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)
Conflict comes from a bunch of differing sources - external or from within - our own minds and bodies presenting us with challenges beyond number. 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. Let's consider the things which lead to conflict and their "antidote". We have some sort of conflict when 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. What is the antidote? Cooperation. Whenever we find ourselves holding onto the one thing we believe we must control, we often find we aren't really being asked to give up something which we cannot live without! In scripture this is referred to as "submission" - we willingly let go of some things in order to embrace something better. We place ourselves under the authority of another - Jesus. It is then that we find it less concerning to always be in control, for his plan usually is a whole lot better than ours.
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. Then our obsession begins to affect others. 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 because we become preoccupied with it. 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! Neediness is a definite source of conflict. Needy people seem to suck the very life from you, much like a leach! Needy people actually drive people away. When an individual determines to have the world rotate around them and their needs, others will eventually find some source of irritation 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.
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. Conflict also comes when someone doesn't take responsibility, or they acts "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. 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.
Missed opportunities are a constant source of conflict in relationship. 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. 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 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. 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 or efforts. Conflict will come - we can all learn to be better at avoiding conflict. Just sayin!