By Bailey Richardson
It’s been quite a year of tension, disagreement and all-out rage, hasn’t it? The news and our feeds are proof that this year has been tumultuous. For many of us, our relationships have taken a toll due to differing beliefs and opinions on how to handle touchy issues.
Maybe you and a friend have become distant because of your opposing beliefs on masks.
Perhaps you and your brother avoid anything deeper than small talk because he doesn’t share your views on the importance of racial equality.
Maybe you took your kids out of school this year so you could homeschool, but you feel others are judging you or questioning your decision.
Whatever your situation is, I’m betting you’ve experienced the discomfort of disagreeing with someone you love this year. And if you’re like me, that reality makes you squirmy and insecure. I don’t like conflict, especially with “my people.”
A Culture Lacking Compassion
When I look at the landscape of culture right now, I notice a few patterns.
- An unwillingness to listen.
I notice people shouting their opinions while keeping their hands over their own ears. Many are willing to speak; few are willing to listen.
- A lack of humility.
It is so valid to feel righteous anger toward injustice. But sometimes we jump to airing out strong opinions or reactions without taking a moment to analyze what’s happening. Ask yourself, Am I angry because there’s true injustice here, or am I frustrated that my life just got inconvenient? Am I willing to admit I’ve been wrong or that I’ve treated people harshly?
- Valuing principle over people.
Look, we’ve all had a deficit in face-to-face communication lately. And with the rise of social media, we’re able to connect with each other in a way, but we’re still not looking one another in the eye as often. Something happens when we’re in the flesh with someone else; it’s harder to be harsh and unfair. It’s a bit easier to have compassion on others when we see the way their hand trembles as they talk or their eyes get glassy as they hold back tears.
Being Set Apart from Culture
It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of culture. It takes little effort to become frustrated and withdrawn or enraged and outspoken.
But, as women of God, we have an opportunity to be something greater: women of confidence and grace as we navigate our turbulent culture.
Jesus gives us so many great examples of how to handle people who are different, difficult, and harsh. I’m going to give a few examples of how we can look at his life and implement some of his practices in our own lives.
3 Ways to Handle Conflict with Confidence and Grace
- Ask good questions.
Jesus did this all the time. (Read Matthew 22 and count how many questions Jesus asks the Pharisees while they try to trap him.) If nothing else, just ask a question!
When we’re in a disagreement, our instinct is to become defensive. We close up and want to protect ourselves and our beliefs. When we make the choice to ask a question rather than defend ourselves, we show a confidence that says, “I may have my own opinion, but I’m also willing to listen to yours and value what’s important to you.”
The end result may still be a disagreement, but we’ve shown the other person that they’re still important and that our relationship won’t be defined by a single issue.
- Be willing to ask for forgiveness.
Do you know who asks for forgiveness anymore? Almost no one! Of course we’ve all heard the “I’m sorry, but I just don’t see why you reacted so strongly…” Which, we all know, isn’t much of an apology.
Very few people are willing to approach someone they’ve hurt and say, “I prioritized being right over showing love and patience to you. That’s not the kind of wife/sister/friend I want to be. Will you forgive me?”
Earnestly asking for forgiveness cultivates humility in us—a rare trait nowadays!—and brings true reconciliation and depth to relationships.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
- Show honor.
Honor is a word we don’t often hear in our culture, but it’s very important to God. Romans 12:9-10 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
To honor someone is to value him highly or bestow value upon him. Honor doesn’t mean agreeing. It doesn’t mean blindly supporting poor decisions. It doesn’t mean sweeping issues under the rug.
Honor does mean looking at the person as a whole and understanding they have their own set of brokenness but are still worth being loved.
As we choose to show up in the hard times and exercise patience, grace and humility, we will become a light to the darkness—which is just what the world needs right now.
Wife Step: Think of someone you’ve been in conflict with this year. Look at the three steps and pick one to implement next time you’re with that person. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and help you in the process.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.
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