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conflict peace social media

“Quit Yer Whinin'”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary, with his wife Chelsea

Gary Pollard

I think we’ve all been in the uncomfortable position of witnessing a couple loudly arguing in public. Whether this is at a restaurant, the store, a gas station, or any other public place, it’s downright uncomfortable. Some thoughts going through our minds might be, “Where’s their self-awareness?” or, “They might need to see someone about those issues,” or, “Why here?” We definitely would not want to spend too much time with anyone whose conflict resolution abilities are so classless. Conflict in a relationship is unavoidable and, if handled properly, is vital to the health of a relationship. Poorly managed conflict, though, is sure to destroy it! 

Unfortunately, the world is seeing this more and more. Petty arguments between Christians over matters that have absolutely no bearing on our eternal destination are commonplace. Which Bible version is best? What will heaven be like? What should we wear to worship? Which college should one attend (“that college is liberal/conservative”)? Should we meet in a building or in homes? Should a Christian wear a head covering or not? Should a Christian celebrate certain holidays or not? Should a Christian carry a gun or not? Who should I vote for? 

These are topics I have seen debated in the ugliest possible ways in public forums, whether live or over social media. There is nothing wrong with disagreement handled in a godly way (Matthew 18.15-20). In fact, it can help grow the church because it often brings members closer together. However, when the argument is both non-essential to salvation and is handled unbiblically, it destroys the church. 

If I may be very blunt, this must stop. Our behavior is not only pushing the world away but generations of the church’s own members as well. When a Christian’s blocked list on social media is primarily members of his/her own spiritual family, we have reached concerning levels of dysfunction. I realize that this is not a pleasant article to read, but it is time for us to make a change. 

It is time to stop writing or sharing articles on inflammatory or controversial topics that have no bearing on our salvation. Religious keyboard warriors and trolls need to quit. People of authority and position must stop using their voice to divide and discourage the bride of Christ over non-essential matters (some examples are listed in the second paragraph). We will be held accountable for our words and influence over the body of Christ at judgment. 

When we inevitably find ourselves in disagreement with another Christian over a matter of opinion, we should either handle it privately and with patience and love, or let it go entirely (see Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, Matthew 18, Philippians 1.27, 2.1-5; 2.12, 2.14, 15; 3.17-19; 4.2). Being correct or winning an argument at the expense of peace is not worth losing our souls. This article is just as much for myself as it is for anyone reading this. It is for everyone. 

Around 156,000 people die every day (that’s about 56,000,000 people per year) and most them die outside of Christ. Our time is limited and our influence precious. Our words are among the most powerful tools and weapons ever created. Let us use them well, as they could very well influence someone’s eternal destination – or our own. 

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conflict marriage Uncategorized

Marriages Secretly In Trouble

Neal Pollard

Social media has done us no favors, with the temptation it presents to project happiness and perfection while masking the trials and challenges inevitable for such a long-term commitment as marriage is. Not only can we be guilty of misrepresenting our own relationship, but we can unwittingly put pressure on other couples who see these projections and increase dissatisfaction with their less than perfect and happy marriage. Of course, the answer to this is not to use forums like social media to air the sordid stains on our life’s laundry. But, there is a need for some reasoning and common sense that can assist us in building better marriages.

The University of Wyoming’s Family And Consumer Sciences department has an excellent study by Ben Silliman entitled, “Intimacy Means Conflict.” They begin with a profound, if provocative, statement, saying, “To love may not mean to fight, but it does mean to become close, to care a lot, and eventually to discover differences and disagreements. Those who love much have a better chance of conflict” (click here). This great study includes some common sense suggestions for working through the conflict:

  • Focus on needs, not solutions.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose the best option. 
  • Make a plan.
  • Implement the plan. 
  • Seek feedback and evaluate both the process and the outcome (ibid.).

