Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Philippians 2:3-6
As a pastor, I sometimes get involved with every kind of conflict imaginable, from business disputes, personality clashes, monetary discord, land rights, probate, parent teacher issues, to, of course, the most common—marital disputes with money. I learned over the years, not so much from my degrees in psychology but, rather, my pastoral experience, how to talk my way out of problems. Being a person who hates conflict, I seek the easiest, most efficient way to put it down. I had to, for the sake of my survival and sanity, figure a way to focus people on the relationship more than the issue.
Most money and problems seem complex; intertwined with so many people, bills, obligations and so much hurt, they seem overwhelming and hopeless. But, that is not the case; most problems have just a few simple components to them that can be isolated and dealt with.
Here is a roadmap to help you, your church, or a moderator though the biblical process of understanding and solving problems. This can be easily applied to church conflicts, business disputes, and martial clashes
Essential Points to Remember:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19
- You are Christ’s loved one (2 Corinthians 12:9-10): Do not take the problem as a personal attack, even if it is. You may be a part of the conflict, or a third party trying to resolve it. You are Christ’s child; He is your identity and defense! When you understand that, you can better see your role as a relationship builder—even when the other person is seeking to tear you down. This first point has saved me a lot of stress and disappointment!
- Conflict is an Opportunity (1 Corinthians 6:1-8): It is an opportunity to learn and give God honor. It is not necessarily bad or the end of a relationship. Know for certain that God can use conflict, whether it is sin, bad choices, a wrong turn, or a misunderstanding, and transform it into good if you let Him. God will be glorified, and you will grow in character, maturity, trust, love, obedience, and in faith.
- Listening (Proverbs 28:13; James 1:19-25; 1 John 1:8-9): The first job is listening, without opening your mouth. Effective listening and getting each party to listen is essential! Until each one listens, nothing productive will happen. People need to be heard; the one who listens earns the right to be heard and resolve the issue. Make sure they know you are listening by giving eye contact, leaning forward, and being relaxed. Restate to clarify what you heard with as few words as possible, saying, this is what I heard… Be open and say, “I’m confused; let me try to restate what I think you said.” Or, “You have said so much; let me see if I have heard it all.”
- Understand Forgiveness (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 3:12-14): Most Christians have a pale sense of the wonder that we have been forgiven, and often fail to show that forgiveness to others when wronged. Forgiveness is absolutely crucial for any relationship to continue, and critical to resolve any conflict! Remember how much you have been forgiven; do not fail to show it to others! Remember, God does not treat us the way we tend to treat others.
- Communication (Luke 15:11-24): Seeking understanding is more important than resolving the issue. Most issues do not need to be resolved if all parties can understand one another’s situation. Get them to talk and listen, and you are on the road to recovery! Why is the person hurt? Why do they feel that way? What do they want? What can be done?
Marriage is a wonderful and extraordinary relationship with a specific person that God has foreordained. A good relationship will bring glory to God by reflecting the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church! Do not be afraid to communicate to make the right decision, even if you have been in a relationship for years and are about to get married.
- Make sure both of you know how money works. Have a good, biblical concept of how to deal with budgeting and debt.
- Most conflicts in marriage deal with finances. If one or both of you have a lot of dept, either credit cards or student loans, you must have a plan to pay them off, and preferably before marriage, if possible.
- Make sure you have solved any spending problems and money management issues. If just one of you cannot do this, you will have an immense amount of unnecessary problems in your marriage.
- A well planed budget will help you greatly. Just read any book from Larry Burkett or Ron Blue or go to Crown.org for good resources on how to do a budget.
You must deal with any potential financial problems like any other problem like problems involving character, bitterness, unrepentant sin, absence of forgiveness, abuse, lust, past struggles, and emotional problems. If you do not address these issues the probability your relationship working is extremely rare. But, it is not necessary to seek perfection. No one can do that, except Christ. You just need to be on the right track, and have a strong willingness and commitment to change. Moreover, allow Christ to work in you! Be willing, that your marriage comes first before money, to check yourself out in the mirror of God’s most precious Word; observe how God and others see you, and be willing to work on yourself for the better!
