I. The Definition of Conflict
- “Conflict is a situation in which two or more human beings desire goals which they perceive as being attainable by one or the other but NOT by both.” (Stagner)
- “Conflict arises when the actions of one party threatens the values, goals or behaviors of another party.” (Shawchuck)
- “Conflict is two or more objects aggressively trying to occupy the same space at the same time…two persons each trying to have his ‘own way’ regarding an important decision…” (Shawchuck)
A. The Latin root of the word “conflict” (Fligere) means “to strike.”
- This root is found in the word “inflict,” which means to strike onto (in) somebody…
- And in the word “profligate,” which literally means to “strike forward” or to knock someone on the face.
B. Please consider. Can any or all of these words be closely associated with conflict?
C. Some misconceptions regarding conflict:
- Conflict is abnormal
- Conflict and disagreement are the same
- Conflict must be reduced or avoided
- Conflict is linked only with anger
- Conflict is the admission of failure
II. The Inevitability of Conflict
A. Ever since the fall in Genesis 3 conflict has been inevitable. Originally, Adam and Eve were created without conflict and in perfect harmony with God, nature and all forms of God’s creation. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God conflict immediately surfaced in at least areas:
- Divine Conflict – perfect fellowship with God was broken.
- Spiritual Conflict – the battle with Satan and the powers of darkness began.
- Physical Conflict – man would live by “sweat of brow” & woman suffer in child-bearing.
- Intrapersonal Conflict – inner conflict (right & wrong) was created by sin.
- Interpersonal Conflict – conflict between and among individuals became a reality.
B. Though conflict has come about due to the fall, all conflict does not have to be bad.
C. One’s response to conflict and how it is handled is the determining factor. When conflict results in gossiping, attacking, character assassination and hurting other people, then sin has entered the picture.
D. The purpose of this seminar will be “how to manage interpersonal conflict” in order to prevent sinful behavior and hinder the work of the Lord.
III. Examples of Conflict in Scripture
A. Adam blaming Eve for sin – Genesis 3.
B. Cain & Abel; Jacob & Esau; Abraham & Lot; David & Saul; Jonah & God; Job & Satan.
C. The disciples debate over who was the greatest (role definition) – Luke 22:24-27.
D. Mary & Martha’s conflict over goals (role expectations) – Luke 10:38-42.
E. Mary & Judas Iscariot’s conflict over goods (question of values) – John 12:1-8.
F. The “early” and “late” workers in the vineyard (injustice vs. fact) – Matthew 20:1-16.
G. Church conflict over legitimate needs (priorities) – Acts 6:1-7.
H. Church conflict over wrong doctrine (unity) – Acts 15:1-35.
I. Sometimes conflicts are over issues, sometimes with other people, sometimes with yourself, and sometimes with God.
J. Since the fall, there has always been and always will be, conflict in the world. What should distinguish the church, and the Christian from the world, is not the absence of conflict, but rather the way conflict is handled. The Believer has divine help and should be a showcase to the world of God’s resolution of conflict in an orderly fashion.
IV. Causes of Conflict
A. Review again the definitions of conflict under point #1.
B. Conflicts occur between individuals when different goals/solutions are desired.
C. Conflicts occur when individuals dispute the same territory.
D. Conflicts occur when individuals have different ideas based upon their “values” system.
E. Conflicts occur when individuals have personality differences.
F. Conflicts occur when individuals have different positions on issues or methods.
G. Conflicts occur when individuals disagree on beliefs.
V. Benefits of Conflict & Dangers of Avoiding Conflict
A. Benefits of conflict:
- It can lead to personal growth and maturity.
- It permits the venting of frustrations.
- It stirs up the status quo.
- It can strengthen relationships.
- It assists in seeing another side.
B. Dangers of avoiding conflict:
- Needed changes are not made.
- Resentment builds up.
- Frustrations often taken out on others.
- Discontentment, gossip, and backbiting grow.
- Blessings of the Lord disappear.
VI. Various Responses to Conflict
A. Withdrawal: “I’ll just back off and avoid the problem.”
B. Rationalization: “He just doesn’t have all the facts.”
C. Denial: “There’s not really a problem here – let’s forget it.”
D. Pugnacity: “I’m going to fight until I get my way.”
E. Management: “Let’s work on this until we get it solved.”
VII. Interpersonal Conflict Resolution
A. Follow God’s Word in working through your conflict. Matthew 18:15-20
B. Attack the problem – not the person. Ephesians 4:32; I Thessalonians 5:15
C. Surface the facts and suppress the emotions. James 1:19
D. Focus on the present – not the past. Philippians 3:13
E. Don’t allow your tongue to cause you to sin. Ephesians 4:29
F. Speak the truth but always in love. Ephesians 4:15
G. Try to understand the other viewpoint. Philippians 2:1-4; Ephesians 4:2-3
H. Ask the Lord for a loving heart and a forgiving spirit. I Peter 4:8; Colossians 3:13
VIII. Insights From Proverbs Regarding Conflict
A. When we avoid conflict with the Lord, even our enemies are at peace with us. Prov. ’16:7
B. We must each control our own tempers. Prov. 16:32
C. It is best to resolve conflict early. Prov. 17:14
D. Guard against judging before the facts are in. Prov. 18:17
E. Sometimes a third party can help solve the conflict. Prov. 18:18
F. Some conflicts are not worth fighting. Prov. 19:11
G. Be cautious in participating in a quarrel not your own. Prov. 26:17
“A Communication Covenant”
- We will express irritations and annoyances we have with one another in a loving, specific, and positive way rather than holding them in or being negative in general.
- We will not exaggerate or attack the other person during the course of a disagreement.
- We will attempt to control the emotional level and intensity of arguments.
- We will never let the sun go down on our anger or never run away from each other during an argument.
- We will both try hard not to interrupt the other person when he or she is talking.
- We will carefully listen to the other person in the course of an argument.
- We will not toss in past failures of the other person in the course of an argument.
- When something is important enough for one person to discuss, it is that important for the other person.
Good advice for individuals, families and Christian organizations!
Notes by Maynard H. Belt