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Posts Tagged ‘Conflict’

Family reunions may be bad – 1

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6 (NKJV)

Sometimes family reunions can give rise to tensions and emotions which can turn quickly from happy, light-hearted banter to stinging squabbles or fights about long held resentments.  That’s why instead of looking forward to a day of togetherness, you may find yourself dreading the possibility of a major family catastrophe.  You may not be able to prevent all problems from arising, but you can reduce the chances of triggering them.  Leslie Becker-Phelps[i] gives us a few tips to survive family reunions:

Keep your expectations realistic. There’s a difference between the family that you’d like to have and the one that you really do have.  When we have an idealistic view of the family, or how the family reunion will go, you may be disappointed, frustrated, or even angry if things don’t turn out like the image you had develop.  Becker-Phelps suggests you “be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations for a good day with the family that you have.”  If you don’t, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Attend to your basic needs.  Before the event, do all you can to take care of yourself by sleeping well and by eating enough so you don’t show up as a hungry, cranky version of yourself.  And when you need a break from the family, be sure to take one.  For instance, if things are getting a bit tense, or you feel your frustration rising, excuse yourself and take a walk around the block, get some fresh air, take the time to pray, or do what helps you to calm down.

Feel the love. As Becker-Phelps says, “Remember that your concerns, frustrations, and even anger exist largely because you care.”  Consciously thinking about how you love your family can help fill you with compassion for them, and keep you from being sucked into a vortex of anger and frustration.  Consider the option of not having a family to love or be loved by, and do what you can to enjoy the time you have together.

Father God, remind me that my family is as imperfect as I am, and help me to show them and experience their love.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/06/how-to-survive-your-family-reunion.html?ecd=wnl_men_061915&ctr=wnl-men-061915_nsl-promo_5&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12 (NKJV)

We all make mistakes… no exceptions.  At some point in our relationship we will say or do something that upsets the other.  Quite often people shift responsibility, blame their partner, others, or even the world at large, in their attempt to avoid any blame themselves. They may say things like, “You are so sensitive,” “You are always yelling at me for something,” or “you make me…”

But defensive reactions only increase distance and conflict in relationships.  It would be better, and healthier, to learn how to manage conflict in a more positive way.  You can use your mistakes or poorly thought-out actions as opportunities to strengthen your relationship. Leslie Becker-Phelps, from WebMD[i] suggest several strategies to stop playing the blaming game and managing their conflict appropriately.

Initiate conversation: When you know you have made a mistake, don’t wait for your partner to come to you. Approach them about the issue, regardless of whether they are aware of it or not.

Listen: Often when people are defensive, they usually don’t really listen to what their partner is telling them.  Be open to your partner’s message, really listening to the thoughts and feelings that they are trying to communicate.

Take responsibility: Be clear about what you did wrong and how it affects your relationship.

Accept consequences: Your partner may be upset or even trust you less, but hopefully they will also take to heart that you are trying to be honest and work give you another chance.

Make amends: Do all you can to fix any damage you may have caused. For instance, you may take an anger management class if you have an ongoing problem with your anger.

A pattern of being defensive with your partner will just build distance between you. Instead, lower your defensive walls and invite your partner to be close to you.

He lists five barriers to H

Father God, help me to accept responsibility whenever I am wrong and to be attentive to my spouse when they express their feelings.

[i] http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2015/07/how-to-stop-playing-the-blame-game.html?ecd=wnl_men_071115&ctr=wnl-men-071115_nsl-promo_5&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

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Come to terms quickly with your accuser. Matthew 5:25 (NRSV)

 

For the last five days we have been talking about areas of conflict that affect a couples’ relationship.  Another area of difficulty is conflict itself, particularly when it goes unresolved.

 

  1. Conflict

As we mentioned before, conflict is a normal part of life and specifically of marital life.  But as Carol Sorgen[i] writes, “If you and your partner feel like you’re starring in your own nightmare version of the movie Groundhog Day — i.e. the same lousy situations keep repeating day after day — it’s time to break free of this toxic routine.”  If this is your situation, you and your spouse can learn to argue in a more civil, helpful manner. Make these strategies part of who you are in this relationship.

  • It is your choice whether and how you react. Don’t think or act as if you were a helpless victim.
  • When you’re in the midst of an argument, are your comments blaming and hurtful. If so, it’s best to take a deep breath and change your strategy.
  • If you usually jump right in to defend yourself before your spouse is finished speaking, hold off for a few moments. You’ll be surprised at how such a small shift in tempo can change the whole tone of an argument.
  • If you give a little you may get a lot. Apologize when you’re wrong. Of course it’s tough, but just try it and watch something wonderful happen

The reality is that you can’t control anyone else’s behavior but your own.  Take charge by making your own changes.

