Friday, May 1, 2009

Some Christians Are So Good At Hating! Dealing With Conflict In The Church!

I deal with hurting people. I love hurting people. I think Jesus appreciates that, unfortunately it seems like many in “the church” like to keep hurting by going behind the backs of their so called brothers and sisters and blasting away at each other. I know this as a pastor of an online ministry, a pastor of a local church, and more importantly as a human being.

I try to be honest, I try to maintain integrity, I try to be real, I can’t tell you how much it hurts when others blast away, seem to not care, break promises, or refuse to follow biblical concepts and guidelines. On the areas of conflict and disagreement, we have clear direction but why some don’t seem to care who says they love Jesus astounds and confuses me at times.

Over the years I have been far from perfect, but I continue to strive in the direction of the cross and ways of Jesus and not waiver. I realize when I do waiver off the path that God has his own wonderful and unique way of bringing me back onto the path, but that don’t change the hurt that is delivered at the hands of those who are commanded to love.

Recently I have been dealing with some struggles, I will admit, I am more sensitive than I sometimes let on. I was on line talking to a friend the other day and broke down crying as I realized the hurt I had regarding my son. Some recent things had happened that hurt me deeply, and after reviewing those things, decided to respond with tough love. In some ways, I hate the cliché “tough love” because so many use it, but have no idea what it really means.

Most people assume tough love implies that you are going to be tough on someone, what they don’t realize is that tough love is far tougher on the person giving it than the person receiving it. Let me be frank, I hurt, I hurt so deeply I can’t begin to describe the tears my wife and I have shed, yet you know what we do, we try to hide it, we say things are okay. I don’t think we are too unique in that, I think most people when hurting say things like that, I know why, because no matter who you are, or the situation you are in, people are rude, and think only of themselves, the last thing you want is a quick damning word that makes you hurt more, yet that is exactly what happens. As a follower of Jesus, it really hurts when those people who are supposed to love you, hurt you the most.

Now don’t get me wrong, none of this means you should never have conflict. Conflict is a part of growth, but how you deal with that conflict is a whole other issue. It amazes me at how people have to go to others and gossip, backbite, and hurt others.

In this process there is so much damage it is saddening. One person feels the need to tell someone else in confidence, and in return the person hearing realizes their need to listen, and the cycle goes round in round, and we have what we pretend to be presenting ourselves as a caring listening friend, when in reality we are engaging in gossip.

I have had several situations recently where episodes like this has come about, not just with me, but with others, but the hurt I and others have felt are real, and unnecessary.

For those who follow Jesus, and those who don’t the Bible is clear on this subject, and I would suggest that following those guidelines will help with relationships. First, if you have a problem with someone, if you think someone is saying something that is negative, or has any negative connotations; speak directly with the person before going and making public comment. There are exceptions; people in the work place or church, in some regards have obligations. A mental health worker for example has a responsibility to speak to supervisors if they feel harm may come about, a teacher has a responsibility to report if they suspect abuse, and a pastor or elder has the responsibility to share with other pastors and elders if they suspect the need, but it stops there. There has to be the understanding of personal and professional responsibility. But on one on one issues, and even in situations like the above mentioned there is the responsibility of going directly to the person.

Now this leaves another problem and that is the person listening to the complaints, the criticisms etc. You have the responsibility to not listen, in fact, your first response should be, “I am not going to listen to complaints about whosoever, if you have a complaint or want to bring up an issue, you should speak to them directly.” It is simple, if people were to practice this concept, we would quickly resolve the issue of backbiting. Let me make something clear from my own experience, if someone will backbite, or tear someone else down to you, they will to someone else about you. It isn’t worth it, take the high ground and tell them you won’t listen. I have actually walked away from conversations after the person kept speaking when I confronted them with this concept. They quickly got the point.

Now to my last point before going to an article that deals with this subject. This does not say we should never confront one another, even at times in a way that may seem harsh. In fact, it is often in the going to the person directly that confrontation will in fact take place. I can deal with that, I grew up in the streets. It is my experience that most people can deal better with what they know is coming directly at them, then they can with what they don’t know and comes at their back. In the old west, shooting someone in the back was called a “cowards way.” It is a part of the reason the cliché “getting stabbed in the back” is a negative connotation. For people who are called to serve Jesus, be a man or a woman, and if you have to give something to someone in a negative way, do it to their face, otherwise, another verse of scripture may apply, “keep your mouth shut!”

Now there is a teacher I appreciate, and the concept of this teaching is universally held by most theologians and Bible teachers. One of my favorite teachers is Dr. Charles Stanley. I am posting here the link to an article he did on this subject and I encourage you to read it, contemplate on it, and then do as Jesus commanded, go and sin no more.

The following is the link to the article. The article includes links, following the link is the article without the links. Click Here for the article.
How to Handle Personal Conflict
By Charles F. Stanley

Conflicts take many forms, from children shouting and punching on the playground to the most sophisticated international intrigue in times of war. Your "hot spot" for not getting along with others could be at home in your family or on the job with a co-worker whose personality isn't the best fit.

Whatever the case, you encounter various kinds of conflict in many areas of life, even as one who belongs to Christ. Some Christians mistakenly believe that since Jesus lives in and through them, guiding them with the Holy Spirit, that they will be able to avoid confrontations with others. Because God loves us so much and works continually to conform us to His image, Jesus does not prevent every argument from happening. Those He allows, He provides a way through them with grace.

He never intended for you to spend your energy seeking for ways to avoid all tension. That is impossible in this life. Jesus wants us to know what to be prepared for: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV).
Imagine this scene in a typical home. The sister works hard all day doing what her mother asked—scrubbing the tile floors, cleaning the windows, folding the laundry. Her brother, however, spends his Saturday out with friends instead of doing his chores. To make matters worse, when her brother does come home, he succeeds in tromping mud down the entrance hall and doesn't even help to wipe it up.