He does not overtly come from a biblical worldview. He is not exclusively focused on monogamous marriage relationships. But his counsel is sound and consistent with biblical principles.  Cross-check each of his suggestions with Scriptural guidance:

  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23
  • Proverbs 16:3
  • Psalm 37:5
  • 1 Peter 3:7; James 3:17

The passages represent that the Bible talks about all these methods and approaches, but it does not suggest that this is all the Bible has to say about these. I am convinced the devil would love nothing more than for married couples, beset by conflict and even repeatedly addressing the same issue or issues, to just give up on their marriages. Wouldn’t he love for us to be convinced that we’re the only ones struggling and our situations are hopeless? I know such thoughts are not of God, who urges us to see possibilities even through improbabilities because of His capabilities (Phil. 4:13). 

It’s fatal to a marriage to ignore or be in denial about the things that produce conflict. And it’s foolish to believe that a marriage is doomed because conflict is present. There is no way to achieve closer relationships without negotiating the unavoidable differences between two individuals striving to be a united couple. May I encourage all of us who are married to redouble our commitment to working through conflict in order to reach closer, Christ-centered relationships. 

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LANDMINES IN RESOLVING CONFLICT

Neal Pollard

“I.” The late Wendell Winkler once said that beneath most marital conflict is basic selfishness. “What about my needs?” “What have you done for me?” “I am not happy, fulfilled, etc.”  The Bible warns of the destructive nature of selfishness (Luke 9:23; Eph. 4:22,24; Phil. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:2)! One of the most frequent casualties of selfishness is marital happiness. 

“You.” This is really the other side of the conflict coin that blows up progress and growth in relationships. If selfishness is blind to the needs and concerns of the other person, blame and deflection is the total denial of guilt or shared responsibility. “You don’t treat me right.” “Why don’t you pull your weight?” “You are not enough of ‘X’ or too much of ‘Y’!” Accusation, which puts one’s mate on the defensive, is a poor framework for resolving conflict. The very first couple played the blame game, to no avail and with no success. 

“They.” A mirage is “something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so.” We usually think of a mirage in the desert, an optical illusion created by extreme conditions. How often do married couples in conflict see marital mirages? A couple is hurting, and as they look across the burning sand they see “perfect couples” and “perfect marriages.” We are not helping ourselves by comparing ourselves to what is not what it appears anyway (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). Every marriage is comprised of flawed, sinful people who are constantly faced with overcoming. Whatever you think you see in other couples “is not in fact so.”

“God.” Now, hear me well. God is the answer to all conflict, if we consult Him. Yet, when we blame God or let conflict affect our faith, then our attitude toward God can become a major landmine preventing resolution. “God doesn’t care.” “God isn’t listening to my cries and prayers.” “Where is God when I need Him?” Trials are going to test our faith, but be careful not to give God credit for blame that rests upon us and our spouses. 

The good news is that “I,” “you,” “they,” and “God” can all play a fruitful role in resolving conflict. When “I” am humble and honest and focus on my role and responsibility, good will result. When “you” are treasured, valued, and sincerely loved, things will start looking up. When “they” are reasonably treated as role-models and inspiration, it can be helpful. When “God” is totally trusted and obeyed, there is no insurmountable problem! I wish marriage had no saboteurs or hazards, but the best of them do. Let’s work to avoid triggering them, trusting that God’s pattern for everything, including marriage, gives us the best shot at success. 

blast

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marriage Uncategorized

Recognizing And Resolving Ineffective Problem-Solving

Neal Pollard

FIGHT…WOUND…WITHDRAW…REPENT…REPEAT.

That has never worked, but it’s the way many people approach problems in marriage. And, it’s not only newlyweds. Some people live out a lifetime of handling conflict this way. The sad and dangerous thing is that such a methods of dealing with disagreements can destroy a marriage.

The point of contention arises, whether financial, emotional, spiritual, or physical. The couple argues. One, then the other personalize the issue, attack one another, and exhibit sinful anger. This can escalate to the point that hurting words or actions occur. Finally, exhaustion, hurt or anger stops the fight. Each returns to his or her corner. Each treats his or her wounds or maybe even plots the next move. Soon or later, guilt or remorse overcomes each of them. For either peace or relief, they eventually hit the “kiss and make up” stage. Life then goes on.

