"How To Resolve Conflict"

Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2

An archbishop, attending a confirmation in a small parish, watched as the local priest gave the preparatory questions to a frightened little girl. He asked her to define the state of matrimony, and she answered: "It's a state of terrible torment which those who enter are compelled to undergo for a time to prepare them for a better world." "No, no," chided the pastor, "that's not matrimony. That's the definition of Purgatory." "Leave her alone," said his superior. "Perhaps the child has been shown the light."

In this series on "Home Improvement"we all know that conflict is a part of any relationship. Sometimes I think there should be al law made that you have to take a class on conflict resolution before you get marriage license just like there is a law that you have to take a driving instruction before you get a drivers license. Today we are going to look at three things: The reason for conflict; how we respond to conflict and how to resolve conflict.


If we want to overcome conflict we need to know the source of all conflict. James 4: 1 says, "Do you know where your fights and arguments come from?

They come from the selfish desires that war within you." It's a part of human nature. Its that part of us that wants to play god, wants our own way. So we clash. This is played out in little ways.

Do you have duel controls on your electric blanket? Which way do you put the toilet paper roll on? How much should be on the credit card bill? Its about control and power. Selfish desires. When you got married you had unspoken expectations of how the marriage would meet your needs. Yes, you loved the person but you also were expecting certain things from them as well. When your needs go unmet, and your desires go unfulfilled then there is potential for anger and upset.

When visiting Nemschoff Chairs, some years ago, I was taken for a tour of the factory, where we were shown chairs of every sort. A memorable part of that tour was the chair-testing procedure. Every chair, no matter what its purpose, size or shape, was submitted to the same test before being approved for shipment: It was subjected to twice the pressure it would ever have to withstand in actual usage. That pressure brought out any defects that might be present.

The pressures of marriage likewise have a way of bringing out defects in us. We see our defects in the way we respond to conflict:


1. Some of us are fighters. We say "MY WAY." You aren't going to back down. You will do whatever you can to get your way.

2. Some of us are deniers. We say "NO WAY." You avoid conflict at any cost. You ignore the problem. You back off. Let me tell you one thing - there is nothing that makes a wife madder than for the husband to disengage from an argument. Avoidance makes it worse.

3. Some of us roll over and play dead. We say, "YOUR WAY." To avoid a problem we give in to keep the others approval. Whatever he wants he gets. What happens is that a fuse has been lit. Eventually you will explode!

4. Some of us are compromisers. We say, ‘HALF WAY." We say, "You get your way this time and I'll get my way next time." Win some and lose some. This way is better than the first three but there is yet another way.

5. "OUR WAY." This is the marriage of needs and desires. The two become one. We talk things out we seek to blend our needs. Here we realize that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition but rather it is a 60-60 proposition. In relationships, every act of love or caring is money in the relationship bank. Each

argument or instance of uncaring is like a withdrawal from the account. To be happy, couples must have a reserve of love and caring to help them through the rainy days in their relationship.

How much caring is enough? Researcher Gottman believes that a marriage can withstand conflict if the ratio of caring to conflict is 10 to one. Fortunately for the average, satisfied couple who wish to boost their overall happiness, daily gestures of gratuitous kindness are good medicine.

("Predicting the Longitudinal Course of Marriages," Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 17, 1991, 3-7.)


1. COMPOSE. When you are in an argument. Bite your tongue, take a deep breath, say a silent prayer to the Lord and compose your emotions. Put the brakes on. That's why Paul says, "Be angry but do not sin." You sin when your anger floods in an washes away reason and graciousness and quenches the Holy Spirit. A "flooding" response is a biochemical reaction in the body where the entire organism kicks into high gear, flooding the individual systems (circulatory, respiratory, digestive, neurological, etc.) for an emergency reaction. Palms sweat, hormones rage, breathing speeds up, blood pressure and heart rate escalate. The negative emotions spewing from the battling couple so flood their being that no new information, no soothing, quieting message, can even penetrate until the flooding mechanism shuts down. Don't let your emotions make you sin by getting you to flood stage.

2. SUPPOSE. Suppose the goal is to build up and not to tear you down. Just suppose their way could build up and serve your marriage. "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up...so your words may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29) Here you make a conscious choice to be a "spoon" and not a "knife" or "fork." Let me explain. While setting the table for dinner one evening, a little girl entertained herself by bringing the utensils to life. Her mother listened as knives, forks and spoons carried on conversation and wrestled their way onto the table. Suddenly the girl looked over at her mother and declared, "If I had to choose -- I'd be a spoon!" "A spoon," her mother replied, intrigued. "Why would you want to be a spoon? What would be wrong with being a knife or a fork?"

"Well," the girl explained, "forks are too grabby-- always stabbing stuff and taking it like it's theirs. Like in school -- I hate it when somebody takes a piece of my dessert with their fork and eats it."

"Okay," her mother agreed, "what about being a knife?" "No, knives are scary -- like, they cut things, and you can't really eat with them, just slice stuff up," she responded. "But," the little girl continued, holding a shiny spoon in front of her face, "spoons can scoop up lots of stuff and even pass it around They're just --" "-- Nice and round and smooth and friendly," her mother suggested. Her daughter's eyes lit up. "Right!" she said. "I'd rather be a spoon!" When you feel that an argument is coming on, put away the knife and fork words and ways and be like a spoon – build the other up as Christ would have us follow in his example. "Bless and do not curse."

It's not easy to be a spoon. A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office. After his checkup, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said "Your husband is suffering from a very severe disease, combined with some horrible stress. If you don't do the following your husband will surely die.