- How well are you handling your finances right now? Have your financial dealings been questionable?
- Be willing to be open and honest. Be willing to express feelings about each other, your desires, aspirations, and plans for yourself and for your partner. This will build communication and trust! If you cannot express yourself, then get help. Otherwise, it will only escalate from bad to worse. You cannot gain anything by lying or playing games!
- Make sure you understand the thought processes of each other, as a male and as a female, and the differences between the sexes.
- Make sure your self-esteem is based on who you are in Christ and in nothing else such as job, money, appearance, friends, power, or position!
- Know where the areas of sensitivity are for each other with regard to feelings and “buttons.”
- Know the concept and practice of time for each other. Are you always on time, or always late? Be respectful and plan accordingly for the flaws in each other in this area; be willing to grow to understand and respect each other.
- Know the areas of irresponsibility in each other, such as with finances, health, returning phone calls, or not feeding the cat. Then, be willing to grow by becoming more responsible.
- Be understanding and aware of spiritual warfare. Satan desires you to fail; so protect yourself in prayer and accountability.
Let us consider some simple steps that can help put these ideas into perspective and practice:
How to do this—the ABCs of conflict communication:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
This is for counselors and pastors but you can glen for personal working things out too…
- Pray for wisdom and discernment! Keep praying, gather all of the facts, and get second opinions and godly council without revealing confidences.
- Be positive, have a win-win attitude, smile, and look the person in the eyes. Affirm each person; make them feel comfortable. Let them know you care and want to hear them. Treat each person with utmost respect and kindness even if you feel they do not deserve it. Remember that they are God’s child, too! Operate in the Fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the flesh!
- Do not be afraid to give the moderating over to someone else if you cannot handle it. I have done this many times over the years, due to time, family, being out of my expertise, and personality clashes.
- When you confront someone, ask yourself, how would I want to be confronted?
- Be humble and introspective so you can understand how you or (if you are the moderator) the participants have each contributed to the conflict.
- Never compare your life and situations with that of others. God deals with everyone equally, yet differently. Think before you speak!
- Write stuff down!
- Validate each person as important.
- Use humor only when it is appropriate to diffuse a tense situation and never as an attack!
- Identify each person’s involved interests, concerns, desires, needs, limitations, and fears.
- Allow all the parties equal time to tell their side without interruption; then, get feedback from the others.
- Do not be self-focused; focus on the issue, facts, feelings, and how this affects Christ’s Kingdom and fullness.
- If you are a part of the conflict, speak for yourself—not for the other person! As a moderator, make a ground rule that each person can only speak for themselves and not reword or restate the other’s view. That way, the finger pointing is stopped and listening can begin.
- Attack the issue, not the people; allow no condemnations, commands, threats, condescending attitudes, name calling, or disrespect!
- Commit to understand one another and each person’s side, and to refrain from interrupting.
- Phrase the problem as questions and not attacks! Phrases such as, you feel (state the feeling) or because (state the content) are appropriate.
- Do not blame! Have each party state how the issue affects them, and how they feel. For example, if a spouse is always gone and the other is angry about that, state, “When you are gone I feel… (Lonely),” rather than “you are never home.” This diffuses most arguments and refocuses blame to simply stating how they feel. When each one is aware of the other’s feelings, especially in martial conflict, problem solving can begin.
- Ask, “How is the problem dishonoring God? How is it hurting each person involved and how is it damaging the relationship?”
- Be open and willing to listen to all solutions no matter how ridiculous. Again, people need to be heard! This invites the willingness to cooperate and listen.
- If people refuse to talk to one another, have them write their complaint on one page with a general description, their side, what they think the other person did, and their solution. Then go over it, summarize it, and present it to both parties. Do not allow them to respond until it is fully read.
- When sin is involved, it must be confessed and dealt with. The person’s attitude that promoted the sin needs to be addressed and confronted.
