Your friend has made some decisions that is putting a strain on your friendship. Your spouse continually cuts you down in public and you can feel the bitterness growing. Your child is continuing to act out and you want to get to the heart of the issue. A co-worker or employee is not carrying his weight and you need to have a hard conversation. Whether with a friend, a spouse, a child, or a co-worker, conflict is inevitable.
When dealing with conflict, our approach embodies one of two people: the Truth Teller or the Peacemaker. Often an individual has a tendency towards one of these two, but depending on the day, the person, or the situation, he may change his approach. When healthy, both of these individuals are driven by Godly motivation, but when unhealthy, both of these individuals are driven out of a selfish motivation. One of the most important things we can do as we enter conflict is to inspect our hearts and assure that our motivation is in the right place. Here are two questions that will help.
Truth Tellers value justice and have a high conviction of right and wrong. These individuals are prone to initiate conflict as they believe voicing their frustrations is always the best course of action. The challenge for a Truth Teller is to harness their zeal and discern what is motivating their desire to share truth.
For a Truth Teller, a great question to ask yourself before speaking is, “Do I desire truth to be spoken or truth to be heard?”
An unhealthy Truth Teller desires for truth to be spoken. He speaks hard truths out of his self-righteousness. He is more focused on being right and winning an argument than helping someone. His words are not for his friend, but for himself, as he just wants to get something off his chest. His judgmental spirit and harsh words are divisive and hurt those around him.
Healthy Truth Tellers share hard truth from a place of compassion for an individual and a desire for them be the person God designed them to be. He understands that what is important is not that he speak truth, but that his friend hear truth in a way that calls him up. A healthy Truth Teller is tactful with his words so that he may speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to spur others on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25) for the purpose of restoring a person (Galatians 6:1) to look more like Jesus Christ.
Peacemakers have a high value on peace within themselves and with others. On a good day, these individuals are often selfless and harmonious. On a bad day, they are prone to withdrawing and ignoring conflict as they fear it may be a threat to the relationships that are important to them. The challenge for the Peacemaker is to have the wisdom and discernment to know when not addressing something is helpful or hurtful to the relationship.
For a Peacemaker, a great question to ask yourself before speaking is “Am I choosing to ignore an issue in the relationship because it’s easy or because it’s right?”
An unhealthy Peacemaker values safety and peace over what is healthy and right for the individual and the relationship. Their decisions are not driven by what is right, but what is easy. They believe that if they ignore the issue, then it will go away. This is often driven by an insecurity and fear that their personal worth or their relationship are not strong enough to uphold conflict. Unhealthy Peacemakers believe that by ignoring the issues they are protecting the peace; when in fact, they are causing a greater disturbance as they leave room for frustration and bitterness to grow and bring about eventual destruction of the peacemaker, their friend, or the relationship between the two.
A healthy Peacemaker has the discernment to know when addressing an issue is necessary and has the boldness to lovingly speak it. He knows what is right isn’t always easy; that the most loving conversations aren’t always the most comfortable. Because his security is in Christ, he is able to handle personal criticism and his worth is not tied to what others think of him. A healthy Peacemaker is an amazing friend who is often selfless, loyal, flexible, and always willing to fight for a healthy relationship with those they love.