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People of faith have an extra resource to guide them successfully through conflict, if they choose to take advantage of it. For Christians, applying biblical principles – love, forgiveness, the “Golden Rule” – can turn a frustrating conflict into a satisfying resolution, and can make the difference between an uneasy truce and a reconciled relationship. The speaker, a lawyer-mediator, has been helping Christians resolve disputes outside of court for three decades and will describe how Christian peacemaking really works. Read, Listen, Share »
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Every Christian knows where Jesus stood on the act of forgiveness. Steve Cornell, a senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church, points out, “Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (Matthew18: 21-25).” Even though giving forgiveness is an expectation of Christian people, it is not always so easy to provide. A spouse has an affair, a friend talks badly about you to another friend, a criminal breaks into your house and steals personal items that were important you. No matter what the situation, granting forgiveness to those who hurt you can be difficult. In conflicts, forgiveness is necessary if reconciliation is to occur.
So why is it so difficult to forgive? According to Wayne Stiles, the Executive Vice President for Insight for Living Ministries, forgiving is difficult because “[…] we feel that not forgiving is our payback to our offender. But in truth, unforgiveness tortures us more than it does anyone else.” He goes on to explain, “ The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real. […] And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been taken.” Forgiveness is difficult for people who experience a reoccurrence of pain in their lives.
Throughout my life, the challenge has often been granting forgiveness to someone who is not apologetic. I have felt that if I forgave a person who hurt me without them apologizing then they are getting away with it. In an article by Lynette Holy on the Power to Change website she explains, “Forgiving someone does not cancel out the consequences of their actions.” Dr. Andrea Brandt, author of Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom writes, “By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. This can be a gradual process—and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving.”
Unfortunately, there is not a particular process that works for every person on how to forgive. Depending on the situation and the people, each process is different. However, there are some suggested tips to move toward forgiveness.
Angela Haupt, a senior editor for U.S News, suggests “[Expressing] the emotion. Let yourself feel hurt and angry. Verbalize the way you feel. Ideally, express it to the person who made you feel that way. Otherwise, talk to a stand-in friend or even an empty chair. Write a letter; you don’t need to send it.” Allowing your thoughts and feelings to get out of your head can be a very therapeutic process, people often internalize, and it wears down their energy.
The Mayo Clinic Staff advises that you, “Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health, and well-being.” Understanding your role, feelings, and thoughts on the situation permits you to gain perspective.
E.C LaMeaux from Gaiam Life suggests that you, “Develop empathy. […] Looking at things from another person’s perspective takes you out of your bubble of hurt, and may make it easier to become more forgiving.” In my graduate courses, we have been required to write about the same conflict from multiple perspectives. Doing this activity has been difficult, but it has allowed me to take myself out of the equation and brainstorm why the other person acted or said what they did. I found it easier to approach the conflict or move on from the conflict once I gained this perspective.
Finally, The Mayo Clinic Staff recommends you, “Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life.” To forgive does not mean you forget, but that you are no longer letting this person or situation effect your day-to-day life.
Granting forgiveness to someone that hurts you is not always an easy task, but continuing to harbor a grudge can be detrimental to your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –
Negotiation and Conflict Management Program
This week’s Texas Conflict Coach® radio program, Understanding and Preventing Conflict: Staying Out of The Mediation Emergency Room, featured guest Dale Payne, the President and CEO of Peacemaker Ministries. With the help of biblical strategies, this organization’s purpose is to assist Christians and their churches in comprehending and resolving conflicts effectively. Dale Payne also addresses the fact that churches are just as vulnerable to conflicts and disputes as any other organization. Their website features many conflict resolution resources for Christians.
One resource titled “Resolving Conflict through Christian Conciliation” provided by the Peacemaker Ministries offers valuable strategies for dispute resolution. One of the first tips listed by the resource is utilizing conflict coaching. While not getting fully involved in the conflict, an individual who is “coaching” can counsel and offer advice from an outside perspective. Additionally, this can help encourage an individual to seek a resolution with the opposition privately. The resource states that “in doing so, you are helping the individual to obey Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15, ‘If you … remember that your brother has something against you …, go and be reconciled,’ and ‘If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.’” Peacemaker Ministries provides a strategy called the Four G’s of Peacemaking which are the basic principles required for individuals to address conflict biblically. These Four G’s are: Glorify God, Get the log out of your own eye (see the situation form the other person’s perspective), Gently Restore and Go and be reconciled. To find out more about the Four G’s of Peacemaking click here.
