If you’ve been in leadership more than a month, you know that conflict comes with the territory. Churches and ministries are comprised of human beings, and “to disagree is human.” When verbal fists fly, it’s tempting to throw a few of our own and before we know it we have blood on our hands. So how do we keep our hands clean and our hearts pure while handling conflict?
Years ago a conflict erupted in our ministry and quickly became caustic. Its tentacles reached to several relationships within our ministry and a few beyond. As the point person to intervene, I wanted to proceed righteously but was also keenly aware of my potential to respond in the flesh. It drove me to my knees, which helped me walk circumspectly through the minefield. I didn’t do it perfectly, and I’m still learning. But these are some personal postures I try to maintain when handling conflict.
1) Guard your heart. At the outset of a conflict, even before saying a word, spend some time with the Lord. Make a commitment to be Christ-like and to speak and act in righteous, honoring ways toward all parties involved (Proverbs 4:23).
2) Renew your mind. Your thoughts will guide your words and actions, so you’ll want to assess them. For instance, conflicts don’t usually occur in a vacuum. There’s often a history of difficulty with the individual(s) involved. Have you taken up an offense? Is there something the other person has said or done that God wants you to forgive them for in prayer? Have a mindset of resolution and the hope of restoration (Proverbs 23:7).
3) Watch your mouth. Conflicts are rife with accusatory words and oftentimes exaggeration. While it’s tempting to lob a grenade when someone snipes at us, it’s much wiser to be measured and accurate in our response. Strive to take the high road with every word you speak (Ephesians 4:29).
4) Avoid widening the circle. I can easily get tripped up by this one – it’s the temptation to share the conflict with those who are naturally in our court. A wise mentor once told me, “The question to ask yourself when sharing dicey situations with others is, ‘Are they part of the solution?’” (Psalm 15:1-3).
5) Don’t fall for the “we/them” mentality. A tactic of the enemy is to ramp up the drama as though we’re opponents on a football field. In actuality, we’re on the same team and members of the body of Christ. Keeping this truth in the forefront of your mind will motivate you to move toward resolution (1 Corinthians 1:10).
6) Relay the positives as well. As you discuss the scenario with people who are part of the solution, there’s something enticing about vehemently sharing the negatives. Guard against this, honor all parties involved even in private conversations, and make sure to share progress toward reconciliation (Romans 12:9-10).
We’re all human. Conflict is a part of life. And many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, enjoy a good fight. But it’s important to not unnecessarily escalate things, to minimize collateral damage, and to work toward resolution.
Most disagreements contain kernels of truth on both sides, which when carefully considered can lead to a better understanding going forward. The key for us as leaders is to walk through conflict with righteousness, integrity, and clean hands.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness for the God of his salvation.” Psalm 24:3-5
When the dust of conflict kicks up around you, purpose before God to keep your hands clean and your heart pure. That’s the best posture to maintain in order to be an instrument of reconciliation in God’s hands.
“When conflict kicks up, keep your hands clean and your heart pure.”-Lisa Hosler
How has God helped you to stay righteous during conflict? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.