Pastors and Conflict: 8 Purposeful Actions to Help Heal Conflict

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I sat in my office very early Monday and journaled about conflict.  As a pastor, I recognize that conflict is inevitable. Why? I’m human and I deal with humans.  I’m imperfect. I pastor an imperfect congregation. The more I understand that, the less pressure it puts upon me to be perfect. 

It was about 5 years ago, someone told me, “your job is to keep people from conflict.”  How impossible is that? Jesus didn’t even do that. But it’s a mantle that so many pastors take upon themselves.  

Pastors feel like a firefighter; constantly putting out little fires everywhere because people do not know how to navigate through healthy Biblical conflict (that’s another blog). We take upon ourselves the responsibility to solve everything so that everyone is happy and satisfied. Again, Jesus didn’t even do that. 

There’s also the constant pressure to make the church about the preference of the weekly attender.  With literally, hundreds of opinions and varied ideas for what the church “should” do is enough to rip the joy from why you do ministry.  And because you don’t do what people want you to do, you are blamed for “not caring” and/or not “hearing people.” 

So I started penning down some thoughts in my journal to share with my staff in our weekly staff meeting. I’m going to type them out like their written so their not well explained.  But you’ll get the gist. 

Here’s what I came up with and shared with my pastoral staff: 

1 – Defuse with compassion.
– Look at the world through the eyes of the “offended.” Get inside their skin and understand from their perspective. What’s their home life like? What season of life are they in? Are they dealing with issues that is intensifying the situation? Grab their perspective.
– Approach it humbly. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. Have a teachable spirit.

2 – Validate their feelings. 
– Be cautious to tell someone they are wrong to feel that way.  Feelings are real. Emotions are real.
– Connect to what he/she is feeling. This may be the greatest connection point.
– Perspective IS reality.  Help give direction by guiding him/her though their focus. 

3 – Bring the conflict to the proper battlefield. 
– Be in the proper place and the proper time for conflict. Sunday morning in the church hallway isn’t the right place. 
– Make sure it’s the right venue. I saw a pastor in the coffeehouse the other day trying to deal with marital conflict.  That may not have been the best choice.
– Have the right people there.  My dad always says, “there’s two sides to every dime…then there’s the edge of the dime nobody is telling you.”

4 – Agree on what will be discussed and keep the meeting about THAT point.
– Try to stay on point to bring resolution. Keep the main thing the “main thing.”
– When a meeting is set, agree on what will be talked about to help keep focus.  Don’t get blindsided. 

 5 – Take ownership/responsibility over what you need to.
– Don’t take on undo faults. Taking on undo credit both good and bad isn’t healthy. 
– Don’t throw people under the bus.  Help guide your appointment to healthy biblical Matthew 18 conflict. 
– Represent yourself, your staff, and your church well. Be humble yet firm. 
– Represent The Church well.  Show the love and compassion of Jesus.

6 – Ask for forgiveness if you are at fault. 
– Avoid saying, “I’m sorry” and use “will you forgive me.” There’s a massive difference. “I’m sorry” helps establish sorrow.  “Will you forgive me” initiates the responsibility of forgiveness from the other party. 

7 – Give forgiveness. 
– If someone apologizes offer forgiveness verbally.  “I forgive you” does so much more than “it’s okay.” When forgiveness is extended, it releases an individual.  
– Communicate it afterwords.  It could be a note/card. Maybe it’s a text or message. To many people picture a vindictive God because their pastor doesn’t communicate or walk in forgiveness well.  

8 – Resolution doesn’t mean everyone gets what they want. INCLUDING YOU THE PASTOR.
– Keep the main thing Jesus and His Kingdom.
– Embrace and celebrate what you share.
– You may agree to disagree.
– Pray together.
– Give direction and accountability.
– Go after the Kingdom win and not the personal win. 

Do we as a staff (or any pastoral staff for that matter) have this stuff down perfect? Nope.  We’re human which is why we all need reminders of how to approach people with the same grace that Christ shows us.

Be humble. Be teachable. Show the love of Jesus.

Rinse and repeat.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Dirty Laundry Can Ruin Your Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

dirty-laundry-600x314

 

You’ve seen it and I’ve seen it.  

If you are involved in ANY type of social network, you’re going to have it flashed in front of you.  Some of you deal with it in work.  Others deal with it in the neighborhood.  I see it in church a lot. 

Dirty laundry. 

I’ve been familiar with the idiom for years. I’ve heard my parents use it as well as friends and co-workers. 

