Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
My daughter, Morgan called and wanted to come home from her summer internship in Tampa, Florida. She was only two weeks in. It was a dream opportunity. I said, “Why would you want to come home?” Conflict. She went there to work with big cats but unfortunately there were people there too. They’re harder to get along with than lions and tigers.
As Donita and I listened on the phone our hearts broke. As loving parents, we wanted to bring her home. But we also knew this was a defining moment and we wanted to coach her through it. Suddenly God brought to mind something that I had just learned that I was able to pass on to her. Conflict is a part of life. Some love it. Others try to avoid it. Still others run at the first hint of it. But anyone who lives in relationship eventually finds themselves in the midst of one. I’ve had my share. Some I’ve started. Some I’ve gotten drawn into. Some just walked up and slapped me in the face.
There’s a pretty good chance that you just got out of a conflict, are in one now or will face one tomorrow. Whether you lead a team, hang out with friends, deal with a difficult co-worker, or simply live in a family, you can’t escape this reality. But you can navigate it better and maybe save a relationship along the way. There is a way to resolve conflict and restore relationship. The tricky part is to remain objective. Emotion often fuels conflict and prevents cooler heads from prevailing long enough to see each other’s side. Emotion makes us say things like:
- “Are you really that stupid?”
- “I wish I’d never married you.”
- “You’re a terrible father.”
- “All you care about is yourself.”
- “You’re such a loser.”
- “I hate you!”
I’m not the wisest guy in the world but I’ve never seen any off these lines cultivate an environment of safety and trust required to bring reconciliation. So what DO you do?
I recently found myself in the midst of a conflict. I was actually invited in to someone else’s conflict to act as a mediator. As I engaged the process, I found myself far more objective that I might have been if the conflict had been my own. It’s that emotion thing I mentioned earlier. As I looked back on the pieces that made it go well, a process emerged so clearly that I immediately wrote it down. And this is what I shared with Morgan on the phone that night.
So here are 5 important steps in leading through conflict that surprisingly spell the word, “ROAST.” Now I know that word conjures up bad Comedy Central episodes of a stage full of washed up comedians telling vulgar, tired and predictable jokes about a washed up celebrity in a lame attempt to resurrect all of their careers. (Wow that could create a conflict!) But in this case “roast” is a positive thing. So here we go.
R. Remember what’s at stake. There’s always something grander that we have to envision that might get sacrificed if this conflict does not end well. It could be the mission of your organization, the respect of your children, the longevity of your marriage or the health of your team. Keeping that in mind will guide you as you go.
O. Own your piece. Conflict is rarely one-sided. Even if you think you are completely in the right, look for even the tiniest piece of evidence that you contributed to the conflict and call it out. God works in a space that driven by humility. Admitting your part breaks down walls and defenses and creates an invitation for others to do the same.
A. Acknowledge the hurt. There is no anger without pain. There’s an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Try to identify where the other person felt pain, injury or disrespect. Discern how that fits into the equation and say, “I’m sorry that you are hurting over that.”
S. Seek unity. This has to be the greater pursuit. It may not end there but if you settle for a lesser vision upfront (like not hating each other) you can be assured that unity will elude you. This is crucial, especially if you are a Jesus follower. He died for unity. Satan seeks to destroy it. Pursue unity and preserve the one thing that proves the love of God is greater.
T. Thank them for making you better. Say what? Yeah I know; that’s a tough one. But this is where we realize that anytime anyone is willing to sit down with us with a view toward reconciliation – say these words out loud – IT IS A GIFT. And we give thanks for gifts. Truth is, there’s always a take-a-way for a person who is looking to get better. Look for it and you will find it. Thanking the other person is a sign of grace and strength.
By the way, Morgan is now in her 7th week of her summer internship and loving every minute of it!
So next time you get into a conflict with another person, ROAST them!