When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Pe 2:23
Conflicts are part of life and have varying degrees of severity. Some you can overlook and ignore while others seem to demand much of your energy and focus. As I see it we can take one of three approaches when handling interpersonal conflict: The Selfish approach, the Self-righteous approach or the Righteous approach.
The Selfish Approach
- Wants to retaliate and hurt the person you are having conflict with with little regard for the effect on anyone other than yourself. Responds with harsh and disrespectful words even when they are couched in flowery or religious language. Conspires to do as much damage as possible while minimizing the effect on yourself (either literally or just in your imagination).
- Only cares about getting even or getting on top.
- Doesn’t care if you make it worse, so long as someone pays for their part in the conflict.
The Self-righteous Approach
- Frames you as “taking the high road” or being the “bigger person” in order to demonize others.
- Doesn’t care about making the situation better – but only about feeling better. If we can feel justified, vindicated, and validated, then reconciliation or genuine peacemaking is unnecessary.
- Only cares about the appearance of righteousness while the motives are anything but. Much of the time the person we have conflict with can see right through the pretentious facade.
- Doesn’t return hurt for hurt. Jesus’ words were not hurtful even when words were spoken that were meant to hurt him. Slander, false accusation, mockery, and more. When we cannot respond with kindness and love toward those we have conflict with, it is best not to respond at all.
- Doesn’t conspire or threaten retaliation. Unlike Jesus, your suffering (from conflict) very seldom comes in the form of physical violence, but there is suffering nonetheless.
- Doesn’t misplace hope. You will “entrust” yourself to that which you believe will justify you. The righteous approach will trust that God is faithful and just and will exalt the humble and humble the haughty. Hope in Jesus.
When you find yourself in conflict, stay close to Jesus. Follow his lead. And trust that he is faithful and will judge justly.