Think About It

Fighting for Harmony: Part II

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | March 13, 2010

"Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional."
Max Lucado

Fighting for harmony. Last week we considered six (6) of noted author Ron Jenson's "12 Steps to Conflict Resolution." Today we will think about the other six (6).

7. Speak the Truth Respectfully. According to Jenson, "You should always be truthful. That will keep you away from practicing flight or running away, denying, or repressing conflict."

But even if we know something is true and not just our opinion, the manner in which we share it will make an enormous difference. We have all been around people who, even when they are right, we want to disagree with them. Fighting for harmony also means stating the truth in a respectful and gracious tone.

8. Attack the Problem, not the Person. No one wants to be backed into a corner by someone who attacks them. We can have a hard time communicating when our "fight" is with a person's opinion, not the person. When we say "You are such a pain" or "You never listen to me" we are attacking that person. But when we say "It seems to me" or "I think that..." or "I have a problem" we are owning our part in the disagreement.

9. Deal with Specific Areas, not Generalizations. "There are few things worse than making overgeneralizations," Jenson correctly asserts. He illustrates it this way, "Men, don't ever say to your wife, 'You are just like your mother!' This is usually not complimentary in the first place, and second, it is not totally accurate. Instead, be specific."

I remember when I started preaching how helpful it was that Evie was specific in her helpful critiques. She didn't simply say, "That message was weak." She would reference the lack of illustrations or the lack of an obvious outline or even an occasional misuse of a Biblical text. Those specifics always helped me improve.

10. Seek and Grant Forgiveness. Why should we grant forgiveness? First, if we do not it is like, as one writer said, drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Secondly, forgiveness frees the other person to move on with their life. Finally, forgiveness demonstrates the value we have received by being forgiven. None of us is perfect and when we forgive others we show how important it is to be forgiven.

Seeking forgiveness also enhances harmonious relationships. Sooner or later we spill milk at the table or hurt someone else or miss a birthday. And, the best thing we can do is admit it and ask for forgiveness so we can move on. Doing that helps heal any fractured relationship.

11. Deal with Conflict Personally. I feel this is one of the most important steps recommended by Jenson. It is just too easy to fuss with our friends or gripe with our group or complain with our companion and not go directly to the person with whom we have the conflict. We would also do well not to try using technology as our only means for fighting for harmony. Words on a screen can never convey everything we intend when relationships are at risk.

12. Be Gentle. Notice Jenson's words, "People are fragile. Remember that. Treat people with grace and kindness. They are fragile like eggshells. The person with whom you are in conflict may seem like a hard-hearted wretch. But, trust me. They are fragile even if hardened. So be gentle."

For two (2) weeks now I have been pondering these "12 Steps to Conflict Resolution." They have informed more than ever the part I have in fighting for harmony. I was reminded of this insight, "When you are at the end of a cliff, sometimes progress is to step backwards."

As Greg Anderson once said, "The law of win/win says, 'let's not do it your way or my way; let's do it the best way.'"

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu
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