Someone is “airing their dirty laundry.”

The phrase simply means you are talking about things (usually a problem or dispute) that should be kept private. It stems from the idea from the fact that your dirty laundry (an analogy for dirty secrets) should be kept out of sight when people are visiting, otherwise it could be embarrassing for you or them. It can also be phrased “Don’t air you dirty laundry in public”.  But these days, there seems to be little to no boundaries when it comes to what SHOULD be private and not public.  

I believe social networking is a tremendous gift.  It’s given us the power of connecting with the people around us as well as reconnecting with friends and family once separated by geography.  You feel a part of your friend’s life even though he/she lives across the country.  It’s also empowered so many introverts with a voice of expression (both good and bad).  For those of us who grew up struggling with shyness and insecurity, social network has helped us break out of our shell.  My own personal social network posting philosophy is fun, inspiration, and connection (friends, sports, hobbies, etc). 

People post anything…and I mean anything. 

Selfies. Pictures of their food. Ridiculous moments of their day (I’m guilty). What their child said/did that was so cute. Random thoughts.  Inspirational quotes.  Memes of kittens with a random scripture overlaid.

It seem like there’s no end to what we can come up with to post. 

Then it comes up.  

Dirty Laundry.

dirty-laundry

“My husband/wife said something that hurt me…”
“My husband/wife is a…”
“My husband/wife expects…”
“I don’t care what anyone thinks, but my spouse…”
“What is my spouse thinking…”
“I can believe he/she is acting like…”
“People, you know who you are, need to…”
“My in-laws are…” 

As much as people can complain about what to post (quotes, kittens, food, etc.), this is one post that has to go away. There is no place for this.  You may have the right to do it…but it doesn’t make it right. Please take your dirty laundry off the line and take it back into the house. 

Why? Because it’s telling the all of us one of several things (in reality, it could be more than one): 

  1. Your hurting. 
    That’s a given.  I will not be sarcastic about your hurt.  I will not mock it.  You’re living in fracture and you need the same healing that I received through Christ.  One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
  2. You don’t have a clue about how to handle conflict with your spouse.
    Again, I’m not mocking you, but you need help. It’s okay to admit you need help.   But seek it without dropping your laundry on the social network world.  Unless all of your “friends/followers” are solid Christian counselors, keep it out of your feed. Proverbs 12:15 “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Go to prayer.  Get help as a couple. Become a student of marriage and work on your conflict resolution.  I promise. It will bless you and your spouse.
  3. You enjoy drama and you, apparently, don’t want the soap opera that you are living in to end.
    Admit it.  There are drama kings/queens all around us.  If you are one of them…STOP IT!  (I’ll admit, sometimes I think I’m one of them.  That’s where Anne calls me out.)  Misery loves company (another idiom I should blog on) and if you are miserable, you want people to be sucked into it.  Why? It’s giving you attention.  You are the focus and the longer the facebook thread is, the more fulfilled you feel.  Proverbs 27:2 “Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you.”
  4. You’re selfish enough to rally everyone to your side and away from your spouse.
    You know there are people on social network that are foolish enough to take your side having only heard your side of the story and not your spouses’. Hurt people do hurtful things like manipulate situations to help themselves.  Galatians 5:16 “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.”
  5. You’re vicious. 
    Your rants are a warning to people of their future if they cross you.  It’s burning bridges that you, in your hurting state, can’t afford to lose. Listen to the words of the Psalmist, “God, get me out of here, away from this evil; protect me from these vicious people. All they do is think up new ways to be bad; they spend their days plotting war games. They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt, speak venomous words that maim and kill.” Psalms 140:1-2.

If your on the reading end of social network, the “dirty laundry” being aired out is nothing more than a black widow’s web designed to ensnare you and poison you. Reach out to the hurting individual privately. 

Let me say that again: Reach out to the hurting individual privately.  Don’t engage in business that isn’t yours.  But there are ways to reach out to speak healing without becoming a part of the problem. 

If you’re the one hanging the “dirty laundry”, it’s time to step back and get some help.  It’s time to engage with your spouse in a way that fosters healthy communication skills.  Proverbs 10:19 says “The wise measure their words.” Your words need to be used in the right timing, in the right atmosphere, with the right tones.  It won’t turn around overnight. But intentional acts/words of health breed marriages, that themselves, move toward health. 

Your dirty laundry wasn’t meant for others.  It’s for you and your spouse. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The Myth of Compatibility

Dave and Anne diagonal

Men and women are different.  (Now that I’ve completely blown you away with that ground-breaking truth, I’ll continue.)

