Contending With Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of life. It’s the vehicle that drives us to become persistent in prayer or stubborn in stagnation. It’s the friction that allows us to walk without slipping and the catalyst for change when we’d rather stay the same. The absence of conflict would cause many of us to settle for mediocrity, stunting our own growth. Conflict, when effectively managed, is necessary for our own personal development.

If you’ve ever been fed-up, let down, frustrated, aggravated, humiliated, or devastated by a loved one then you can testify that resolving conflict is often much easier said than done. Left unchecked, unresolved conflict  can lead to a lifetime of misery. It’s like a lethal level of bad cholesterol traveling through the arteries of your emotions, reeking havoc on the health of your heart. It attaches itself to unforgiveness and plagues the progress of intimacy in your relationships. It blocks the path to peace with the plaque of resentment. And often, it’s more damaging to your health than it is to that of your offender.

I’m 5’7″ and barely 120 lbs. So imagine my surprise when I received a call from my doctor’s office last year telling me I needed to lose 10 lbs. Umm, hello lady, I can’t afford to lose 10 lbs! I won’t be here! I thought for sure they got my lab work mixed up with someone else’s. I asked to speak with my doctor and she confirmed the results. Why was this woman telling me to lose weight? Apparently, my cholesterol was borderline high. ‘Scuse me, but I’m too healthy and too young to have cholesterol issues and I’m certainly not overweight. I’m trying to gain weight, not lose it! This was a sho nuff conflict and I needed an explanation.

According to my darling doctor, my borderline cholesterol levels were either hereditary, or the result of obesity, poor eating habits (I once had a dream that I had Krispy Kremes flowing thru my veins. I love Krispy Kremes. With a passion. 🙂 ) or I just wasn’t getting enough exercise. Well, I’m clearly far from obese, but the latter three reasons certainly applied. We agreed that it wasn’t necessary for me to lose weight as long as I committed to exercising at least 3 times/week and eating better. Otherwise, I would eventually have to resort to medication, and I don’t do drugs. So, I opted to just take better care of myself.

The conflict my doctor presented me with was really a blessing in disguise. High cholesterol runs in my family and I don’t want it to run through me. So if I manage it now I won’t have to worry about it running (and ruining) my life later.

When you’re presented with conflict, you can either avoid it or confront it. Avoiding my cholesterol conflict might have been the easier short-term solution. I wouldn’t have to exercise and I could continue to eat all the trans-fatty foods I wanted. I could have folded my arms, rolled my eyes, and sucked my teeth at my mom for passing her family’s genes on to me. I could have screamed and yelled about how unfair my potential diagnosis was. I could have said screw the doctor and opted to never get another check-up. All of that would have been much easier than doing the work necessary to be healthier. And chances are it might just kill me in the long run. I’d only be hurting myself.

Unresolved conflict is dis-easing. Snacking on the “bad fat” of unforgiveness and resentment does more damage to your mental and emotional well-being that it does to the person you are at odds with. Abundant life and deadly strife can not co-exist. It’s like shadow-boxing with yourself and hoping to knock-out your opponent. Pointless. But resolving your conflict and resolving to move past your anger/hurt will reduce your stress and increase the flow of love, peace, and growth in your life. Don’t let it get so bad that you suffer an emotional stroke, a broken-heart attack, or need medication just to function properly. Instead, here’s what you do:

1. Acknowledge your feelings and confront your conflict.

2. Uncover the root of the conflict. After all, most conflict is a result of misunderstanding, not ill-intent.

2. Make every effort to be at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14) and confess your    contribution to the problem.

3. Feast on a healthy diet of God’s Word concerning your situation. When negative thoughts begin to growl, feed your appetite with applicable Scripture, not toxic thoughts and feelings.

4. Commit to a daily exercise regimen of forgiveness by submitting to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

What conflict are you avoiding? What bitterness and resentment have you allowed to block your heart from receiving God’s peace? Who are you refusing to forgive? Forgiving your offenders does not excuse their offense(s) or let them off the hook. It does, however, loose you from the chains that hold you captive to the hope that your past could have been any different or the lie that your future will never be complete. Forgiveness is a daily exercise in conflict management. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told Peter to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21)… because sometimes it’s a journey and not a destination. Sometimes it’s a process.

Conflict is not avoidable, but it is manageable. Manage yours before it manages you.

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