- Make sure you are listening and each person knows you are listening. If you are the moderator, you can restate each person’s response. If it is a marriage situation with only the couple, restate your position in a positive way by saying, “this is what I heard…” When you summarize, do not add new ideas or your agenda!
- Keep to one issue at a time; do not allow other past conflicts to interrupt. When multi problems are raised, it becomes too frustrating and overwhelming to solve. Solve one, or at least come to an understanding, before going to the next one.
- Say, “What can we do to solve this problem together? What are the steps do you see that can resolve this issue?” If that does not work, place the issue on what the purpose of the Christian life is about, to worship and glorify Christ. “How can we develop a solution that glorifies our Lord?”
- If the parties or you cannot calm down, take a break; if that does not work, reschedule for another time.
- Start to work together by seeing each person on the same team and not opposing adversaries; we are all God’s children, and in the same church family.
6. Commit to a Positive Solution or Understanding (James 4:1-12; Matthew 15:18-19): A lot of conflicts, especially marital, will continue as each person is constantly pushing buttons; they are on a merry-go-round without being merry. You have to make a decision that the pushing will stop, regardless of the hurt, for the sake of the relationship. Ask, “What can we both do differently to solve this problem so it does not continue?” Then resolution can begin. All parties must agree that the cycles of conflict must stop. Unless there is an agreement and a follow though, no resolution will take place. Sometimes, problems cannot be resolved, and that is OK if understanding can be sought. If the person refuses to stop escalating the problem, they are too steeped in pride, and this problem has to be referred to church elders and/or civil authorities. In the case of domestic violence, this is where I would cuff and stuff them into the patrol car. In the church, this is where they are asked to leave the fellowship until they get right with God.
Break down the issue in steps and then come to a solution that all can agree upon.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the Grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.1 Peter 1:13-14
- Gather all of the information you can. Write down the facts, feelings, possible outcomes if unresolved, and possible outcomes if resolved. Look for root issues; most problems are symptoms of deeper issues.
- Write down the description(s) of the problem.
- Write down what positive result each person would like to see.
- Evaluate and summarize each person’s statement so it describes the situation fairly.
- Never discuss or try to resolve any conflict when either party is tried, hungry, or angry.
- When you are dealing with substantive issues such as money, property, or human rights, you need to involve an attorney or professional in that field to help resolve the issue. If it is a theological issue, adhere to what is plainly taught in God’s Word and your church confessions. But, even here, the goal is to be cooperative, not competitive.
- Brainstorm possible solutions by thinking through ideas without critiquing them. Evaluate; do not argue! This is the possibilities stage; you do not need to jump to a conclusion. Take your time.
- Look at all the ideas, and then ask, “How might we come to a mutual solution? How can we create a new and better future?” Remember, all are on the same team!
- If this is a conflict involving you, there is no moderator, and if things are not going smooth, be humble; find a trusted, mutual friend, counselor, or pastor to moderate! Do not allow your pride to push others away and destroy relationships!
- Now evaluate the ideas one by one. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the ideas? Which ones are acceptable to all parties? Which one glorifies our Lord the most? Remember to keep it positive; not everyone will be happy.
- Create a schedule to implement the best possible solution.
- Remember, when people are uncooperative, only God can change them and they need to have the willingness to allow Him to do so.
- If you failed to come to an understanding, take this to heart—as long as you are obedient to Him, you did not fail; you succeeded immeasurably! Some situations cannot be resolved, simply because of improper perspectives and pride.
- Once an agreement is reached, commit to the fact that this incident does not need to be brought up again, especially in marriage. Then follow up on it in a couple of days, week, a month and six months later. I will not complain about it, I will not dwell on it, I will not gossip about it; I will not use it against the other person. I will forgive and forget and move ahead in building our relationship! If not, it will just start all over again!
