Written by Sue McAlinden
When our kids were young, I used a chart by Ken Sande to teach them how to handle disputes. The chart had a picture of a rainbow that was used to demonstrate common reactions to conflict. Some people feel defensive, and they lash out. The chart labeled that response “attacking” and that category slid down one side of the rainbow. Other people feel wounded or ashamed, and they run from conflict. The chart labeled that as “running away”, and that category slid down the other side of the rainbow. The biblically sound reaction, according to the chart, is to stay on top of the rainbow and “talk it out”. That follows Matthew 18:15: “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.”
I embraced that chart as the perfect, “Christian” tool to teach the kids how to resolve conflict, and it hung on our refrigerator for years. But I was a total failure at getting it to work!
In our family, one girl was a natural attacker, and the other girl was a natural flee-er. When the girls had conflict, one verbally attacked, and the other withdrew in tears. I got them to regroup and “talk it out”, but it only seemed to work with me as a mediator for each conflict, and they weren’t doing a good job of implementing it on their own.
What was I missing? Recently, I had a silly argument with my husband that we resolved, but our dispute highlighted the critical missing piece that we need to be peacekeepers.
People want to be heard and understood. In an argument, people tend to defend their behavior. Whether they hope to prove their point, or want to explain their mistake, their deepest need is for you to understand their perspective. In short, they want to be seen.
In Matthew 13:13 Jesus says, “This is why I speak to them in parables. Though seeing, they do not see; Though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
Though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Jesus knows that for change to occur, for conflict to be resolved, people need to be heard and understood.
The context of Matthew 13:13 happened when Jesus told people about His kingdom. When Jesus came, he disrupted the peace. The Pharisees were content to check their behavior against their laws and the Sadducees were satisfied with their self-sufficiency and their political party affiliation. Jesus told them they were both wrong and his words rubbed them the wrong way. They felt defensive, and when we are defensive, we fight to make ourselves heard and understood.
Jesus knew they weren’t openminded. That’s why Jesus said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
Let me ask you a question. When have you entered an argument wondering what you can learn from the other person?
When we make every attempt to hear and understand, we will be acting out of love, learning more about the other person.
The enemy prowls around, subtly shifting information to stir up descension, and it’s easy to feel offended and defensive.
What we need to remember are two things:
Wait until your fight/flight reflex has calmed down to talk it out
Enter the discussion asking yourself, “What can I learn from the other person?”
Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called, Children of God.
The Pharisees and Sadducees refused to hear or understand. They were not peacemakers, and they were not called, “Children of God”. Don’t be like them, hearing, but not hearing or understanding. Be like Jesus, listening and comprehending, and asking yourself, what can I learn from this other person?
You are only responsible for your reaction, not the other person’s reaction. They may continue to be defensive and not hear or understand you. In that case, as a peacemaker, you may need to take the high road and walk away or give up what you desire.
You may lose a few wants in life, but you will gain what you need, eternal life as a Child of God. Plus, you will earn the reputation of being a Peacemaker, and whether you feel it or not, that’s a blessing.