 

Father God, helps us to manage in a positive way the conflicts in our life, especially those that have been happening over and over.

[i] Ibid.

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Scripture: Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. Proverbs 13:10 (NLT)

Observation: Pride. Heb. zadon, “insolence,” “presumptuousness.” The contrast here is between the one who is too proud to take advice and who feel insulted if anyone suggests that he needs it, and the wise man who listens to the advice of men of experience. Not only does the proud man quarrel with those who would instruct him, but he gets into other disputes of various kinds as a result of following his own ill-advised ways (see chs. 11:2; 12:15). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3. 1977 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (992). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: Disagreements and arguments crop up in even the best marriages. It’s not the absence of conflict but rather how conflict is handled that is an important key to marital success or failure. Some of the most current research confirms that poorly handled conflict between married couples can negatively influence mental, physical, and family health. Feelings of anger, bitterness, and unhappiness, which sometimes leads to separation and divorce, often result.
The question is, what cause conflict in marriage? Although no two situations are alike, there are some common patterns that often result in marital conflict and sometimes even leads to infidelity in a marriage, separation, or divorce. Here are some of those possible causes:

1. Unacknowledged or Unresolved Anger or Resentment. Anger and resentment that are not dealt with may be the trigger for future conflict. Disagreements over finances, sex, parenting, in-laws, or spirituality are reported as some of the most common issues over which couples have conflict.

2. Taking each other for granted and becoming bored with the relationship. Instead of always growing in intimacy, some couples settle for a comfortable relationship and don’t strive to improve it. Unfortunately, many begin to focus on the negative things they see in their spouse and use them to criticize and even attack their perceived weaknesses.

3. “The “Mid-life Crisis.” When individuals reach a certain age which has come to be known as “mid-life,” they get a certain itch, a boredom with the relationship, and with their own life. One of the interesting features of this phase is that is based primarily on the fear of growing old or older and of being less attractive or less desirable. It is now recognized that this insecurity is usually rooted in self-esteem issues from childhood or adolescence.

4. A Narcissistic Personality Style. This describes a spouse who is so excessively self-involved and ego-centric that he or she doesn’t seem to have any regard or compassion for the needs or desires of others, including those of his or her spouse. They don’t seem to feel any guilt, remorse, or shame for their hurtful or inappropriate behavior toward their spouse.

5. Unhealthy Communication Patterns. It is commonly known that many couples have patterns of communication that lead to conflict, and that in order to change those patterns they need to be taught good communication skills. The good news is that these skills can be learned.

6. Pride. Today’s text also teaches us that pride leads to conflict. Sinful, human nature seeks control. As long as we allow our sinful nature, and therefore pride, to control us, we will seek to control our spouse. If they also allow their sinful, human nature to control them, they will seek to control us. That struggle for control will inevitably lead to conflict (Genesis 3:16). On the other hand, Christ’s nature in us should lead us to be humble. Instead of trying to control the other, Christ’s nature in us will lead us to want to serve our spouse. Herein lies the solution for conflict in the Christian marriage.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help our nature to be more Christlike so that we may seek to serve one another and so that instead of having unhealthy conflict we may have loving harmony.

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No More War

Scripture: He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. Micah 4:3 (NKJV)

Observation: Micah speaks of a time when sin will be gone forever and the world s we know will not exist anymore. Instead, in the earth made new, peace and justice will reign. In specific ways, people sand even strong nations will bring their disputes to the Lord. They will submit to God’s judgment, realizing that He will decide what and who is right. Micah’s readers were aggravated under the Word of God, not wanting to be told by Him or by His prophet that they were wrong. By contrast eventually the whole world will submit willingly to God’s Word and His decisions. As a result, peace will be universal, implements of warfare (swords and spears) will be changed into tools of agriculture (plowshares and pruning hooks). Neither will there be a need to train people for warfare because the nations will be at peace.

Application: Sometimes we look at this verse and make application only to the injustice, hatred, and warfare that we witness today among peoples and nations, but we fail to realize that the application begins with each of us. When God establishes His kingdom on earth, He first establishes it in the heart of each of His children. It is when He abides in our heart (mind/life) that the principles of justice and peace flow naturally from us to others.
The question is, why do we have to wait until the Second Coming of Jesus for this experience to take place in our lives, in our marriages, and in our families? In practical terms, what does this verse mean in our homes?
1. Justice: Instead of looking for ways to show that we are right and the others are wrong, why don’t we bring our disagreements to God so that He can bring conviction of wrongdoing to each of us? Some of the conflict in marriage is the result of one or both spouses trying to show the other person how wrong they are. The result, very often, is defensiveness on the part of the other. If we submit ourselves to God, and allow Him to show us where we have erred (because we all contribute to the conflict among us), then we can also ask Him to help us eliminate our judgmental attitude toward one another.
2. Swords: Most of us probably don’t have a physical sword which we use against each other. What we all have, however, is a tongue that at times can be sharper than any sword we may use to hurt others. (Spend some time reading James 3:1-12 to be reminded of the power of the tongue). Allowing God to live in our heart will help us to control the tongue so that we don’t use it to hurt our loved ones.
3. War: No more war in marriage and our family means that when God reigns in our heart we will learn to deal with conflict in a constructive rather than a destructive way. The goal is not to eliminate all conflict, because as individuals we each have the right to feel differently, to express our wishes and opinions, to tell others what we like and dislike. The goal is to manage conflict in a positive way, in a way that benefits the couple and the family.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, come into our heart today and establish the principles of Your kingdom there so that your justice will reign in our lives, so that our words will build and not tear down, and so that even our disagreements will become a stepping stone in our relationship.

