Previous Page: Anatomy of Conflict

At this point I have given you two of the building blocks for addressing conflict fruitfully. We began with hope because God has designed the conflict for our good. We moved on to see that conflicts are multi-layered and will not be resolved without addressing the moral dimension.

Let’s take up the “moral dimension.”

We need a common mirror

One of the great sins of our age is “judging others.” In good humor we ask, “Are you judging me?” Or maybe we decry anyone making evaluations of our lives as arrogant and offense. That is all fine in theory, and we are glad to apply it to how others see us. But I have yet to meet anyone who has experienced being wronged who can accept the idea that the other person should not be held accountable.  It seems we all believe in “moral relativism for me but not for thee.”

Unless we can submit to an objective standard and look at ourselves through it, there is little hope for resolving conflict and reconciling relationships.

We need a moral mirror

Our culture specializes in explaining our behavior in therapeutic terms. “I was feeling insecure” explains our lashing out at someone. “My parents did not love me” explains our bitterness.  Unfortunately, when it comes to evaluating our contribution to a conflict, explanations do not answer the other person’s sense of being wounded. What is needed is moral clarity, a standard that determines right and wrong. We also need moral culpability, a readiness to own responsibility for what we have done.

This standard is the laws and commands of God, found throughout Scripture, but especially in the ten commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. There we will find that God measures with a ruler than speaks to actions and words, and motives and attitudes. There are other passages which speak about wise and foolish actions. Most of the people I work with affirm the laws and wisdom of the Bible.

The problem with how we look at the mirror

Mirrors are designed to help us see the flaws in our appearance. However, when it comes to holding up the mirror of morality and wisdom, we tend to turn it to an angle so we can see the other person in it. People in conflict sees the other party as almost entirely at fault. Actually, they see them as evil incarnate. And they are certain that even if they have done anything wrong, it is minuscule compared to the actions of the other.

This is both humorous and puts an end to efforts at reconciliation. Jesus put it this way:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

We look at our faults through a telescope and at the other persons through a microscope.

Unless you own your part

But Jesus notes that unless we own our part, we are blind and incompetent to help the other person see theirs. I have witnessed this repeatedly. Accusations do not bring peace. Demands for change in the other party do not bring resolution. Our anger toward them makes me a nit-picking critic. I have also seen the anger dissipated when someone begins by being isolated before the mirror so they see their own faults.  This is hard to do. It is one reason why we may need the help of a conciliator to guide us and keep us focused.

Owning it without qualification

Once someone sees their contribution to the conflict, it is essential that they acknowledge this to the other parties to the conflict. To do this without excuses or minimizing sometimes takes effort. When I work with people I use a modification of  the guide developed by Ken Sande, The Seven A’s of Confession.

Seeing and Saying as God Sees and Says

As a Christian Conciliator I have observed the fruit of following God’s wise process for reconciliation. That should not surprise us. God is good. His laws and wisdom are for our good. When we make up our own standards, we can expect them to be less than helpful and healing. What we need in conflict is to see ourselves as God sees us and to speak about our behavior as God would say it. We begin by saying this to God, then to the other person.

What is your part?

Just to be clear, this process is not to be used in extreme cases like domestic violence. But most of us have ordinary conflicts. Some of those grow into causes of alienation. If you are in such a conflict, then you need to consider what you have done or said that has added fuel to the fire. And once you have thought about this, go over it 2 or 3 more times. Your capacity to self-justify is vast. Fight it so you see yourself more as God sees you and can speak about your behavior as God would.

Next Page: Owning Up Down Deep