In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24). Jesus’ audience understood offering gifts or sacrifices at an altar as their main method of worship, so for us today Jesus might say something like, “If you are on your way to church and remember that you have unresolved conflict with somebody, turn the car around and go find that person. Be reconciled to each other. Then come and worship God.” Healthy conflict resolution is not only necessary for worship but is a powerful way we can show others love and respect.
Teaching our kids how to resolve conflict in loving and respectful ways with siblings or peers is about more than simply having them say they’re sorry. Below are five tips for resolving conflict. My prayer is that as situations arise this month at home, at school, or in your neighborhood, you can help your kids use these tips to engage conflict in healthy ways that communicate God’s love to those around them.
TIP #1: WHENEVER THERE’S CONFLICT, ADDRESS IT.
Don’t sweep conflict under the rug. Small hurts build up over time and become resentment. Healthy conflict resolution doesn’t work in the heat of the moment, so take some time to separate and calm down. Then come back together face-to-face to talk it out.
TIP #2: CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY.
No name-calling. No blaming. No using phrases like “You never …” or “You always …” Identify your emotions and use “I” statements to describe your thoughts and feelings. Say something like, “When [insert situation] happened, I felt [hurt, disappointed, frustrated, rejected, neglected, etc.].”
TIP #3: REALLY LISTEN.
Listen carefully to the other person. Try to empathize with her and understand her perspective and feelings. There’s usually more to the story than you realize.
TIP #4: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PART.
Typically when there’s conflict, you’re both at least somewhat at fault. Say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” If the other person also asks for forgiveness, offer it. This is an opportunity to receive and give grace. Remember, we forgive each other because God forgives us.
TIP #5: BRAINSTORM SOLUTIONS.
Try to find a win-win resolution. Make a plan for how you’ll do things differently next time. Pray and ask God to change your heart to be more like His.
This side of eternity, relationships are messy. The goal is not to avoid conflict but to navigate it well so that we experience reconciliation and peace. When we humbly and earnestly work through conflict with others, we honor God and display His love in a powerful way.