Usually I share on how to avoid conflict or overcome conflict, but David Arcos from Mosaic gave me a new framework to consider as he invited me to speak at Terra Nova, a retreat for creatives in Los Angeles. This is what I realized:
Conflict can be a gift.
Here are ten gifts that can come from conflict:
1. Conflict can help move us closer to God and towards depending on Him
It is human nature that when we face conflict and challenges we are more likely to pursue Him than when things are going well.
2. Conflict reveals our differences and if we look for it can help us find what we have in common
Conflicts can help us discover others’ uniqueness, values, and passions. Work to figure out what you have in common and build on that.
3. Conflict reminds us that everyone has value
Everyone has unique strengths and talents (no one has failed the Strengths Finder). Some of our gifts and strengths and personalities naturally tend to “oppose” each other, but when we are in healthy relationships and healthy community, our differences make us stronger together.
Our areas of weakness are opportunities for us to partner with others who are strong where we are weak. Can you see the unique ways God has crafted those around you? Do you help them maximize who they are or do you just look to see what you can get from them?
4. When we experience conflict we are experiencing what Jesus promised
He promised we would face persecution. (There is a difference between doing something good that is rejected and doing something bad that has unpleasant consequences).
5. Conflict shows you are going against the status quo
People do not like change. People would rather experience an unhealthy known than take the risk to experience a healthy unknown. Conflict could be the direct result of the progress you have been trying to make!
6. Conflict helps us grow
Conflict helps us see what we may have missed otherwise. We fight most with those with whom we are closest. We don’t have hard conversations with someone we don’t like or care about.
“A rebuke from a friend is like a kiss.” – Proverbs 27:5-6
“Iron sharpens iron.” – Proverbs 17:17
7. Conflict enhances gratitude for when times were good and when relationships are healthy and reminds us that it can be that way again.
We have forgotten more of the good that God has done in our life than we remember!
8. When we see conflict, we have the opportunity to live out our purpose and calling since we are called to be reconcilers.
We are to be reconcilers (2 Cor. 5:20).
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” – Romans 5:10
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
In other words, children of God bring peace to those around us. When you see conflict, do you try help bring peace? Are you a peacemaker?
9. Conflict creates the opportunity to turn enemies into friends.
When conflict arises (and it will), bless those who persecute you. Do not take revenge but feed your hungry enemy, give drink to your enemy who thirsts, overcome evil with good. (Romans 12) Sweet revenge means doing the opposite of what you feel. Ironically our enemies hate that! If Jesus befriended Judas, then we should be willing to love our enemies.
Make an effort. So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19 Live in harmony. Do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you. Romans 12:18 If you have been offended then make things right. Matthew 18:15 If you have offended someone, then make things right. Matthew 5:23-24
- Do you have something against someone?
- Does anyone have something against you?
- What are you going to do about it?
Forgive. Talk things through. So often we fight with people in our minds before we ever actually talk! We assume the worst! We get defensive even when the other person didn’t intend to be offensive. Say your sorry sincerely without any expectation.
10. Conflict allows us to experience the beauty of forgiveness.
We’ve been forgiven by God and need to offer forgiveness to others. So how many times? When I asked my daughter Trevi (age 10) how many times Jesus said we should forgive, she said: “I know, I know. ‘to infinity and beyond.’”
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times ?’ Jesus answered: ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” – Matthew 18:21-22
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant (D.Min. in Entrepreneurial Leadership at Bethel Seminary) serves at Gateway Church in Austin as the Pastor for Central Austin and the South Campus. He is the author of Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World.