The Missing Link of Conflict Resolution

Creative Commons License 2.0 from Lord Jim

They tell us he’s out there—somewhere. Some call him the missing link—that illusive transitional life form between man and ape. You’d think that they would have found him by now, what with all the effort. Unfortunately for naturalists, the missing link is still missing—providing a powerful platform for opponents of naturalistic theory.

They tell us it’s out there—somewhere. Some call it unity—that state of oneness that should typify the Church. You’d think we’d have seen more of it by now, what with all of the preaching of the Word that we hear on Sunday mornings and throughout the week. Unfortunately for Christians, church unity continues to elude us, providing a powerful platform for opponents of the faith.

Regardless of how right we are as Christians in our perspectives of earth and eternity, our well-designed arguments ring hollow (or even hypocritical) as long as we continue to have our own missing links.

So just why is unity so elusive? What makes conflict resolution a missing link of the Christian faith? It seems to me that conflict resolution has its own missing link–bravery.

The most powerful way to resolve conflict is simply to speak heart to heart in a non-accusatory way. Rather than, “It was so cruel the way you snubbed me so that you could look good in front of your new friends!” we would be better off to say something like, “I was really hurt when you didn’t speak to me the other day in front of your new friends. Can I ask why?” In many situations a reasonable degree of effort will bring healing and resolution.

Unfortunately we find that the majority of us either attack or avoid. We blast people in our hurt and anger, or we try to ignore and suppress the issues.

Spiritual people know that attacking isn’t very godly and so we choose to avoid any possible unpleasantries of interpersonal dynamics. It’s difficult. We’re not in control of another person’s responses. We don’t want to say something stupid or look bad in any way. Perhaps we’re wrong in some area that we can’t bring ourselves to admit. Maybe we’re afraid the other person will get mad and reject or avoid us. The problem with these motivations is that they are rooted in self-preservation—our primary concern is us. We know the importance of communication, but too often we put it off . . . and put it off . . . and put it off . . .

When weighing these considerations it’s important to ask ourselves how much we value the other person (or people) involved. How much do we value God and His desire for us to walk in love? Our true values are revealed by our actions.

Love is brave. Self-preservation tends toward cowardice.

I know this sounds blunt, but I think that far too many of us avoid unpleasant situations because of fear. In most situations the fear is understandable, but courage sings of a higher call, compelling us to press forward in spite of any anxiety.

Love takes necessary risks. Love values others beyond our base cravings for self-preservation. Love seeks to honor God in all circumstances regardless of any personal cost.

If love is brave and bravery is our missing link, what are we to conclude? We’re all well-equipped to do the math!