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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Conflict - the antidote

Conflict comes from a bunch of differing sources, right?  Some are external, while others are from within - our own minds and bodies presenting us with challenges beyond number.  Learning how to deal with conflict is not that easy, though.  In fact, most of us feel a little challenged by the continuation of some of these conflicts - either in relationships, in terms of what we desire, or just in what it is we are surrounded with every day.  Today, I'd like us consider the things which lead to conflict and their "antidote".  Maybe it will just give us enough food for thought to helps out in even one of these areas where we struggle a little.

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.  (James 4:1-2 MSG)

In order to make this a little more "organized" and understandable, I am going to follow the outline of using CONFLICT as our starting spot.

C = Usually we have some sort of conflict whenever we sense we are losing an element of control we'd rather not give up.  Face it, control is a big deal to most of us.  All the way to the grave we will struggle with wanting some little thing we can control!  Whenever anyone asks for us to relinquish our control, it usually gets our juices flowing!  The opposite of control is helplessness or powerlessness.  No one wants to feel either of these emotions.  In fact, we do everything we can to not find ourselves in these circumstances.  What is the antidote?  Cooperation.  Whenever we find ourselves taking the thing we believe we must control and then entering into a cooperative relationship with the one we believe is taking away our control, we often find we aren't really being asked to give up something which we cannot live without!  Another word we often find in scripture is "submission" - we willingly let go of some things in order to embrace something better.  We place ourselves under the authority of another - Jesus.  There we find it less concerning to always be in control, for his plan usually is a whole lot better than ours.

O = Another area of conflict is opened up whenever we become too obsessive about any one thing and neglect something else in return.  Obsession actually puts "blinders" on us - causing us to have tunnel vision - only seeing one solution, one opinion which matters, one opportunity worth taking, etc.  The issue comes when our obsession begins to affect others in our lives.  We may think our obsession is only affecting us, but trust me, nothing you obsess about will ever affect only you - others will always be affected by your obsession.  We become preoccupied with anything we obsess over.  What is the antidote to this "tunnel vision" obsession?  Occupation.  We have to determine what will occupy the space in our minds, the attention of our hearts, and the energies of our bodies.  God calls for us to be occupied with him - when this occurs, the attitude of our thoughts changes.  The way our thoughts go determines the actions of both our bodies and emotions!

N = Neediness is a definite source of conflict.  If you have ever encountered an individual who seems to always be "needy", you know what I mean on this one.  They seem to suck the very life from you, much like a leach!  Needy people actually drive people away.  Sure, they draw near for a while, but after a period of time, the neediness of another will wear the other down.  Now, don't get me wrong - we all have moments of neediness.  It is the lifestyle of neediness I am speaking of here.  When an individual determines to have the world rotate around them and their needs, others will eventually find some source of irrigation and conflict with this.  The antidote?  Noticing others.  A needy person doesn't really take notice of those outside of their own little world.  Their focus is internal - not external.  Learning to notice others - their needs, hopes, and feelings - will go a long way in diminishing your focus on your own need.  

T = Trust is probably one of the biggest sources of conflict we struggle with, because it is something given by us, but broken by another.  We don't have control over what another does with our trust - we just give it and hope they won't trample all over it.  Whenever trust is broken, it takes a long time to get back to the place of building trust in relationship again.  This is true in our spiritual lives, physical relationships, and just about every relationship we have.  The antidote?  Truth.  We have to learn to live truthfully - truth begets trust.  We aren't always perfect - but when truth becomes the "norm" in our relationships, we don't always lose the trust we have in another.  

R = Responsibility is probably the next source of conflict we can associate with.  Conflict comes when someone doesn't take responsibility or they act "irresponsibly" with something you have entrusted to them.  Responsibility and trust really go hand-in-hand.  When another refuses to "own up to" and take responsibility for their actions, we get a little irritated, don't we?  The antidote?  Respect.  When we respect God, we will "own up" to our failures. When we respect others, we will be more inclined to take responsibility for "our part" in a particular action.  When we respect ourselves, we will be less likely to act irresponsibly with what God has provided in our lives.

O = Missed opportunities are another source of conflict in relationship.  In life, some opportunities come once in a lifetime, others come back to us at a later point.  We never really know when one missed opportunity will open the door for conflict.  More importantly, we never really know when the missed opportunity will be the last.  In relationship, opportunities to do good in the life of another, to speak truth into the relationship, and to encounter the tough things which almost lurk like the elephant in the room all present themselves.  What we choose to do with those opportunities often makes the difference between the building up of relationships or the entry of conflict into them.  The antidote?  Openness.  We have to be focused on the opportunities and remain open to the "work" it takes to sometimes see these opportunities come to a place of fullness in our relationships.

L = Limits is the last conflict source I will consider today.  We all have limits. Cross them and conflict is inevitable.  I have a limit on how much "noise" and "hubbub" I can handle in a day.  Cross that limit and I become what others label as "moody" and pull inward.  It is my way of dealing with the source of what could easily become conflict if I allowed it to.  Instead of entering into conflict when my limits are met, I retreat!  Others just let it all out!  The antidote?  Listening.  Most of the time, others give us a clear cut clue we are encroaching upon their limits.  If we will just learn to listen, we can often avoid "crossing the line" into what others have declared to be the "outer limits" of their patience, efforts, etc.

So, not rocket science here, but just a few thoughts to consider our sources of conflict and what it is we might be able to do a little differently when faced with the inevitability of conflict.  We can all learn to be better at avoiding conflict.  Just sayin!