How To Deal with Conflict

No area of our lives is immune from conflict. We can encounter conflict in our marriages, with our children, at church, in school, and at work.


Some people are “conflict magnets.” They seem to attract friction and disputes wherever they go.

Others are immune to conflict. No matter what is going on around them, they are unaffected. They’re like the guy with high metabolism who can eat as much as he wants and never gain weight. (I hate that guy!).

It’s not necessarily a good thing to be unaffected by conflict. That might be a sign of severe narcissism. Hopefully you care enough about people to want peace.

And it’s certainly detrimental to be paralyzed by conflict. Your goal needs to be to deal with it and move forward.

If we’re going to deal with conflict the right way, we need to identify and avoid the pitfalls.

Wrong Ways We Deal With Conflict:

Gossip is discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.
— Dave Ramsey
  1. Ignore it. This is the most popular way to deal with conflict. But sticking your head in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away. Pouring your troubles into your favorite escape mechanism just leaves the issues for another day.Conflict is like cancer in one respect: if left alone, it will likely grow worse.Some people refuse to deal with conflict because they didn’t start it. But why would you rather live in a state of disharmony with others than go through the brief pain of dealing with the problem? Healing comes through the application of the proper medicine, and the medicine for conflict is healthy communication.

  2. Gossip. If there is a problem between you and Johnny, griping about your frustrations to Suzie doesn’t solve the problem, especially if Suzie has a big mouth. It won’t take long for word to get back to Johnny that you’ve been griping about him, and then you have conflict about the conflict. That’s not to say you can’t get advice from a third party. Seeking counsel from a wise person is not gossip, but the person you turn to for help needs to be trustworthy, discreet, and willing to love you enough tell you the truth (even if you’re wrong.)

  3. Blame others. You might be thinking, “But it’s their fault!” And you may be right! But before you run off and accuse someone of being in the wrong, you need to be willing to listen.Remember: You probably don’t know all the circumstances the other person is dealing with, and you don’t know their heart. Only God has all knowledge.

The Right Way To Resolve Conflict

  1. Examine yourself. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).Sometimes we have blind spots which hinder us from seeing our own problems. But if we take a little time to examine our own motivations, words, and actions, we may find that we contributed to the conflict.

  2. Deal with facts. Not everything you’ve heard from the rumor mill is true. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault…” (Matthew 18:15). He might as well have said, “If you know for a fact that your brother sins…” This means that you are certain of the offending party’s words or actions. Rumor and innuendo are not facts.

  3. Take the first step. If you have hurt someone else, you need to make it right. Own it. Tell him you messed up and that you’re sorry he was hurt. As Jesus put it, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).But you need to say more than, “I’m sorry.” Ask the offended person if he will forgive you. Saying “I’m sorry” simply expresses your emotions. But asking, “Will you forgive me?” requests a response and provides an opportunity for the relationship to heal.”But what if I’m the one harmed? Shouldn’t the other person come to me?” It would be nice if everyone who harmed us tried to make it right. But that doesn’t alleviate your responsibility. You still must go to them. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault.”

    According to Jesus, conflict resolution always begins with you.

  4. Address conflict in private, if possible. Unless the conflict has escalated to the point that it involves other people, the conflict resolution needs to be attempted privately. Occasionally conflict resolution is embarrassing or it doesn’t go well, and it’s better to have those difficult discussions away from other people.

  5. Involve other people, if necessary. It’s been my experience that most conflicts can be resolved one-on-one. But sometimes a mediator or a larger circle of people are needed. They can give a third-person perspective that both of the people in conflict need to hear.

  6. If no resolution can be found, go your way in peace. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes, however, there will be a lasting disagreement. But that doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable. Remember: Be kind to people!

Be kind to people. Everyone is having a hard time with something.
— David Rhoades

Conflict is inevitable in this life, but the path to peace just takes some wisdom and a little effort on your part. If you are willing to deal with conflict the right way, not only will your life be better, but you can improve someone else’s life. And there’s nothing better than being a blessing!

What are some other wrong and right ways we deal with conflict? Leave your comment below!

Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Passive-aggressiveness is a term used by psychologists to describe a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes coupled with resistance to others. It manifests itself in many ways: procrastination, resentment, stubbornness, and sometimes even deliberate failure to act in a responsible manner. Many times a passive-aggressive person will convey his or her wishes or expectations in a manner that is intended to tweak, embarrass, or shame the intended recipient of the message. By doing so, the passive-aggressive person feels as if he or she maintains a measure of control (and therefore power) over others. The only way to deal with passive-aggressive people is to lovingly confront them, appealing to them to examine their behavior and make the appropriate changes.

