Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conflict that Defies Resolution


When two people experience a conflict with one another, adequately dealing with the underlying feelings that have been stirred up is just as important as a thorough understanding of the facts of what happened. Most of us are cerebral in our approach to resolving conflict: we focus on the underlying issues.  "The facts and nothing but the facts" could be our motto.  However, conflict cannot be adequately addressed until the emotional component is surfaced, discussed, and fully embraced.


Most of us have serious obstacles to overcome in the emotional area if we hope to truly resolve our own conflicts or to be used of God to resolve the conflicts of others. Here are three hindrances:
  • Stuffing our emotions.  Many of us have learned to deal with emotions by pushing them out of our conscious mind and burying them. This technique may work fine for the short term, but for the long haul, emotional stuffing will backfire.  That's because emotions that are buried do not die or go away. They will continue to exercise influence over us cause they are "buried alive."
  • Feelings are unimportant. A common illustration used to help new Christians is the “Faith, Facts, Feelings illustration.”  Faith is the engine, facts are like the coal car connected to the engine, and feelings are like the caboose.  This teaches that we are to place our faith in the facts of God's Word and not pay any attention to our feelings.
This is a great illustration to help the young Christian grow in the assurance of salvation based on the facts of God's Word. However, it is a horribly inadequate model for living the Christian life. 
God gives our feelings to us as part of being created in His image, particularly painful ones, much like car manufacturers place warning lights on an automobile's dashboard. These lights tell us that something is wrong under the hood. Painful emotions are important because they indicate that something needs to be attended to that is hidden below the surface of our lives.
  • Confusing intentions with results. When someone shares their hurt feelings with us due to something we said or did, we may try to resolve the situation by saying, "I didn't intend to hurt you," or "You shouldn't feel that way." It may be true that you did not intend to hurt the other person, but that does not change the fact that something you said or did has injured another human being. The hurt that my words or actions brought about in another person's life must be surfaced, expressed, acknowledged and fully dealt with in successful conflict resolution.


A conflict situation will not really change unless the emotional component is seriously addressed. Here are the steps we can take to grow in this area:
  • Tune In. Many of us, especially men, don't pick up on emotions of other people, or even our own, because we have made an underlying decision to tune them out. Emotions are too messy and we like an illusion of control. A growth step for emotional awareness is making a conscious decision to "tune in" to emotion. Such a decision could be life changing! (NOTE: Jesus was in touch with His emotions, expressed them without damaging others, and allowed them to enable Him to deeply identify with the broken people of his day).
  • Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Without doubt, this is the most helpful step in truly feeling and understanding the hurt another person may be experiencing. Jesus was an expert in feeling the emotional pain of others. You cannot be truly Christlike unless you learn to do this.
  • Acknowledge the other's pain. Once the hurt has been expressed and heard, validation of the emotion becomes imperative. There is a monumental difference between responding to a hurt by saying, "I didn't intend to hurt you, you shouldn't feel that way," and responding by saying, "Now I see why you feel the way you do because I can feel it too."
  • Ask for forgiveness. The final step is to ask for forgiveness for how the other person was hurt through what Is said or did. Successfully dealing with damaged emotions always requires forgiveness (sincerely asking for it or extending it). Feeling the other's pain is the perfect platform for sincerely asking for forgiveness.


Keith P. Robertson in ITEM (Intense Marital Enrichment Training) says,
“Until the underlying emotions contained in a person, relationship, or family are accurately expressed, heard, and validated, conflict will defy resolution, and the system will resist change.”
This is the most important element for the success of healthy, long-term, and committed interpersonal relationships.


  • How should the offended person express his or her hurt?
     Pattern to follow:
“It hurt me when  ____________ (action) and it made me feel _____________ (effect).”
When you refused to include my suggestions in our brainstorming session it made me feel unimportant and like you didn’t value me as a person.

  • How should the person who caused the hurt respond?
     Pattern to follow:
"I'm sorry that you felt ____________ (effect) and it grieves me that I hurt you by ____________ (action). Will you forgive me?"
“I’m sorry that you felt unimportant and like I didn’t value you when I failed to include your suggestions during the discussion time and it grieves me that this omission caused you feel this way. Will you forgive me?

  • How people often respond that actually makes things worse.
        “If I hurt you, I’m sorry, but I really didn’t mean to make you feel that way.”
“You’re way too sensitive and emotional. All I said was _______. I had no intention of hurting you so you’re just going to have to get over it.
“I feel like you’re judging me and my motives. I’m not going to let you blame me for your weaknesses.” 
 Mediational Application of this Post to Marriage

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