Marriage Builders: Resolve and Prevent Conflict
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. Philippians 1:27-28
Stress and disappointments can prevent us from seeing God’s signposts of precepts. To grow, we have to struggle – it is the struggle that helps us; it builds us and forms us. Without it, there is no growth, which creates unhealthy relationships.
The antidote to criticism is the continual practice of encouragement. When we decide to bring comfort and consolation to others, rather than condescending comments and retorts, we are actually putting courage into another person. When we put down a friend, a loved one, or a spouse, we are actually saying “you are not worthy, you are not loved, and you are not accepted or appreciated”. We are called to do the opposite: to make them feel loved, accepted, and appreciated. We are to show Christ’s love, not our disapproval.
The Bible gives us clear direction on how we are to keep our attitude and mouths under God’s direction: “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Proverbs 17:14
Essential Points to Remember:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19
- You are Christ’s loved one (2 Corinthians 12:9-10): Do not take the problem as a personal attack. You are Christ’s child, so is your spouse. When you understand that, you can better see your role as a relationship builder—even when the other person is seeking to tear you down.
- Conflict is an Opportunity (1 Corinthians 6:1-8): It is an opportunity to learn and give God honor. It is not necessarily bad – know for certain that God can use conflict, whether it is sin, bad choices, or a misunderstanding, and transform it into good if you let Him. It will make your marriage stronger if handled right. God will be glorified, and you will grow in character, and in faith.
- Listening (Proverbs 28:13; James 1:19-25; 1 John 1:8-9): The first job is listening. Until each one listens, nothing productive will happen. People need to be heard; the one who listens earns the right to be heard and resolve the issue. Make sure they know you are listening by giving eye contact and being relaxed. Be open and say, “I’m confused; let me try to restate what I think you said,” or, “You have said so much; let me see if I have heard it all.”
- Understand Forgiveness (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 3:12-14): Most Christians have a pale sense of the wonder that we have been forgiven, and often fail to show that forgiveness to others when wronged. Forgiveness is absolutely crucial for any relationship to continue, and critical to resolve any conflict! Remember how much you have been forgiven; do not fail to show it to others.
- Communication (Luke 15:11-24): Seeking understanding is more important than resolving the issue. Most issues do not need to be resolved if all parties can understand one another’s situation. Mediating a marriage dispute? Get them to talk and listen, and you are on the road to recovery.
It is my experience, in countless marriage counseling sessions, that about 90% of the time a misunderstanding is escalated by the pushing of each other’s buttons, and by being blinded by the veil of pride and hurt. Both have to be willing to take a step back and work on themselves spiritually in maturity, and commit to not escalating the matter. Also, keep to one issue at a time; work on one problem or issue at a time! The steps can be effectively engaged. It will do wonders if a couple can act cordially to each other, if they can sit together, go though these steps one at a time, and spend a lot of time in prayer.
Each person brings his or her faults into any relationship. We all have personality dysfunctions and shortcomings which we have to be willing to work on. You have to be willing to work on yourself first (Matthew 7:3-5). Remember, a married couple is on the same team; you are not each other’s enemy. Be willing to see your spouse as your teammate, and not your rival.
Questions to challenge, inspire and equip you in your marriage:
1. How can you practice resolving conflict in your marriage?
2. Your marriage is all about grace, and what we receive we must also pass on. How will you do this in your relationships?
Check out an earlier post in this series here
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