No problem – right? Churches are supposed to be places that perfectly model love and deal with conflict so that we can learn and
First – don’t talk about it. Pretend nothing is wrong. If we avoid discussing those times when we feel hurt or avoid mentioning those things we disagree on we can maintain a shiny veneer of politeness. We will avoid ruffling feathers or worse yet, putting our social relationships at risk. After all it is so much better to pretend to love all the while stewing inside.
The second strategy is an add-on to the first – don’t talk about it – but make sure to passively communicate just how angry you are feeling. The silent treatment is a skill that improves with practice. You have to learn all sorts of non-verbal cues that will convey your feelings of distress. hese include the “I’m looking right past you even though you are standing in front of me” stare or the locked arm stance that effectively says without words – “keep away from me – leave me alone – can’t you tell I am really annoyed.” This approach of communicating without words provides a short term release of some of the steam we have simmering inside.
Third – line up allies – it will make you feel so much better once you find others who share your point of view. Think about all the gripe sessions you can participate in literally immersing yourself in a thick soup of discontent. And besides if a confrontation must occur – it is so much better to be able to point to all those others who agree with you. That will surely help to win the argument.
Fourth – start a public campaign for support. In this day and age of social media there are plenty of tools at your fingertips. Besides “unfriending” the offending party you can access a vast audience to vent, you can post or tweet unflattering comments or even rant on a blog page. Why the ways of dishing up public humiliation are endless!
Fifth – exact revenge – figure out what will inflict the greatest punishment on the offender. We might sum this up as “do unto others as they have done to you.” This may require legal recourse – after all, lawsuits are such an effective tool. Or maybe there is a speedier way to get even – like cutting the car off that just cut you off. One benefit of the revenge strategy is the immediate sense of vindication it produces.
Sixth – not the revengeful type – prefer instead to be the martyr – then there is always the walk away strategy. Leave the relationship – abandon the church community – quit the job – whatever it takes to be removed from that which has offended or hurt you. Certainly that will show them!
There are many problems with all of these approaches. First they are more time consuming than we might assume. In many ways these strategies for handling conflict tend to literally consume us. Instead of finding a way to let go of what is troubling us – we end up clutching it ever more tightly. The conflict tends to escalate and we become possessed by it. In the end the conflict functions like a poison eating away at us as well as all those who surround us. In a nutshell – these strategies simply do not work!
This gets us to what Jesus proposes and it is amazingly straightforward! If someone hurts you, go and tell them directly – try to work it out between you. If that doesn’t work, take one or two others along with you – not to gang up but to keep things honest and in perspective. If that doesn’t work – expand those involved to the broader community. The important thing is to keep at it – don’t give up – and be sure that you are not only confronting the one who has hurt you but also offering God’s forgiving love. And lastly, remember – if two or three come together in this way – Jesus will be there too!
In the end we always have a choice on how to handle things. It can seem so much easier to give in to lesser emotions even if they don’t produce any positive result. But when we acknowledge that life is indeed short we have to ask – why waste precious moments bickering and harboring grudges. Yes – love can be a hard thing to do. Perhaps this is why Jesus insists that we keep on practicing it. Then and only then, will we be ready to enter the fullness of God’s kingdom – a place where truly – all you need is love!