CAN CONFLICT BE HEALTHY?

Butting HeadsNOW THAT’S CONFLICT!

This week I’m taking a class on how to help people resolve conflicts. One question that got everyone thinking was, “Can conflict be good?”  It’s hard to imagine that “butting heads” with someone could ever be good, but actually sometimes conflict is healthy.

“Conflict serves the function of ‘bringing problems to the table’ . . . [and]  can clear out resentments and help people understand each other.”   Interpersonal Conflict (Hocker and Wilmot)

I have certainly found that to be true in my life.  For many years, I had the impression that conflict was always bad.  Any offense that came my way I sought to immediately “forgive and forget”.  Unfortunately, forgiveness ended up being more like “not thinking about an offense” rather than “forgiving someone from my heart”.

A good friend and I were working together in a small church.  I was the young pastor and he was the worship leader.  We were learning by trial and error, and I made lots of mistakes.  Often he saw me at my worst: confused, insecure, and indecisive.

Over time he started to lose confidence in my leadership, but instead of having a hard conversation about how he was feeling, he started criticizing me with sarcastic remarks.  Of course that hurt, but instead of being willing to talk to him about it, I also avoided conflict and ignored his comments.  Unfortunately I was storing up hurt in my heart; it was starting to reach a boiling point, and I didn’t even realize it.

One day he made a cutting remark, AND I LOST IT!   All of the hurt and frustration that was hidden in my heart came pouring out.  My words were full of anger and deeply wounded he and his wife.

Looking back now, I realize that if either of us had been willing to go through the uncomfortable process of talking about what was going on between us (healthy conflict?), we would have saved us both a lot of pain and suffering.

WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE TO HAVE A HEALTHY CONFLICT?  WHAT WOULD MAKE IT HEALTHY?

ARE THERE ANY SITUATIONS IN YOUR LIFE THAT MIGHT BENEFIT FROM HEALTHY CONFLICT?

 

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