There are times when you do all you can, but there seems to be no resolution to a conﬂict. This often puts a strain on the relationship, but it doesn’t have to.
For example, Dana and her mother often disagree on what’s best for Dana’s children. So far, there is no resolution or compromise and it looks like they may permanently disagree on certain issues (like television and snack foods), but as long as Dana is able to say no and her mother respects Dana’s no, even if she disagrees with it, they can still have a good relationship. It’s when Dana can’t say no and inwardly resents her mother for taking charge or her mother refuses to accept Dana’s no and does what she pleases regardless of Dana’s feelings that their disagreements will ruin their relationship.
Like Dana and her mom, there are many times we can agree to disagree and leave the conﬂict alone yet still get along with one another. However, there are times when the other person won’t listen, talk, compromise, respect your boundaries or even agree that there is a problem and you feel stuck. What should we do then?
The ﬁrst thing we can always do is pray. Prayer doesn’t always change a situation, but it can change the way we look at it. Let it go and trust God to work in the other person’s heart (Matthew 5:44).
Second, work on being willing to forgive the other person if they have offended you or hurt you in any way. Let go of unresolved anger or bitterness so you don’t allow Satan to get a foothold in your heart (Ephesians 4:27). The devil may have inﬂuenced the other person. Don’t allow him to inﬂuence you, too (Romans 12:19-21).
Third, achieving peace is not up to you alone. The Bible tells us that as much as it depends on us, we should be at peace (Romans 12:18), and we are to work toward preserving unity (Ephesians 4:3). However, sometimes the other person is unwilling. In those instances, we must recognize and accept our limitations.
Fourth, commit to do no harm. We have already learned that our words are powerful and they can be used to help and heal or to hurt and attack another person. Commit to God that you will not use your tongue as a weapon to harm someone else (Matthew 5:22). If you are unable to restrain your words because you are too angry or hurt, take some time out until you can. Make a plan to return to the issue when you are in a better frame of mind or can emotionally handle the discussion. Do return to it. Don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away (Ephesians 4:25-26; Matthew 5:23-24). My pastor once said, “You can sweep broken glass under the rug but it will always work its way back up and eventually cut your foot.”
Last, we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That does not mean that we can overpower another person’s will or choices, but it does mean that we must guard our own heart so that the evil that has been done to us does not change us into someone who responds with more evil. When this happens, Satan wins and both individuals in the conﬂict lose. When we surrender not only the outcome of conﬂict to God but also accept that God sometimes uses difﬁcult things (including people) to mature us, then we can look for the good and respond with godly love, even when someone sins against us or we are in a difﬁcult relationship.
If married couples, families and friends would practice these basic interpersonal skills, ugly conﬂict would signiﬁcantly decrease from their relationships.
Keep in mind that when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the way they damage the relationship or the way they hurt us, we can love them, but a close, mutually caring relationship with them is impossible.