What I’ve discovered, and continue to discover in my own marriage, is how different we continue to be.  It seemed like during the whole courtship/dating process, we were so much more “compatible”.  The word “compatible” means, “Able to exist or occur together without conflict.” That describes our relationship before marriage.  We fooled each other. I was convinced she liked Stryper, my hairstyle, my teal suit, and sports.  She was convinced I liked shopping at the mall and Cindy Morgan music.

For two years of dating almost a year of engagement, life with Anne was “compatible.” We had never fought or had a disagreement in almost…until the dreaded day of days.  It was the day we registered for our wedding shower.  Target gives you a scanner to walk around and scan/pick the items you want on your registry. I should have seen it coming.  But how could I?  We were “compatible.” The event blew up in the kitchen aisle.  I wanted a specific toaster. I didn’t get the memo that I was with her for support and not as the advisory committee. She had in her mind what she wanted HER kitchen and how she wanted HER kitchen to look. I was hacked. I grabbed the scanner gun and made my stance in the snack aisle.  I scanned  a bag pretzels and a bottle of Coke. Then all hades broke loose.

(This is the reason I go to prayer every time I see a young couple walking around Target with their scanner.)

Compatibility is a myth that is causing so many people to want to call quits on their marriage.  It has suckered so many people into affairs because their new-found love is more compatible than their current spouse.  It’s not that you work better with that new person, it’s that you exist together without conflict.  The more you believe it the more you get addicted to the “feeling” of compatibility. So, what about all those happy couples that meet online? Aren’t they proof that “compatibility tests’ work? They might be proof that compatibility attracts, but that’s all. Unfortunately, compatibility is a fantasy that blinds us with rose-colored glasses.  If you don’t understand it, it can set you up for disaster.  A clip from Jerry Maguire came to mind.

We think our spouse will complete us. Compatibility is that ideal that we run after to make it happen.  In our minds, it means I have some strengths and she has some strengths and we work them together to make each other complete.  But there in lies the problem.  Genesis says, “the two become one.” The “I” and “her/him” mentality still sees the two of you as two individuals working together.  Marriage then becomes a 50/50 proposition; I give and my spouse gives and we’re all good. When that mentality is fostered, it’s easy to spot compatibility problems because you’re still thinking like TWO.  You need to be thinking like ONE.  “We have these strengths in our marriage.”  It comes a 100/100 proposition were you both are bringing everything that you are and all that you will be. Together, the two operate and think as one.

Here’s a few things I’d like to say on the subject of “compatibility”:

First, find your “completion” in Christ Jesus. You cannot find your completion in your spouse. Jesus is the only hope for two sinners to make it in marriage. Marriage is the coming together, through covenant, of two broken individuals. With Christ, you make a “cord that is not easily broken.”

Second, learn HEALTHY conflict resolution (notice I used the word “healthy”).  Don’t count on compatibility to get you through 60+ years of marriage. You’re going to disagree on stuff.  You’re human.  Your spouse is human.  At some point, the honeymoon glasses come off and you see things in ways you didn’t see  them while you were dating. Healthy conflict is good within a marriage.

I do want to say: There are some hills that are not worth dying on. Some people like to fight and live in the mindset of criticism. I don’t run from conflict. But I don’t go looking for it either.  I have learned over the past 15 years of marriage and 16 years of ministry, that some “hills” are not worth the battle.  Some battles will result in nothing but casualties with no ground won and no health attained. When healthy conflict approached in a balanced, productive way, the marriage is built up.  When it’s done selfishly, there isn’t one loser.  There are two people who lose.

Third, learn to laugh. Life is too serious not to learn to laugh at situations.  One time, I walked out of the shower and my wife started laughing. What happened was she had thought of something funny a split second before I opened up the shower curtain. So I will say, be careful WHEN you laugh (I took that moment pretty hard).  Couples that laugh together stay together.  Why don’t you laugh anymore?  Find out how to bring the laughter back and go after it.

Fourth, you have more control over your marriage than you think. A great marriage isn’t something that just happens, like the weather. It is something you create, day by day. Revelation 2:5 doesn’t deal with marriage but gives great advise.  It says, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Again, the context is a very strong challenge to a church to get back to the basics of their first love. But there’s some truth we can cling to in our marriages. Consider how far you’ve gotten from the way you used to pursue your spouse.  Repent and do the things you did when you first started seeing them.

That’s all I have for this week.

Thanks for letting me ramble…