship with these two people continues to be healthy. It is a blessing to have them in my life. Their relationship with me is invaluable. Interestingly, after this time, my own personal healing with my mom's death began to get better. I began to allow the Lord's comfort when before I was just plain angry.
When we practice the principles of Matthew 18 by going to our brother or sister to work out a situation, conflict resolution is handled the correct way. When we do this the encounter becomes:
- A defeat to the enemy.
- An opportunity for spiritual growth and maturity.
- Healing in the body of Christ. Isn't this what God desires? Isn't it what we need?
Heart Work:Ask the Lord to show you your weaknesses when it comes to conflict resolution. Is there someone you need to make things right with? Have you hurt another person without seeking their forgiveness?
Heart Examination:If your tendency is to avoid conflict, ask the Lord to give you the strength to live out Matthew 18. Is pride keeping you from working out a situation with another? Is fear? If so, ask God to humble you and give you the courage to do what is right. Ask the Lord to remind you to go to Him when you are hurt and talk to the Lord about your circumstance first.
Heart Changing Word:Matthew 18:15a (NIV) "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you."
James 1:26 (NIV) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
Proverbs 10:19 "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
Proverbs 12:18 "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 15:4a "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life."
Proverbs 21:23 "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.