She held her ground, sitting at the top of the stairs as he suddenly propelled himself up towards her. The anger contorting his face as he was directly in front of her, pushing his head into hers, forcing her backward, so that she was now half lying on the landing. She remained as calm as she could, given the intimidating way he continued to shout in her face now, swearing, calling her names, his hatred pouring over her as he spewed out his frustration. Then he stood upright, punching his fist straight up into the low ceiling above them.
Dust landed on her face, mixing with the spittle which had showered her. She sat upright again, wiping her tears with her sleeve.
What had that been about? She pondered as he walked out, slamming the front door at the bottom of the stairs. She couldn’t even remember. But she knew the anger, hatred and intimidation directed at her had been both unwarranted and something she would never forget about her husband.
“Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” Ecclesiastes 7:9
Conflict is part of life. It’s something most of us try to avoid and shy away from, because it can be tough and we don’t always know how to deal with it properly. But when we don’t, this can actually exasperate the initial problem even more as emotions quickly get involved.
But we can’t hide from conflict forever. There is a healthy way to deal with it and there are unhealthy ways of dealing with it.
The above (real) scene is a clear demonstration of unhealthy conflict. When someone uses their physical presence, language and words to instil fear and intimidation in order to silence the other person as quickly as they can, this is not “fighting fair”. It’s unhealthy. It’s not Godly. And it’s dangerous.
The Bible is clear about how anger shouldn’t be what drives us, especially when we find ourselves in a conflict situation.
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
We do get angry, at times, but it’s how we deal with the conflict and how we respond to other people which is the key to “fighting fair”. Apparently, the older you get the less you worry about how other people think of you, so are more inclined to be open about what’s bothering you, or what’s annoying you, or what needs to be dealt with – whether this is with family, among friends or colleagues. But just as we don’t want to be hurt or intimidated by others, we should assume they likewise don’t want to be hurt or intimidated by us either.
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God… Romans 12:17-19
Getting an issue out on the table in a calm and peaceable way, is the healthy way of dealing with conflict. I know it’s awkward and uncomfortable in the moment, but if we’re going to build stronger, healthier relationships over the coming year, being real about what you’re struggling with is a good starting point. But make sure it’s in a position of “living in peace” and not an attack on someone else’s character or person. Don’t speak from a position of anger, give yourself time to actually deal with your emotions before you speak to the other person, as emotions may well rise again when you’re talking and, well… There is such a thing as too much emotion in one conversation! Boy!
Most of the time – the issue could well be your issue – so don’t write-off what you hear in response. It could be a simple misunderstanding. A miscommunication. A misperception.
Like, for example, during a “Neighbours from Hell” episode I had on in the background recently, most of the arguments and disturbances came as a result of a misunderstanding of something someone had said, their tone of voice, the “joke” mis-read. Years of intimidation and bullying could have been avoided if they’d sat down and spoke about, “That time you said don’t get your red paint on my white window frames” (Yep, real first world problems).
May this be the year we learn how to deal with conflict in a healthy way, rather than an unhealthy way, as we develop and strengthen the healthy relationships in our lives. And may we not be afraid to prune unhealthy behaviours or people from our lives.
But may it start with us before we try to start on someone else!!!