I really don’t like conflict. I’m not afraid of it, but rarely do I enjoy it.
So much of our lives are about dealing with conflict. Certainly this is true in our relationships with our spouse and children. If you live together long enough (say, ten minutes or more), you will have conflict. It’s usually caused by selfishness and pride on the part of one or all parties, but can also be caused by something as simple as misunderstandings that are not clarified.
Whatever the cause or whoever is to blame, we as Christians are called to take the initiative to resolve conflict and restore strained relationships. As Paul said, God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” II Cor. 5:18. He encourages us “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Rom. 12:18. I can honestly say I have never looked forward to any conflict resolution session with my wife or girls before going into it. But, I can also honestly say I have never regretted it when it was over.
What makes resolving conflict so hard, especially with those within our family? Much of the time, it is because we are partially at fault. It takes a great deal of humility to go to our spouse or children and confess we were wrong. It is probably most difficult with our children. We’re supposed to be their rock, the great teacher from whom they learn life’s lessons. Sometimes we’re afraid of confessing our fault to them and asking their forgiveness for fear it will cause us to lose credibility in their eyes.
As with so much worldly “wisdom”, this is also a lie. Our children don’t need a parent who’s perfect; they need one who is authentic and perfect-able. No child has a living parent who has yet been completely conformed to the image of Christ. The best parent is one who seeks to be so conformed, and is willing to admit when they fall short. We lose more credibility by not admitting our faults than we ever could by confessing them. On the contrary, we avoid exasperating our children by seeking their forgiveness. Also, we prevent unresolved issues that can later lead to problems in how they deal with conflict in their own significant relationships. It’s better for them to resolve it now than in some psychiatrist’s office twenty years from now.
Most importantly, having the courage and humility to reconcile conflict reflects the character of our Lord. As Rick Warren correctly noted in The Purpose-Driven Life, when Christ said “Blessed are the peacemakers”, He meant those who actively seek to resolve conflict. Jesus did not run from conflict, and actually provoked it when necessary for good.
What better way to demonstrate Christ’s love to our children than to teach them to resolve conflict in a healthy, God-honoring manner. This precious gift is one of the greatest we can ever give them, because it gives them the tools necessary to fulfill Christ’s great mandate to love each other.