Arguments happen. Sometimes they NEED to happen. Sometimes the resolution to a short-term or an ongoing problem will not come WITHOUT a healthy argument. I know, I know, all you anti-conflict people out there are not liking where this is going one little bit. I know because I am one of you. If there is a way to avoid a conflict, I typically find it and take it. Conflict is uncomfortable and sometimes scary, for one reason and one reason only - we don't know how it will end.
There are times, however, when "the known" becomes unacceptable and we must step foot into conflict, hoping that the unknown will eventually be better. Since conflict is inevitable, how do we walk into it with a mind-set that will have the best chance of making the most of the disagreement and help us reach common ground with the fewest battle wounds possible?
1. Guard your words as if you were guarding Fort Knox. Don't exaggerate! Don't think of the next thing you are going to say while the other person is speaking. Don't let your emotions surrounding the issue allow you to say hurtful or untrue things. James 1:26 NIV says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." Words matter. Keep in mind that what you say and how you say it are the only things you have control over in an argument.
2. Expect the best possible outcome, but be at peace with the worst case scenario. Don't go into a disagreement expecting it to end badly. Many times, conflict HAS TO HAPPEN in order for things to change and move in a better direction, so we shouldn't fear it. Instead, we should pray for the ability to see how it could be used for good. At the same time, we have to make peace with the fact that: A. We cannot control the reactions of others, and B. We cannot control the amount of time it will take others to process what we have to say (aka: the disagreement may not be resolved in 5 minutes flat). With that in mind, we also need to pray for the ability to identify the worst case scenario accurately and have peace with it. Peace and happiness aren't the same thing. Isaiah 26:3 NIV says, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Happiness isn't always possible. Peace is.
3. Spend plenty of time searching your own heart and clearing your own conscience before and DURING your argument. I don't know who is reading this, but my guess is, You Ain't Perfect! Listen to what the other person is saying and take responsibility for the results of your own words, attitude and actions, even if you didn't intend for hurtful results. Your apology and admission of imperfection goes a long way toward leveling the playing field and helping bring about reconciliation and change. Don't let pride get in the way. Matthew 7:5 NIV puts it pretty bluntly: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
4. Keep the purpose of the argument in mind. Don't get distracted by the argument itself. How many times have you started out arguing with someone about one thing and then ended up arguing about something else entirely before all was said and done? This is foolish! Don't let emotions or side comments derail you. Keep the goal of reconciliation and positive change in mind and flatly refuse to follow any rabbit trail that leads away from that or complicates matters. State the purpose of the conversation frequently, clearly and without holier-than-thou overtones to make sure that the person you are in disagreement with understands that you aren't just picking a fight... you WANT resolution.
5. Keep your heart soft toward the other person. At the end of the day, you are no better or worse than he or she is. You may be right, but it doesn't make you better. Don't mentally turn the other person into something in your mind that is beyond redemption or repair. There will come a day when you will be entirely in the wrong, and completely unaware of it. How do you desire to be treated on that day? In Matthew 19:8 (NIV), Jesus says, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." Arguments don't end repairable relationships - hard hearts do.
I need to be reminded of these things today and every day.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!