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When the Storms Threaten

Scripture: And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. Luke 8:24 (NKJV)

Observation: At this point in His ministry, Jesus seemed to be constantly followed by a crowd of people, many seeking physical relief for their ailments, others out of curiosity for this preacher, and some who really wanted to learn the spiritual lessons He was teaching. There were also those who followed Him trying to catch Him saying something contrary to their teachings, or looking for a way to accuse Him and thus get Him arrested, or better yet, killed.
Jesus, like everyone else, needed some respite at times, and at those times even a short break while on a boat was just what He needed. On this occasion, a storm arose that threatened to capsize the boat where Jesus and His disciples were, heading to the other side of the lake. Some of the disciples were experienced fishermen and had probably encountered similar storms. They used all their expertise and strength to try to control the boat and navigate it safely to the other side of the lake, but found themselves overwhelmed by the fierce storm tossing the vessel, the waves lifting and dropping the craft, the wind howling and the water filling the boat with water and the disciples with fear that they would all drown.
Finding themselves helpless and powerless, feeling as if they were about to drown, the disciples called on Jesus to save them. Jesus promptly ordered the storms to be still and peace returned to all and the boat took them safely to the other shore.
This was not the only nor the last storm Jesus and the disciples would face, but here, as it would happen many other times, Jesus brought them the peace and safety the disciples needed as well as the encouragement which strengthened their faith.

Application: Every relationship faces conflict at some point or another simply because we all are different and try to get our own way at one time or another. In marriage, the goal is not the absence of conflict but rather positive conflict management. As a marriage counselor, almost every marital couple that comes to my office feels they are overwhelmed and at the end of their rope, that they are drowning in their problems, and that they are helpless and powerless to do anything about their relationship and the problems that are sinking their family ship.
The same Jesus who calmed the fiercest storm these disciples had ever seen can calm the storms of our lives and families. We sometimes do everything we can and finally when we find ourselves at the end of our rope we turn to God or professionals for help. Turning to God should be a daily experience, one which will prevent many of the storms in life. Coming to God for help should not be our last resort but rather the first things we do. This is why we should have daily devotional time individually, as a couple, and as a family – those moments with God will strengthen our faith, but they will also strengthen our relationship with one another. Do you have any storms in your life right now. Talk them over with Jesus; He will bring calm to your life. Keep in mind that often He uses His people to help, so talking things over with a religious leader or a godly counselor could be just what you need and how God wants to help you. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and the storms of life threaten to drown you. Seek help at the first signs of trouble.

Prayer: Father, Thank You that the storms of life don’t have to drown us and that You are always with us ready to help us. Calm those storms and return to us the peace You so desire for us to enjoy.

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Scripture: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Proverbs 17:14)

Observation: Another one of the many wise saying from Solomon contained in this book.

Application: How many times we wished we had not said something?  How many times we wished we had not had an argument with our spouse, particularly when we know we started it, when we know we know we were wrong to begin with and now we don’t know how to fix it?
Solomon’s advice is so good and practical and one we should keep in mind.  One strife, or an argument, or a fight begins, it is so hard to stop it before it cause harm to one, both, or to the relationship.  Words fly, feelings are hurt, resentment sets in, forgiveness is hard to come, peace and harmony take a while to return.  It is so much easier to stem the flow before it is too late.  Instead, PRACTICE THE PREVENTION RULE.  Benjamin Franklin was on target when he stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must learn to resolve conflict before it starts. God’s instruction on this point is clear: “The beginning of strife is like the letting of water. Stop the flow before it starts. Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  – Proverb 17:14
Here are some suggestions:
1. LOOK FOR AREAS WHERE YOU ARE TO BLAME.  When you look for your responsibility in the conflict, it causes the other party to soften and often come to your defense.
2. ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS.
• Is it a Worthy Battle? Proverb 19:11 – PICK YOUR BATTLES. Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.    (Proverbs 19:11 NRSV)  Is this really a big deal? Do you want to have conflict over this? Is it really worth the anxiety and agony? Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that during a game there is going to be what is called “incidental contact.”
• Am I Wrong?  Be quick to say “I was wrong.” If you say that simple phrase to your family members, it will open a highway of opportunity for real discussion. If you are wrong, admit it. It isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we’re wrong. By admitting it, we will stop the flow of conflict. . . . immediately.
• Should I React or Respond? To React – Instinct, Impulse, or To Respond – Takes Thought.  When we react, we don’t think, we just act! There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. To react requires no intelligence, only instinct. But to respond, you have to get that three-pound chunk of gray matter in your head involved. Responding requires time; it takes the facts. Only when you respond will you have a chance to resolve conflict.  In conflict, too many of us react when we should respond. Be certain you respond; don’t just react with a knee-jerk, thoughtless reply.
• What Difference Is this Going to Make in My Life in Three Days? What Impact Will it Have in Five Years?   Many times, if you will ask these two questions, you’ll find that what might have been a ridiculous conflict is simply not worth the battle in the scheme of the big picture.  In his classic book,  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley made a very intriguing observation: “When two parties argue for an extended period of time, both are wrong.”  Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to do all things without   complaining   and disputing.  When you say the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing to say even though it might be right!

