Avoid Conflict (HTKARI30D)

At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series, How To Kill A Relationship in 30 Days (HTKARI30D).

Having healthy relationships is a pretty common goal, but achieving that goal can be a real challenge. Why is that? Why is it so tough to have happy relationships and to make those relationships last?

According to the Prepare and Enrich assessment which has helped 3,000,000 couples from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities, here are the 5 Relationship Killers:

  1. Communicate in Code (message notes and message video from North Campus)
  2. Get Your Way Always (message notes and message video from Gateway South)
  3. Dwell on What’s Wrong (message notes and message video from Gateway South)
  4. Don’t Commit (message notes and message video from Gateway South)
  5. Avoid Conflict (message notes and message video from Gateway South)

Gateway South messages can be heard via the SoundCloud app or go to https://soundcloud.com/ericbryant-1

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE I SHARED AT GATEWAY SOUTH:

HERE ARE THE NOTES FROM THE MESSAGE FROM JUSTIN McCARTY:

Today, we’re wrapping up by looking at one more relationship killer — and this one is especially sad because rather than destroying a relationship quickly, it often creates a slow bleed that drains, cripples, and poisons a relationship over time. But it’s lethal just the same.

Oh, and you should probably know — it doesn’t discriminate. Any relationship is fair game — friendships, spouses, dating couples, co-workers, siblings, parents, children. If someone matters to you, this one can get to you.

Here’s how conflicts works:

  • In any relationship we have, we are essentially 2 individuals walking on parallel paths with each other, but this relationship creates a connection. We are linked with this person as we walk together.
  • At some point, we experience a moment where our paths cross — this is a conflict. Your way conflicts with my way — and now we have an issue. And that’s not all we have.
  • Based on our life experiences, each of us have developed our own ways of dealing with conflict — and much of the time we don’t deal with it well.
  • Part of what we experience when we have a conflict is anger. Lots of us have different perceptions of what “getting angry” looks like (that too has been modeled for us by people in our lives; shaped by our own experiences). But for all its different appearances, the purpose of anger is always the same.

“The primary function of anger in life is to alert me to an obstruction to my will,
and immediately raise alarm and resistance, before I even have time to think about it.”
– Dallas Willard

Anger in and of itself isn’t “wrong” any more than pain is “wrong”; it’s just alerting you to something important to you.

  • What we choose to do with our feelings and this relationship has massive implications. It determines if we restore relationship  or if we ultimately part ways.

Conflict is inevitable.

When two flawed individuals try to walk together, someone is going to run into the other person. Sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding, and sometimes it’s much darker and wounding.

Here’s the really itchy news: the closer you get to someone, the more opportunities for conflict arise.

The conflict in and of itself isn’t WRONG. But when we choose to AVOID CONFLICT — that is a relationship killer. When we choose to ignore it, act like it didn’t happen, act like it didn’t hurt, when we take our anger and aim at another direction — it means we never resolve the conflict. Whatever it was now inhibits relationship… it has broken connection, and the gap widens.

Now before we go any further, I do want to give a quick disclaimer: there are certain kinds of conflict (sexual abuse, domestic/physical abuse, emotional abuse) that often need the intervention of law enforcement or trained professionals because one of the parties no longer has the assurance of safety or, as in the case of infidelity in a marriage, the violation of trust runs so deep. This message won’t speak to all the nuances of the damage that occurs between people. We have fantastic Restore classes that can help you work through some of those issues, and we can also help point you toward professional help.

Conflict in the Scriptures:

Today, my goal is to focus on some key scriptures that can give us markers pointing us in the right direction when it comes to the majority of the conflict that comes our way. In fact, I want to focus on 3 of them. Here they are, rapid fire:

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:23-24 NLT

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. Matthew 18:15 NET

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:25-27 NIV

When each of these passages deal with conflict, there is a clear emphasis on urgency.

Move toward it (Go, Go); don’t let it linger (don’t let the sun go down).

Apparently, even one night’s sleep can cement in distance in our relationships after conflict. It even allows evil to get a foothold in our lives. Conflict avoidance is not what the scriptures teach! There’s a clear mandate — GO!

However, how you go really matters! Poorly handled conflict is the cause of so much misery, damage, and brokenness in our world.

I believe that embedded in these verses is a different way to approach conflict. It can show us that wisely handled conflict can actually produce intimacy! It can pull us closer together and create closer ties — but how we approach it makes a massive difference!

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:23-24 NLT

GO to Reconcile!

Notice Jesus doesn’t say:
• “Go and tell that person how wrong they were…”
• “Go and vent your anger on them”.

His emphasis isn’t on proving that you were right, putting them in their place, or even arguing with them.

“Go and be reconciled” is a call to repair the relationship.

In order for us to move forward connected, we’ve got to acknowledge the conflict and work to prioritize our relationship over our hurt. If you don’t go with the intention of restoring the relationship, it’s so easy to get baited into arguments and offense, furthering damaging the relationship!

Don’t Go To Blow

• Sometimes we seek out the person who hurt us with the intention to hurt them back; we feel justified in venting our anger on them.
• But that is not how relationships are restored.
• We can and must be authentic with how we feel and what happened, but “authenticity” can easily drift into hostility — feels like a license to inflict damage out of our woundedness.
• We do need to be honest — but we never have to be disrespectful.
• When it doubt, go in with — “treat others the way you would have them treat you”.

