The 7 Gifts of Conflict (Refrigerator Rights)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “Refrigerator Rights.” This series is designed to develop healthy relationships in the context of a network of support.

At the South Campus I shared some of the following thoughts:

Who has refrigerator rights in your life? Refrigerator Rights can tell us a lot about our relational health. It’s not just about the food in your fridge, is it? It’s about more than that.

It is normal to be in the midst of conflict.  The world is full of strife.

We’ve all heard the statistics that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but did you know that only 1/3 of all marriages make it to 25 years?  Only 1 out of every 5 marriages makes it to 35 years.  Of course, some of this is due to illness and mortality rates, but only 5% of all marriages make it to 50 years.


• Research shows that 60-80% of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in individual employee’s skill or motivation. Daniel Dana, Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home (2005, 4th ed.); Barbara J. Kreisman, Insights into Employee Motivation, Commitment and Retention (2002).

• The typical manager spends 25-40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two days of every work week. Washington Business Journal, May 2005.

• More than 50% of employers report having been sued by an employee. Society for Human Resource Management survey, cited in USA Today (Workers win more lawsuits, awards, March 27, 2001).

We don’t have to fall into this trap! Too many times, we think that being right is more important than making things right. We believe we deserve more and shouldn’t be wronged or cheated.

Conflict can be a gift. Here are seven gifts that can come from conflict:

1. Conflict can help move us closer to God and towards depending on Him.

It is human nature that when we face conflict and challenges we are more likely to pursue Him than when things are going well.

Jesus made things right. God initiated reconciliation. Even though He was not at fault, He pursued us.  In spite of the wicked choices we have made, Jesus came to rescue us.  Even beyond that, Jesus gives encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion. 

2. Conflict reminds us that everyone has value.

Everyone has unique strengths and talents (no one has failed the Strengths Finder).  Some of our gifts and strengths and personalities naturally tend to “oppose” each other, but when we are in healthy relationships and healthy community, our differences make us stronger together. Our areas of weakness are opportunities for us to partner with others who are strong where we are weak.

Can you see the unique ways God has crafted those around you?  Do you help them maximize who they are or do you just look to see what you can get from them?

Conflict reveals our differences and if we look for it can help us find what we have in common.

Conflicts can help us discover others’ uniqueness, values, and passions. Work to figure out what you have in common and build on that.

3. When we experience conflict we are experiencing what Jesus promised.

He promised we would face persecution. (There is a difference between doing something good that is rejected and doing something bad that has unpleasant consequences).

Conflict shows you are going against the status quo.

People do not like change. People would rather experience an unhealthy known than take the risk to experience a healthy unknown. Conflict could be the direct result of the progress you have been trying to make!

Conflict enhances gratitude for when times were good and when relationships are healthy and reminds us that it can be that way again.

We have forgotten more of the good that God has done in our life than we remember!

4. When we see conflict, we have the opportunity to live out our purpose and calling since we are called to be reconcilers.

We are to be reconcilers (2 Cor. 5:20).

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” – Romans 5:10 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

In other words, children of God bring peace to those around us. When you see conflict, do you try help bring peace? Are you a peacemaker?

5. Conflict creates the opportunity to turn enemies into friends.

When conflict arises (and it will), bless those who persecute you.  Do not take revenge but feed your hungry enemy, give drink to your enemy who thirsts, overcome evil with good. (Romans 12)

Sweet revenge means doing the opposite of what you feel.  Ironically our enemies hate that!  If Jesus befriended Judas, then we should be willing to love our enemies.

Make an effort.

So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

Live in harmony.  Do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  Live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you. Romans 12:18

Matt 5:23-24, Matt 18:15

Contradiction?  Which is it? So who should make the first step?  Jesus knew one of us wouldn’t so He invited both the offender and the offended to make the first step. Learn to apologize. Learn to forgive (even without their apology).  A friend of mine described not forgiving someone is like holding our own breath hoping the person that hurt us suffocates.

If you have been offended then make things right. Matthew 18:15

If you have offended someone, then make things right. Matthew 5:23-24

  • Do you have something against someone?
  • Does anyone have something against you?
  • What are you going to do about it?

Forgive.  Talk things through.  So often we fight with people in our minds before we ever actually talk!  We assume the worst!  We get defensive even when the other person didn’t intend to be offensive.  Say your sorry sincerely without any expectation.

6. Conflict allows us to experience the beauty of forgiveness.

We’ve been forgiven by God and need to offer forgiveness to others.

So how many times? When I asked my daughter Trevi (age 10) how many times Jesus said we should forgive, she said: “I know, I know. ‘to infinity and beyond.’”

“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times ?’ Jesus answered: ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” – Matthew 18:21-22

For us, to live a supernatural life means to Make Things Right. Are you a peacemaker?  Do you bring peace into your relationships?

I Corinthians 6:7  “Why not rather be wronged and cheated?!”

What do we deserve? Trying to change perspective and develop gratitude. “nothing”

Making Things Right > Being Right

7. Conflict helps us grow.

Conflict helps us see what we may have missed otherwise. We fight most with those with whom we are closest.  We don’t have hard conversations with someone we don’t like or care about.

“A rebuke from a friend is like a kiss.” – Proverbs 27:5-6

“Iron sharpens iron.” – Proverbs 17:17

Are you experiencing peace in your relationships?  If not, what can you do to make things right?  With whom do you need to have a meaningful and reconciling conversation even today?

To watch or listen to the message “Refrigerator Rights: Who Stole My Tiramisu” by Rick Shurtz go to


Showing 2 comments
  • Lisa Schulz-Quimby

    Thanks so much Eric, for this message! It gave me a very different look at conflict..a refreshing, and positive one!

  • ericbryantblog

    So glad you found this helpful! hope to see you soon at Gateway!

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