Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beyond Anger and Blame

The other day someone came to see me, a truly decent person I like alot. He was trying to get a handle on a conflict with another person I know well, a truly decent individual I like alot. I have spoken to both, could see both "sides" of the situation, and didn't want to pass judgement or take sides. Both conversations were worthwhile and I prayed for resolution and reconciliation. It has occurred, which is an immense relief to me. I am convinced that their Christian faith was a significant factor in "burying the hatchet, " a phrase we use which is actually connected to an Iroquois Confederacy ritual of peace-making. 

Hardly a week goes by that I don't have a conversation with someone who is in conflict, usually with a family member. Why do they come to me? Well, we sense that issues of anger, alienation, forgiveness and reconciliation are deeply spiritual, and inviting God into the situation matters. And I am the God Guy for a certain group of people.

The same day I chatted with the person mentioned above I saw the cover article for the Christian Century. The title is Beyond Anger and Blame: How to achieve constructive conflict. Notice that it doesn't say "how to avoid conflict?" We can't live without experiencing conflict. To try to avoid it creates inner conflict which can be just as destructive. You might recall me writing about a family member who never argued with her husband in 25 years of marriage. But she ended up resenting him so deeply she eventually left the relationship without attempted resolution.

The article tells us about NVC or non-violent communication, an approach with four steps:
1: naming the behaviour that is a problem
2: naming the emotion you feel when the behavioiur takes place
3:naming the need you have that is not being met because of the other person's behaviour
4:stating in very concrete terms what you would like the other person to do

I won't go further because this is already a longer blog -- aka sermonette! I am curious to know whether these steps make sense to you. Are you good at resolving conflict, or do you avoid it? Does your faith make a difference in how you handle conflict?


willowjakmom said...

I hate conflict, but find that when I avoid it, it finds me when a vengeance! I get frustrated because I often cry when I am angry and my true feelings aren't communicated because of the distraction of my tears. I am most successful in resolving conflict when I turn to a friend who does not know the person I am trying to resolve issues with. I find that I don't need support in sorting out the details or issues, but I need to be coached in how to maintain clarity and calm. My faith does play a role because it is what reminds me of my value system as I try to approach conflicts with understanding and compassion and the hope of a peaceful outcome.

Laura said...

Ditto on the tears willowjakmom.....and hating conflict...perhaps the two are related,
I think I am getting better at realizing there are times when conflict is worth it. There was a day I would have buried most any wrong to keep peace and at the time I think I thought that a good Christian response...keep the peace.
As years have progressed I have realized that being Christian means a lot more than being "nice and agreeable" but it means standing for something.....and that when you do that, you risk disagreement and
I think there can be forgiveness in unresolved conflict but it seems a hard journey. The guidelines you offered might help that journey though.
I like the outline for NVC because it does remind me that even though I'd rather be in peaceful relationships, it acknowledges that my opinions and feelings are part of the peace equation too...and as worthy as the others' in the conflict.
It's funny...the faith of my youth led me to avoiding conflict and now it seems it is my faith that makes me stand up to conflict.....I think many of the issues have become a little more worthy of conflict than those of earlier years too.