Recently a friend shared with me that he and his wife were stuck on resolving an issue. It got me thinking about conflict resolution and the contributing factors that make it such a challenge. The marriage relationship is my focus here, but these concepts can be applied to any relationship to help you better relate and communicate with others.
Agree With Me
In my own marriage, I often want to convince my wife that she needs to agree with my opinion on the matter, because of course, I’m right. Isn’t that how we all prefer to resolve conflict? The problem is that while this often resolves the conflict for me, (in the short-term at least), it rarely works to resolve the conflict in the heart and mind of my wife. The desire to protect my own interest puts me in a position of self-centeredness. This is something we, as Christians, must challenge.
In his book, Basic Christianity, John Stott wrote, “Many conflicts in the world could be resolved if both sides examined themselves critically and then examined the other side charitably.” He goes on to make the point that most conflicts arise from a misunderstanding between the parties (i.e. husband and wife), and that the misunderstanding is due to a failure to appreciate the other person’s point of view.
In my own marriage, as well as the relationships of those I’ve mentored, this is almost always the case. What makes this so challenging is that we often feel that if we were to acknowledge, or try to understand the other person’s view, we are automatically agreeing with it, and therefore losing ground on our position. This is, of course, rarely true, but our ego sure thinks it is.
Ask Yourself The Hard Questions
I have found it very useful to ask myself a couple simple questions when my wife and I have trouble resolving an issue: Is there ANY chance I MIGHT be wrong? and What am I trying so hard to protect in my own heart or mind, that I am unwilling to see my wife’s point view? Ouch! Honestly, I hate these questions… but I cannot argue with their effectiveness. These hard questions are incredibly valuable in the growth and health of our marriages and move us to a place of humility and consideration for our spouse’s perspective. This results in a much more constructive discussion.
“Many conflicts in the world could be resolved if both sides examined themselves critically and then examined the other side charitably.” – John Stott, Basic Christianity
In Philippians 2:1-5, Paul provides incredible guidance for changing our perspective within relationships. He writes, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
Paul is telling us that when we follow Christ’s example, we can have fulfilling, thriving relationships. Let this be an encouragement to you as you work together to resolve conflict and strengthen your relationships.
- Join other couples for Re|engage, a weekly small group-based marriage course to help reconnect, reignite, or resurrect your marriage.
- Whether you’re engaged, have been married for a few years, or for decades, we have safe, encouraging environments for you to learn and grow. Visit seacoast.org/marriedlife for more details!
- Learn and grow together with other married couples by joining a small group.
- Pastor Josh and Lisa Surratt shared The Secret To A Happy Marriage during Seacoast’s I’m Fine (Not Really) series. Watch the full message to help you grow in your relationship.