Wrapping up our Series on Conflict in Missional Enterprise
As we conclude this series on Conflict Resolution1, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve focused much more on our own roles in dealing with the conflict situation, than on addressing the faults we see in others.2 That’s because efforts at conflict resolution often fail because of my own pride, ego, and unwillingness to try to understand things from someone else’s perspective. So, in many ways, conflict resolution almost always depends on me. Think about these words from the Apostle Paul:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18
Because of my sales development background, I was hired by a missional enterprise about 15 years ago. Annual sales had stagnated: $4MM ± 10% for 6-7 years. Over the next 3-4 years, our team increased sales to ~ $10MM – but not without some pain along the way. For instance, the issuance of a major return goods authorization led to finger-pointing, a root cause analysis led to an engineer leaving the company, one employee was fired for misusing the Internet, etc.
Amidst all this, I started to get the sense that I was often the one getting thrown under the bus. Someone would blame me for a missed delivery, only to learn that my email forwarding the order had been misplaced by someone in Accounting. Or I’d be blamed for a delinquent account, when in fact no one had told me that the account had payment problems. Stuff like that . . . But it got to a point where finally I exclaimed (half in frustration, half in exasperation) to two other colleagues, “Why is it always MY fault? Just because I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong doesn’t mean that I’m always wrong!?!”
Not my best moment . . .
In the years since I’ve focused a lot of time and attention on learning how to better deal with conflict. The issue at hand may or may not be my fault. But there’s always something I could have done differently. Beyond that, how often do I really take Romans 12:18 to heart? How often does my feeling judged, devalued, misunderstood, or put down result in me trying to defend myself, my reputation, or my honor? And how often do I truly desire the best for the other person(s) involved in the conflict? If I’m honest with myself, I still have a lot to learn in this area. The hard truth about conflict is that it almost always IS about me – at least the part that I can do something about.
True, there are a fair number of biblical passages on correction, reproof, and rebuke (e.g., Proverbs 9:8-9, Prov. 27:5-6, Gal. 6:1, Matt. 18:15-17, I Peter 5:5-6, etc.).3 At some point, a series of articles may be useful to focus on Human Resource topics such as coaching, corrective action, verbal or written advisements, decision-making leave, and termination. But even these types of challenges require an attitude of humility and servanthood – that my heart is right with the Lord and with the person I’m addressing. Until then, I’ve got my own issues that need attention.
Remember: When it comes to conflict, there’s typically something that needs to be done “so far as it depends on me . . .”
Verse of the Week:
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:29-30 (ESV)
This week, in conflict situations as well as all our business dealings, let’s pray for grace to display the heart of John the Baptist toward Jesus, that God’s glory would shine most brightly.
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:8-9 (ESV)
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Prov. 27:5-6 (ESV)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1 (ESV)
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence 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, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matt. 18:15-17 (ESV)
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. Peter 5:5-6 (ESV)