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. Matthew 18:15 NET

Go PRIVATELY

Jesus makes a point of urging us to approach conflict in a relationship in a one on one manner first. It makes sense when you think about why. If you are unaware that we have had a conflict, and I come to you and say:

“Look, this happened and it really hurt, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, because I feel like it’s pushing me away from you. I haven’t talked to anyone else about this, I just wanted to come to you first.”

Compare that with:

“Look, this happened and really hurt, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, because I feel like it’s pushing me away from you. I complained to my wife, talked to 2 co-workers, asked a couple of your friends why you’re this way all the time, and even posted a rant on Facebook about it, so I finally needed to come to you directly.”

Now you’re not only having to process our conflict, but you’re now going to have to work through what 6 other people and all my Facebook friends think about you.

Don’t Go to Others First!

Coming privately immediately defuses a whole layer of defensiveness — it’s just between me and you.

If going privately to those we have conflicts with matters this much to Jesus, it has huge implications for what we will listen to others about.

Have you ever been talking with someone who “just has the need to vent” about something going on in their life?
• Oftentimes, we are unwitting accomplices to relational damage when we allow someone to talk to us about someone else they are in conflict with.
• While it feels good to be someone your friend knows they can talk to, it isn’t actually helping them!
• The best way we can help is by helping them to that person as soon as possible!
• If they can’t resolve it together, Jesus goes on to explain there are some wise ways to draw people in, but it always come after trying to reconcile one-on-one first.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:25-27 NIV

Go Speak the TRUTH

When you go, you go to reconcile and you go privately, but you also bring the truth. It’s essential that we share honestly from the heart what happened.

Sometimes the person won’t even be aware they have hurt us.

It’s equally important that you share how it made you feel. Non-accusatory statements like:

“When you did _____, it made me feel ____”
This helps them realize how their actions impacted us.

Statements like the following inflame the entire situation:

  • “You always ____.”
  • “You never _____.”
  • “You’re such a _____.”

We are to come with the truth. Here’s what happened, here’s what I felt.

But also, we are to share the truth of our desire to be reconciled.

  • “I don’t like this distance between us.”
  • “I want to get on the same page with you again.”

As important as it is to vocalize our pain, it’s also important to express the importance this relationship has to us.

That being said, if they truly matter to us, they deserve the truth.

Don’t Go and Withhold (The Last 10%)

90% of the truth isn’t the truth. This is extremely difficult for some of us:
• “I just couldn’t say that to them…”
• “If I tell them, it will just make everything worse.”

Whatever you’re planning to avoid is likely going to be the fuel for a future conflict. Better to say it all now. Even in telling the truth, the key is humility. We don’t deliver the truth to wound, we don’t deliver the truth to be right. We tell the truth to restore the relationship.

• “If I don’t say this, there will still be an invisible thing between us.”

When we share the TRUTH and our HEARTS, we create the opportunity to re-establish connection with each other.

No Guarantees

Which leads me to another very important point about all of this — I said it creates the opportunity to re-establish connection; it doesn’t guarantee it. As we have said again and again throughout this series, you cannot control someone else’s response. You and I are only responsible for our own choices and attitudes.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV)

Ask yourself the following:
• Have I done my best?
• Did I go with the intention of reconciliation?
• Did I go privately?
• Did I go and try to share the truth as well as my heart?

Then I have to trust God with the outcome — I cannot force their hearts back open to me. But we do have a responsibility to work to “live at peace with everyone.”

The people in our lives are far too important to let conflict kill our relationship.

Temporary discomfort is better than permanently discarding someone who matters to you.

This series looked at marriage, but these principles are true of any relationship – including our relationship with God.

Do you feel like God has been far away or distant?

• Rather than communicate in code, be honest with Him and pray openly about how you feel.
• Rather than Get Your Way Always, seek to develop a deeper faith that transcends circumstances. Some of us only believe God is with us when things in life are easy. Too often our prayers are our way to tell God what to do in our lives instead of allowing our prayer life to be what helps us discern what God wants us to do.
• Rather than Dwelling on What’s Wrong, remember all that is right! Focus on remembering the times God was there for you! Celebrate the answers to prayers in the past! That is proof He is there for you now – even if you feel He has been silent. Do what you did in the past to connect closely with Him.
• Rather than Avoiding Commitment, fully surrender your past, your present, your future along with your mistakes, regrets, bad choices, hopes, and dreams. Surrender all to Him and He will give you back what is best. Fully commit to following Jesus and living according to His ways with His help!
• Rather than Avoiding Conflict, make peace with God today.

A couple of years ago we did a series called “How to Get Killed in 6 Days.” We looked at the last week in the life of Jesus and saw that He intentionally gave His life so that we might have a genuine relationship with God.

Temporary discomfort is better than permanently discarding someone who matters to you.

That’s how God feels about us. The Scriptures tell of an amazing reality.
• Each of us, by nature, were born into conflict with God.
• We were made for relationship, but each of us in our own way, have broken connection and tried to move on without God.
• But the most incredible news is that God moved toward us to resolve the conflict. He didn’t wait for us to pursue Him!
• Through His acts in history, through these Scriptures, and most of all, through His Son, Jesus, He brings our sin to our attention.
• He is not afraid to point out the conflict, but He doesn’t do to it to condemn or shame us; He does so to restore relationship!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:6-8 (MSG)

God has already wrestled through his side of the conflict and longs to offer you forgiveness, grace… He is seeking reconciliation.

You see, there was a point in our past — a CROSS — where Jesus met our sinful, self-will and died to it, so that we could move forward in connection with God.

If God would step toward the discomfort of a crucifixion rather than permanently discard relationship with us, it reveals that we are all worth moving toward.

 

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