Five Core Competencies of Conflict Resolution Part One
by Rick Love
We all know the pain of conflict. We have been wounded by words and wounded others with our words. In our hearts we realize that unresolved conflict poisons relationships and multiplies alienation. So we need help.
Many people have the will to make peace but not the skill. So in my next number of blogs I want to strengthen readers' will and help with the skills of peacemaking. To do that, we will look at five core competencies of conflict resolution.
A "core competency" is a knowledge or skill necessary to resolve conflict. These core competencies in conflict resolution equip us to mend relations, increase harmony, and decrease alienation. These are “core” in the sense that they are at the heart of all peacemaking:
- Take Responsibility
- Lovingly Reprove
- Accept Reproof
- Ask for forgiveness
- Forgive others
1. Take responsibility.
Today I'm going to concentrate on the first core competency, taking responsibility. When I say to take responsibility, I mean two things: be accountable, and take initiative First, we are accountable for our part in the conflict.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye" (Matt 7:3-5).
Notice the priorities Jesus gives us regarding conflict resolution. Jesus commands us to first get the plank out of our own eyes, and THEN we can move on to loving reproof (“remove the speck from the other person’s eye”). But we need to deal with our own stuff first. We take responsibility for our own actions before we focus on what the other person did.
Jesus’s command challenges our natural tendencies. When we face conflict, our most primal response is either fight or flight. We want to verbally attack the person or physically withdraw from the relationship.
And if we decide to fight, what is our usual mode? Blameshifting and finger pointing! Just like our first parents, Adam and Eve, we blame the other rather than take responsibility ourselves (Genesis 3:11-13).
So how do we overcome these tendencies? We remove the plank from our eye.
In practice, “plank removal” involves an upward and an inward look. Even if it seems that the other person is the one at fault, we need to take time to humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer (the upward look). We ask Him to search our hearts for sin (the inward look) before attempting to reconcile with someone else. Even if we believe the other party is 90% wrong, we are still responsible for our 10%.
Second, we take initiative. Jesus repeatedly commands us to “go and be reconciled,” “go and point out the fault” (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-17). Whether we have been offended or have hurt someone else, Jesus commands us to take the first step toward reconciliation. We are called to be proactive. The responsibility for taking steps toward peace always rests on us.
It is easy to see the value of these commands if someone else is in the process of confronting me! I like it when that person humbles themselves before God and searches their heart before talking to me about my issues.
But why is it good for me to get the plank out of my eye if I am the one who has been sinned against?
If we deal with our stuff first, the odds of successfully reconciling will be much higher. A little humility goes a long way in resolving conflict. If we don’t humble ourselves before God and search our own heart first (Psalm 139:23-24), then we will remain both blind to and bound by our sin. We can never walk in freedom and integrity if we do not get the plank out of our own eye.
Jesus's approach to peacemaking is worth following for pragmatic reasons alone. It works! But his commands not only work, they are pleasing to God, and they are good for us.
I'll be addressing the rest of these five core competencies in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned for more.