Perhaps it is at this juncture that the greatest damage occurs. What did not happen? The cause of the conflict wasn’t resolved. So, what happens? The disagreement about whatever is still a problem. Eventually, it will resurface. Then, the cycle will continue. There will be more FIGHTING, WOUNDING, WITHDRAWING, and REPENTING.

If this system is so agonizingly painful and counterproductive, why is it so commonly practiced? Pride, unwillingness to compromise, selfishness, or inflexibility all may factor in. How can we break this vicious cycle? The answer is easy to come up with, but it requires great discipline and patience to achieve. Consider.

  • Do not let conflict “sneak up on you.” Fatigue, stress, and illness can effect demeanor, even when we’re not conscious of it. Resolve not to react without careful consideration of what you will say or do.
  • Practice the golden rule. Never say or do anything you wouldn’t be happy to hear or receive (Mat. 7:12).
  • Give your mate due courtesy. The Mills Brothers sang, “You always hurt the one you love.” That may be the tendency, but we need to do better than that. Should you speak more harshly and impatiently to your mate than to your boss, employees, neighbors, friends, or attractive stranger? Don’t let familiarity breed contempt.
  • Swallow your pride. Do you feel the need to always be right, to always win? That’s not healthy or conducive to a happy marriage. Pride has damaged innumerable relationships (Prov. 16:18).
  • Act like Jesus. While He wasn’t married, He did interact with many people. Not all of those were friendly. Many were prone to be antagonistic. Jesus preached, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mat. 5:9). He also urged conflict resolution as a high priority (Mat. 5:24). Jesus lived a perfect life (1 Pet. 2:22), a life of example for the rest of us (1 Pet. 2:21).

None of us will ever be sin-free and perfect! Disagreements will continually pop up between husbands and wives, simple because no two individuals see everything alike. But, the vicious cycle of fighting, wounding, withdrawing, repenting, and repeating is hurting more marriages than we want to admit. It’s time to get off the roller coaster. Let’s start today!

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DEADLY DISPUTE

Neal Pollard

A few years ago fifty miles southeast of Indianapolis in Andersonville, Indiana, two neighbors were found dead of gunshot wounds.  The bizarre finding of police investigators is that they fatally shot each other.  Indiana State Police Sargeant Noel Houze Jr. explained, “They just shot each other in an exchange of gunfire and both of them died of fatal gunshot wounds.”  She was 29 and he was 64.  They knew each other, but no one has come forward with any details about motives or explanations.

The imagination runs wild, though facts do not follow behind it.  What makes two neighbors mad enough to draw guns and engage in a gun battle?  What could be serious enough to escalate a dispute to this level (AP wire, 8/17/07)?

Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships.  Normally, the better we know someone the more likely disputes will be and the more heated or passionate they can become.  The hope is that civility and courtesy can prevent hostility and homicide!

Luke records a dispute among the apostles, that “an argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest” (Lk. 9:46).  The same Greek word translated “argument” in that passage Jesus  modifies with an adjective to teach that “…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries…and defile the man” (Mk. 7:21,23b).   Arndt and Gingrich, since this noun is used, suggest that the idea is stronger than merely bad thoughts, but “evil machinations” (186a).  Thus, schemes and plots that begin in the heart, that are fed, nursed and stoked, can play out in all the ways Jesus enumerates in Mark seven.

From these two passages come a warning about two areas of life–motives and heart.  A bad motive and evil heart open the door which allows conflict to escalate and grow.  These conflicts may not end in shotgun blasts, but estrangement, divorce, isolation, division, or character assassination.  In trying to deal a hurtful blow to our opponent, we may find ourselves mortally wounded, too.   What a needed reminder to guard our hearts, watch our motives, and control ourselves!