Here are a few suggestions as to how to say things more effectively to one another.

• Use the Still, Small Voice.  If we got down close to the ear of our child and whispered, the power of those words was amazing. The spirit in your heart affect’s the tone of your voice. If you’re filled with unresolved bitterness and resentment, it will come out in your voice.  Lower your voice. Take a deep breath and speak in measured tones. If you’re in a rage, step away and calm down. No one listens when you’re shouting, but everyone does when you whisper.  Watch your body language and eye contact. A certain demeaning toss of the head or look in the eye can make the hearer angry and defensive.
• Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  We can resolve many conflicts by simply allowing ourselves to laugh at the circumstance and at ourselves.
• Don’t Get Personal.  Don’t say irresponsible things about each other with the intent to hurt and
demean. That’s attacking the person, not the issue at hand.  Address the issue, not the individual.
• Don’t Bring up the Past.  Don’t bring up issues from the past and attempt to use them in the current conflict to win the verbal battle and bolster your position.
• Don’t Get off the Subject.  Don’t get off the subject by widening your argument to issues unrelated to the current conflict and discussion.  * Remember, he who angers you controls you.  Anyone can take away your freedom, but remember, the most important human freedom is your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance.
• Avoid Statements That Are Impossible to Defend.  One person may say, “I asked you to pick me up at school.” The other may reply, “No, you didn’t!” The first person responds, “Yes, I did!” This interaction is endless and fruitless. Make sure your statements are the truth.
• Avoid Six Fatal Phrases:
1. “You always. . . .”  No one always does anything.
2. “You never. . . .”  Again, you cannot accurately use the word “never” about another person’s behavior or choices.
3. “You should/could have. . . .”  Stay out of the past. How can you rationally discuss something someone “should” have  done? You can’t go back. Operate in the present.
4. “Why didn’t you. . . .”  – You can’t rewind the clock. . . .  This statement is certainly not part of a good, healthy conversation.  If you ask a person, “Why didn’t-you. . . .?” there is no way they can “rewind” the experience and fix what they have already done. It is a waste of breath.
5. “I would have. . . .”  Now you’re getting arrogant. “I” would have done it this way or that way. “I” wouldn’t have made that mistake. This remark only separates you and your listener even more and breaks down any chance for productive interaction.
6. “You make me. . . .” – No one makes you!  This one’s a real dandy. Talk about taking away all responsibility for personal behavior.  This statement is the king of them all! No one makes anyone else do anything. We choose. We are in control of our own actions and choices. Instead of saying, “You make me…,” say to the other person, “I feel…,” and explain your emotions from your perspective.

Replace Those Six Phrases with These.
1. “In the future…”  This is a proactive statement. It gives both of you a positive position for a beneficial conversation and takes the defensiveness and sting of accusation out of your interaction. For example say: “In the future, would you please leave my keys on my desk and not in the car?”
2. “Next time…”  You cannot change what has already happened. There are no magic wands in families which will unspill the milk or magically erase a word or deed. For a more positive approach to how you say things, try this. For example, say: “The next time you find out you will be late picking me up after work, I would really appreciate it if you would call and let me know.”
3. “What would have to happen…” – Open-Ended Gives the other person a chance to respond.
A person who is given the opportunity to think about their ideas, thoughts, position, or interest in a matter will be much more open to what you have to say. This phrase is one of our most important suggestions related to how you talk to someone. For example say:  “What would have to happen for you to be more helpful around the house with the children?”

Prayer: Father, help us to stop fights and arguments before they begin and thus maintain the peace in our homes we all long for so that they will be a haven of rest for all who dwell within.

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