The Fourth Article in a Series on Conflict
In the previous two posts, we talked about how missional entrepreneurs in conflict situations can develop leadership skills by considering first the conflict within and then owning up to their own complicity in allowing conflict to develop.1 Taking the initiative to address and try to diffuse the conflict is the biblical thing to do. And being open to reason encourages others to be reasonable themselves.
However, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” There are other things we can do not only to address and diffuse conflict but to seek to prevent it before it occurs. Here are a few:
- Practice Walking in the Light of His Presence. (Psalm 89:15-16 NIV – Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness.) Walking in the light of the Lord’s presence is something we all need to learn – and it doesn’t come easily. I’ve been working at it for years with varied success. But when a customer complains about something or a colleague is upset about some issue, I’ve found that silently reminding myself that God is present (to help and to guide), makes things go a LOT better.
- Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak. (Proverbs 18:13 NIV – If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.) Too often, I have seen managers or other leaders blow up about something without even understanding what was going on. Like the command in James 1:19-20, we need to pause, take a deep breath, and ask the Lord for patience in trying to understand the situation – and trust that the Spirit of Christ will guide us.
- Give a Soft Answer. (Proverbs 15:33 RSV – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.) I have worked with many people over the years who follow the order “ready-fire-aim” when they’re upset about something. Asking, “Lord, how do you want me to respond to this?” and reacting softly rather than harshly or loudly can work wonders.
- Be Constant in Prayer. (Ephesians 6:17-18 – Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.) Twice in these two verses, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to pray – which rings true with his message to the Roman church to be constant in prayer (Rom. 12:12 ESV). This applies to us as well.
When I screw up in conflict situations (which is still more often than I’d like to admit), it’s often because I lose sight of the fact that God is present, available, and ready to guide me – if I let him lead. My continual challenge is to remember passages like the ones above, or this paraphrased prayer from Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century Carmelite monk: “O Lord, since you are always with me . . . I pray that you would grant me grace to continue in the light of your presence. To this end help me. Bless my thoughts and my actions. And possess all my affections.”
Verse(s) of the Week:
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalms 16:7-8 (ESV)
May we increasingly prevent needless conflict in our enterprises as we grow in practicing the presence of God this week.