Applying these ABCs to a Marriage Money Problem
But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Each of these previous steps is a biblical way to deal with a marriage dispute through working with a qualified pastor or counselor. The principle issue is reconciliation with a win/win scenario. We can do this by realizing who we are in Christ as we previously discussed and we are to mirror Christ-like character in our marriage even when it is tough! We have to lift the veil that blinds us to love, opportunities, and reconciliation; the veil also blinds us to Christ as well! It is my experience, in countless marriage counseling sessions that about 90% of the time a misunderstanding is escalated by the pushing of each other’s buttons, and by being blinded by the veil of pride and hurt. Both have to be willing to take a step back and work on themselves spiritually in maturity, and commit to not escalating the matter. Also, keep to one issue at a time; do not allow the whole can of worms to be dumped. Work on one worm at a time, one problem or issue at a time! Then the steps can be effectively engaged. It will do wonders if a couple can act cordially to each other, if they can sit together, go though these steps one at a time, and spend a lot of time in prayer. But, it usually takes a pastor or counselor to make this process more effective and pleasant.
Each person brings his or her faults into any relationship. There are no perfect people. We all have personality dysfunctions and shortcomings which we have to be willing to work on. In the next chapter, we will be talking about relationship killers, such as being defensive, which greatly comes into play in resolving disagreements. Explain these killers to the couple if you are the counselor, to yourself if you are in the argument, and commit in the counseling session and at home not to engage in such destructible practices. You have to be willing to work on yourself first (Matthew 7:3-5). A married couple is on the same team; you are not each other’s enemy! So, be willing to see your spouse as your teammate, and not your rival. In that way, you can avoid seeing the other as the problem, and focus on the issue and the solution!
Marital research has shown that 80% of problems do not even have to be solved when the couple talks through the issues and reaches mutual understanding (Focus on the Family). Most issues can just be talked out when both apply listening, understanding, and the Fruit of the Spirit over their will and hurt. Only the most difficult of problems will involve the use of Matthew 18 and intervention.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:17-18
From the Book “The Field Guide to Healthy Relationships,” Richard Joseph Krejcir
Bible passages on How to Understand, Solve, and Prevent Conflict: Genesis 4; Proverbs 3:4-6; 18:13; Matthew 7:5; 15:18-20; 18: 15-20; Luke 19:1-9; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 10:31-11:1; 13; Galatians 5; Ephesians 4:22-32; 5:1; Philippians 2:3-6; 4:2-9; James 4:1-3; 1 John 14:15
- Why We have Conflicts: Mark 12:30-31; Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 7; 1 Peter 1: 13-16; James 4:1-4
- Types of Conflict: Proverbs 16:18; Mark 3:25; Galatians 6:1-5
- Proper Attitude and Motives: Romans 12:17-21
- · Be Prepared Spiritually: Romans 12:17-21
- Cultivating a Biblical Solution: Proverbs 3:4; Matthew 7:3-4; 15:18-19; James 5:16
- Essential Points: Psalm 103:12; Proverbs 11:29; 15:12; 32; 19:11; Isaiah 43:25; Matthew 15:19; 18:15; Luke 15:11-24; 17:3; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Galatians 2:20-21; 6:1,9; Philippians 2:4-5; Colossians 3:12-14; James 1:19-25
- ABC’s of Conflict Communication: Proverbs 19:11; Ephesians 4:29; Matthew 18:15-17
- · You Are Christ’s Loved One: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
- Conflict is an Opportunity: 1 Corinthians 6:1-8
- Listening: Proverbs 28:13; James 1:19-25; 1 John 1:8-9
- Understand Forgiveness: Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 3:12-14
- Communication: Luke 15:11-24
- Commit to a Positive Solution or Understanding: James 4:1-12; Matthew 15:18-19
- Break Down the Issue: Matthew 7:12; 22:39; Romans 12:18; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 1:13-14
- Marriage Problem: Matthew 7:3-5; 2 Corinthians 3:18
- Agreeing to disagree: Romans 12:17-18
- Dealing with Difficult People: 1 Samuel 24:1-22; Psalm 10; 37; Isaiah 59:1–2; Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:27-31; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 12:14-21; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:6; 1 Peter 2:12 -19; 3:15b-16
- Satan Thrives on Conflict: Romans 8:12-14; James 4:7-8
- Preventing Conflict: Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:10
© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D.