When conflict coaching is not effective, the resource stresses the importance of mediation. Mediation is an effective tool when dealing with disputes by creating situations that support communication and facilitation with the goal of finding a voluntary resolution between parties. To emphasize this point, Peacemaker Ministries cite Matthew 18:16 by stating “but if [your brother] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’.” Additionally, the resource provides a six-step mediation process called “GOSPEL” which is effective when dealing with disputes. The first step Greeting and ground rules focuses on planning and agreeing on how a resolution should be accomplished. Opening statements deals with brief declarations from both parties describing their preferred outcome. Story telling assists in more detailed communication between the parties. Problem identification and clarification allows those involved to express their main issues or concerns. Exploring solutions is a brainstorm process seeking realistic solutions. The final step is Lead to an agreement, which encourages finding a conclusive agreement.
However, if mediation is also ineffective to reaching resolution, arbitration may be a solution to the conflict. Arbitration is guided by a mutually selected individual or church member with the authority to make a final decision on the matter. The resource offers both valuable and extensive information on resolving conflicts in the church through conflict coaching, mediation and arbitration. While there is much more information at the Peacemaking Ministries webpage, the booklet Guiding People through Conflict offers an even more detailed look at the procedures. Peacemaker Ministry also offers biblical conflict resolution training programs here.
Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution
Lack of Conflict Skills Causes Pastor Burnout- Tips on how Pastors can resolve conflicts effectively
Job burnout has been a frequently discussed topic at every school I have attended. The Mayo Clinic Staff defines job burnout as “ a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work”. While job burnout can occur in any line of work, I ignorantly never considered it was happening in the clergy profession.
Pastor Burnout is a very real issue in the church community today. On the website Pastor Burnout.com, it shows “45 % of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from the ministry”. The more I pondered this statistic and all the responsibilities the Pastor has, I was not all that surprised. Pastors are responsible for managing all the church conflicts, writing sermons, organizing the service, meeting with church members in need, setting a spiritual example, and overall being a church leader.
Dr. Thom S. Reiner, a contributor for the Christian Post, provides several explanations for why a pastor burns out, one of which is “Conflict”. Dave Earley, a pastor of Grace City Church in Las Vegas, Nevada asked veteran pastors to “list three things you did not learn in seminary, but wish you had”. Earley “was surprised that there was one response given by all of them: Learning to resolve conflict effectively”. Lester A. Adams an attorney, trained mediator and arbitrator and ordained minister echoes this realization, “Because there is very little preparation or effective training in Bible college or seminaries, most leaders are ill-equipped to deal with the strife that arises in their congregation”. If pastors are not trained on how to manage and resolve conflicts effectively, how can they be expected to provide guidance to members of their congregation who find themselves in a conflict?
Dave Earley explains, “Most pastors leave a church because of unresolved conflict.” I was astounded that pastors leave their churches for this reason. Especially because the cause of the problem is that they are not given the proper tools to address it adequately. So what are some tips that can be given to clergy leaders in the face of conflict to assist them to resolution?
The first tip or understanding a pastor should have is that conflict is an expectation of life. Fred T. Garmon from Faith Library explains, “Even the first-century church experienced conflict (for example Acts 6:1-7, Acts 15:36-41, and Galatians 2:11-14), revealing conflict to be universal and a natural part of life wherever people are involved.”
The second tip, address the problem and people immediately, letting a conflict fester only builds resentment and makes the situation worse. H. Jack Morris from Ministry Magazine explains, “Untreated conflicts are like untreated cancers: they will inevitably spread destructiveness. In a calm but straightforward manner, we should acknowledge the conflict, identify the issues, and recognize the persons involved”.
The third tip, listen and hear all the parties out, resentment often builds when people do not feel that they have been heard. Mindtools suggests the “use of active listening skills to ensure you hear and understand other’s positions and perceptions: Restate, Paraphrase, Summarize.” A pastor must guide this active listening, as well as utilize it him or herself. During this portion of the conflict, the pastor should be gathering information. Mindtools explains that in this phase, “you are trying to get to the underlying interests, needs, and concerns”. Ultimately, determining what is the goal that each person is trying to meet can assist in resolving the conflict.
The fourth tip is to find a solution that satisfies all. Naomi Drew author of Hope and Healing explains, “Resolving conflict is a creative act. There are many solutions to a single problem. The key is a willingness to compromise”. The more creative the solutions, the better, just as long as everyone feels satisfied with the results.
The fifth and final tip encourage forgiveness or gratitude. Naomi Drew states, “Forgiveness is the highest form of closure.” Acknowledging a person’s willingness to move forward can often achieve resolution.
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –
Negotiation and Conflict Management Program