But what do you do if you are a passive-aggressive person?

  1. Admit that it exists and understand the shape it has taken in your life.

  2. Examine your past. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to forgive those in your past who have harmed you.

  3. As yourself, "What are my expectations?" Rid yourself of unrealistic expectations since they will only cause you turmoil.

  4. Expose yourself to the mirror of Scripture (James 1:22-25).

  5. Understand your identity in Christ. Your true value lies not in your performance, position, titles, achievements, or power, but in being known by God and declared righteous in Christ.

Confidentiality in the Church

Suppose a deacon in the church came to his pastor and confessed committing adultery against his wife. At the end of his discussion with the pastor, he said, "Well, thanks pastor! I feel so much better about this now that I've gotten it off my chest. And remember, you have to keep everything I said confidential. See you at the Deacon's Meeting on Sunday!" If the pastor promised absolute confidentiality, he would not be able to speak to the deacon's wife, nor would he be able to take action to remove the deacon from his position as a church office. The pastor could, of course, break his promise, but that would raise additional ethical (and even legal) issues.

There are other circumstances where an understanding of absolute confidentiality is either unwarranted or unwise:

  • When a person confesses to committing a major crime, especially against a minor. The police need to be informed.

  • When a person is a danger to himself or others. Again, civil leaders such as the police or the Department of Human Services need to be informed.

  • When church discipline should be instituted. Other church leaders (or the entire church) need to be informed.

  • When wise counsel from others who have overcome similar situations is needed. To confer with someone who can help is not gossip. Gossip is defined as discussing something negative with someone who is not in a position to help.

  • When conflict in the church needs to be addressed.

  • To complicate matters, a pastor usually does not know beforehand what will be confessed to him in a counseling situation.

Pastors must determine what they are trying to accomplish: keeping secrets or bringing healing.

I never promise absolute confidentiality. In fact, I try to make it clear, in writing if possible, exactly what level of confidentiality I offer.

Below is a confidentiality policy that I have adopted as my own. It is based on a confidentiality policy in Christian Standard 118/10 (March 9, 2008): 182. I have the one being counseled sign it.

Confidentiality Policy

As church leaders--pastors, deacons, staff, counseling volunteers, and ministry leaders--we welcome and encourage you to be open and honest with us about the experiences you have had. We want you to know that we will treat you with caring and respect, and we will seek to hold in confidence the information you share.

The level of confidentiality we offer, however, has limits that you should be aware of from the outset of any communication with us.

  1. We have a responsibility to speak to legal authorities if we learn that (1) you pose a threat to yourself or others; (2) sexual or physical abuse of a minor or a vulnerable adult (physically or mentally handicapped, or an elderly person) has occurred; or (3) any other serious crime has been committed.

  2. We also have a responsibility to remain faithful to biblical instruction in the matter of church discipline (cf. Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:12-13; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 3:6-15). As an exercise of God's love and grace, church discipline is designed to assist the sinning Christian to repent and to restore him to a harmonious family relationship with God as Father and with other Christians as brothers and sisters. Our commitment to church discipline, therefore, may require the disclosing of relevant information to certain others and, in rare situations, the entire church.

We will on occasion confer with others to ensure that we are providing the kind of care and support that we deem to be in your and the church's best interest. Therefore, please understand that the leaders of the church maintain the right to do the following:

  1. To speak to our church's pastors about information deemed necessary for the benefit of the church.

  2. To speak to other affected individuals. When other people at this church are involved--e.g., when relationships are broken; when there is anger or disappointment; when gossip is present; when actions affect the lives of others--we may approach those other people in an effort to understand better the story and to foster reconciliation, harmony, or the spiritual well-being of the church.

  3. To speak to others who have experienced and overcome problems similar to those at hand. When we are made aware of a struggle that someone else in the congregation or the larger Christian community has dealt with successfully, we may speak to that person and enlist their wisdom and help in assisting you with your struggle. We recognize that God offers many resources for healing through His family.

We do not want the fear of exposure to keep you from approaching us. However, we also want you to understand that we are not making a promise of absolute confidentiality. Such a promise would hinder us in offering you our best help. If you have something that cannot be shared with anyone else at this church, we will be glad to help you find a professional Christian counselor who may be able to offer you a higher level on confidentiality.