Then suddenly, she blows her top. She tells him how thoughtless he is, among other things, and does not stop until she's vented her frustration. A few minutes later, as she sees his dejected, surprised face, she feels horrible. Now it will take much talking and forgiving to work through their disagreement.
That is the way it is with conflict. When a difference is not resolved within a reasonable amount of time, and within the boundaries of scriptural principles, more pain is the result.

In his book "Christian Counseling," Gary Collins talks about why anger is a natural part of conflict.

When a person is rejected, "put down," humiliated, unjustly criticized, or otherwise threatened, anger is often aroused. Threats challenge our self-esteem and make us feel so vulnerable that anger and aggression become ways to fight back. Sometimes when we are threatened and made aware of our own imperfections we respond in anger toward those who fail to meet our expectations of them. This directs attention away from ourselves, hides the fact that we are hurt or threatened, and lets us feel better at someone else's expense.

According to one psychologist, hurt and anger almost always go together. "Seconds after the event which arouses the hurt feeling, another feeling skyrockets into awareness—anger." The anger comes so quickly and is so apparent that it is easy to miss the hurt which comes first.

So how do you defuse the emotional bomb once you sense the countdown has begun? The power of Jesus Christ is the answer (Philippians 4:13). He is the only one who can control your emotions and channel them in the right directions. It is also crucial to remember that anger is not intrinsically wrong (Matthew 21:12-17). Anger in response to sin and its ill effects is a form of righteous anger, but when it crosses the line into nursing a grudge, or retaliation, or mean-spirited vengeance, it is not honoring to God.

A key principle for handling anger is found in Ephesians 4:26-27: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." Have you ever gone to bed at night with an argument unsettled? How did you feel the next morning? More than likely, the sensation of weight on your heart had grown, and you might have felt physically ill.

Your own health and well-being are not the only reasons for quick resolution; the deeper principle at work is one of avoiding bitterness. When a hurt is not addressed, it works its way down into your inmost parts. Bitterness is a lack of forgiveness multiplied many times over, taking root and spreading into every segment of life.

A typical argument may operate in this fashion. You hear the accusations start to fly. Everything within you wants to just "tell it like it is" and make the person be silent, even at the expense of future communication. But this time, you are prepared. You understand how the Bible puts disagreements into eternal perspective, and you let Jesus take control of the situation.

1) Don't be concerned about making yourself heard. Be a good listener first. You cannot hope to defuse the intensity of both sets of emotions until you can calmly listen to the other person's point of view (James 1:19-20).

This is the biblical principle of "counting to ten" before you speak. Of course, the Lord wants you to do far more than engage in an empty, mental exercise. He wants you to pray, think about what Scripture applies to the situation, and ask Him to demonstrate His love to the other person in spite of your confused and uptight feelings.

2) Be truthful, as much as is loving under the circumstances, and don't seek to avoid the heart of the matter. It is always better to deal with the issue directly, rather than sidestepping or burying it. Colossians 3:9 explains the reason why you should speak honestly: "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices."

3) Speak in love with words that build up the other person. The classic problem most people experience is that the very moment when gracious words are most required is also the moment that kindness is the most difficult. Again, the grace of the Lord must operate through you, and you can prepare to let Him work in advance of an argument (Ephesians 4:29).
Norman Wright gives a picture of how Jesus demonstrated these qualities with difficult people in trying situations:

A basic characteristic of Jesus' approach was His compassion for others . . . His concern was to alleviate suffering and meet the needs of people.

When Jesus first met others, He accepted them as they were. In other words, He believed in them and what they would become. The characteristic of acceptance is seen in John 4, John 8, and Luke 19. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He accepted her as she was without judging her. He accepted the woman caught in adultery and Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, as well.

Individuals were Jesus' top priority. He established this priority and gave them worth by putting their needs before the rules and regulations . . . He involved Himself in the lives of people who were considered the worst of sinners, and He met them where they had a need.

In any conflict, you should know that the outcome is not in your hands. You cannot force someone to listen or forgive or change. Only God can work in his or her heart, the same way that He works with you in patience and unconditional love (Philippians 2:13). You can only be responsible for yourself and your relationship with Christ.

In certain cases, you may be left with great hurts. You may be someone's emotional victim. God understands this pain, but He counsels you to let Him handle the offender (Romans 12:19).

Penelope Stokes shares a principle for facing such hurt in her book "Grace Under Pressure": "When we face a crisis of misunderstanding—no minor disagreement, but a major, life-shattering accusation—we are placed in a position to receive an abundant measure of the grace of God."

Whether you face conflict that redefines your spiritual existence or whether you deal with the routine disagreements of everyday living, the reality of Jesus' healing love is the same—and it belongs to you.

Some links to other recommended articles:

The following is a video on conflict, it can teach us a lot, just click on the video to watch, if the video don't appear, just click on the following link:

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1 comment:

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

My Friend Paul contacted me to make the following comment, for some reason, having a little difficulty with my account for now.

I agree with the gossip issue. If conversation about someone else seeks to solve a problem, then I'm game. If it's a bitch session, I've got more interesting and fruitful things to talk to people about. It doesn't take long to figure out which it is. Of the things we can learn, we can learn that gossip hurts people and has the potential to stunt the spiritual growth of all involved. The one being gossiped about has a better chance of overcoming the harm spiritually. If your a gossip (as I once was big time) breaking out of that can be very painful emotionally, but once free of it, you will see a new world of spirituality you were blind to before. You can also be the catalyst for change in others, its well worth the pain, it is well worth those who will not talk to you any more when you leave their camp. That spiritual growth alone can only be experienced when it happens. I cannot explain in words how that freedom feels.