A Christian friend recently admitted of conflict resolution: “I need to learn to fight better!” Very true. Christians fight. We always have and we always will until Jesus takes us home! We fight in marriage, with our parents, with our pastors, within our denominations, on school boards, in mission agencies, and we even fight imaginary opponents Online! Our fighting may erupt over doctrine, money, power, politics, abuses, child-rearing techniques, church governance models, slander, gossip, and the list goes on. To be sure, some fights are necessary, but are you a CLEAN fighter or a DIRTY fighter? Dirty fighting is never redemptive, even though it can deliver some devastating blows, that will enable you to win! Clean fighting sticks to the issue that caused the offense and is governed by a desire to see reconciliation reached and God’s holiness upheld. Dirty fighting comes naturally to all of us and serves to force the other person into submission so that we might enjoy a temporary sense of victory. Here’s how dirty fighting and clean fighting differ:
HOW TO FIGHT DIRTY:
- Convince yourself you are 100% right and that you must win the conflict.
- Choose in advance that forgiveness is an attitudinal thing and not an active thing (and then keep telling yourself and others that you already forgave).
- Question motive, and then convince yourself you’re good at it.
- Talk to a lot of people, who do or will soon agree with you. If you can’t find anyone among your friends, use your spouse and family to verify that you’re right (after all our family is always super-objective aren’t they?). Surround yourself with agreeable people. It feels better to know you have allies.
- Lay awake at night reviewing the record of wrongs that have been committed against you. Sleep deprivation is sure to increase your irritation at others and in turn help you internally justify your anger.
- React emotionally to everything your opponent says, and take it personally. Think: every conflict is a personal attack on my humanity, and I won’t tolerate it!
- My Fav: Pray imprecatory psalms over your foe.
- Use combination punches like passive-aggressive behaviour followed by the silent treatment.
- Write anonymous letters to your foe. Change the spelling in each one so they think they have several enemies-that’ll wear them down faster.
- Poison all their relationships with slanderous comments and gossip. It’s best to do this in a prayer-group so you look well-motivated.
- Assume your foe has no ability to tell the truth or see things objectively. It’s your job to enlighten them.
- Don’t accept apologies before the 490th time. That’s a biblical number isn’t it?
In contrast to these dirty fighting tactics, God’s Word says: 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends (1 Cor. 13:4-8) Here’s how we might apply these truths to clean fighting:
HOW TO FIGHT CLEAN:
- Dismiss all thoughts of winning or losing. Make reconciliation your primary goal.
- Be clear but charitable with your words. Give people time to consider them.
- Pick your battles. Ask: Is my offense really a legitimate offense and is it worth pursuing, and if so, how much energy should I pour into this issue?
- Insist that God’s truths be followed and applied, don’t insist on your own way. Too many of our expectations for others are our own, and not found in Scripture.
- Confess arrogance.
- Confess rudeness.
- Confess irritability.
- Confess resentment.
- Anticipate reconciliation. Approach the situation hopefully by believing that God’s Spirit works in the lives of other people too.
- Dig up that root of bitterness.
- Speak kindly of the other person or you might have a lot of damage-repair work to do at a later date.
- Continue to love, even if the situation goes unresolved. Wait upon the Lord and then try again at a later date.