Can two people walk together

without agreeing on the direction?

{Amos 3:3}

In an ideal world, conflict would never happen. You would be in relationships that never break down or with perfect people with whom you agree with all the time. But the reality is that relationships fall apart, misunderstandings do happen, and even the best of friends can become enemies. It just takes one situation to unravel a seemingly perfect relationship.

Conflict can arise from a clash of personalities, values, political and theological ideologies, cultural lenses, perceived injustice or wrong and personal hurts or wounds that are undealt with.

As conflict is a part of life, we need to accept it and welcome it and learn the skill of managing and mitigating its effects.

Depending on your family of origin, conflict may seem devastating for you. Perhaps conflict was used as a means of control or shame. Perhaps you witnessed key relationships break apart, or the rehashing of someone’s mistakes, as opposed to the family learning and growing from the conflict.

Because of this, you may exhibit one or more of these trauma responses when conflict arises: Fight, flight, freeze, fawn. When threatened with conflict some people confront the individuals aggressively {fight}. Some may respond to threats by fleeing {flight}, while others are unable to move during a conflict {freeze}. Lastly, some may tend to please and comply with the individual they disagree with {fawn}

Being self-aware can help you to be kind to yourself in stressful situations and manage your relationships more effectively. Like every other skill, you can develop your social skills.

While conflict may seem negative or have negative outcomes, you can choose to learn from it. A few ways that we can learn from conflict include:

  • It can reveal your blind spots. Using the example of driving, a blind spot is an area where one’s view is obstructed. Doing a simple head check while driving can help you to have a better view of ‘hidden’ cars that can cause accidents if not detected. In the same way, conflict can reveal hidden areas of weakness, attitudes, and beliefs that are detrimental to you and your relationships. When conflict arises, do a quick ‘head check’ and assess what you can learn about yourself. Are there any areas of growth that need to happen?
  • It can show you the true nature and substance of your relationships. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’ when everything is fine, but the true test of love and friendship is when you are at odds with someone. How do you treat each other when you disagree? Pay attention to all these things.
  • Conflict may also be a helpful evaluation tool for your relationships, by assessing the health, avenues for growth and in some cases, a decision to break away from a relationship if there are cycles of abuse.
  • It can point to your need for healing. Like intimated above, some individuals may have grown up in familial situations that wounded them deeply. Conflict can show you what wounds you carry. It is vital to work through these issues so that you maintain emotional and relational health.

It takes patience and humility to evaluate your blind spots when conflict occurs. Choose to be gracious with yourself if you do not have the tools to work through conflict. As long as you are breathing, you can learn something new. It is never too late.

A few tools that can help you deal with conflict include:

  • Make an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses before God. Accept areas of weakness as opportunities for learning or unlearning. Allow God to shed light on areas that need healing and restoration. God can use conflict to signal a need for growth.
  • Commit to doing the difficult work when confronted with conflict. This includes reconnecting with loved ones, finding opportunities for reconciliation and charting a way forward. It may also include seeking professional help to better understand yourself and those you are in a relationship with.
  • Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo of your relationships. Healthy relationships are about challenging those you love to grow.
  • Do not be afraid to set boundaries. What are you willing to accept as you grow in your relationships? What are you not willing to accept? Be clear about these things.
  • Do not take offence. Conflict is a part of life. How you view conflict will affect how you process disagreements with loved ones. Begin to view conflict from a healthier perspective.

I would like to hear from you. How have you been dealing with conflict?