Growing up I knew well that many conflicts were handled this way. In fact, it was a joke in our family because my GranDaddy’s famous line when it came to conflict was “sue him.” He said it no matter what it was- whether it was someone cutting him off in traffic hour or it was a monetary problem. I don’t know if he actually thought the outcome had to be decided in court or if he liked the adrenaline rush of taking someone to court for their disagreements or if he was just joking most of the time…all I know is that he said it.
While it was a joke, my Dad, who had become a Christian in his late teens/early twenties and pursued a life as a missionary and giving up his college degree in engineering, had always told my sister and I that most things could actually be worked out outside of court. Most of the time we can actually give up our pride, compromise…win some and lose others…but in the end, come to an agreement. Easier said than done, right? I thought so too.
As I have grown older, I have watched my dad. I have observed his actions. I have seen how he acts in certain situations and how he responds- sometimes similar to how I would respond and sometimes differently. Not to say that he is perfect (sorry dad) but more times than not, he responded in uniquely positive ways- he responded in ways that most of us wouldn’t have.
For example, when my dad and I have a disagreement, conflict or do not see eye to eye on an issue, he will more often than not, bow out. He will allow me to be independent from his opinions and his wisdom, he will let me figure things out on my own, he will kindly talk to me about whatever issue we are in disagreement about and he will seek wisdom from others in how to counsel me as well as how to put himself in my shoes. He will compromise instead of always having to be on top.
Outside of our family relationships, there have been multiple times (and I’m sure more than I am even aware of) that he has loaned someone money and has not been paid back…in fact these people have often not even acknowledged what he did or that they owed him anything many years down the road…even to this day. While it is frustrating and I know my dad would appreciate the acknowledgement and the reimbursement of the money that he has loaned out- after a couple attempts of discussing, not arguing, the matter with the individual who owes him money, he has let it go…not because he doesn’t need the money– trust me, when you work in ministry, you can always use the money– but because arguing, going to court, loosing friendships, etc over a matter that will only matter on this earth is not worth being upset over for years and years and especially not for the rest of his life.
When I have asked him about this- of course, it is not ideal especially not in his mind (for me, it has just made me angry for him!)- but he told me that he watched his first boss respond in this way to many people when he had found himself in similar situations. He said that when he saw how his boss handled a disagreement or something that wasn’t ideal or even fair or right- that he had been able to approach the situation a few times with morality, dignity, and respect for the other person involved and if the situation was still not resolved that he let it go. He chose to not worry over small conflicts that wouldn’t matter after we pass from this life and enter into the next life. Dad said that two of the men he respected the most- his first boss and Jesus Christ- responded to conflict, disagreements, situations that were not ideal or wanted with such grace, character, dignity, respect for the other person and intentions to honor themselves, the other person and God before all else and so my dad decided that he was going to respond to situations in the same way- especially sticky situations such as conflict.
Now, I know that not all conflicts and disagreements can be handled out of court. Not all situations can be handled like a monetary issue. Marriage and child custody issues often have to be handled in court because our law requires it…But what if we decided to follow our best examples of how to deal with conflict…what if we gave up a little of our pride and responded in a way that we wouldn’t normally want to. What if we had not only our best interest in mind but that of the other person involved? What if we bowed out instead of stepping up to conflict especially on issues that will only really matter today or for a short period of time? What if we handled our conflict with grace, love and mercy? Would our conflicts, disagreements and situations be handled differently…how?
What does how we deal with these issues say about our character?
Is it something you want to be remembered by?
Do you know of someone who handles not “ideal” situations well?
Do you want to be an example to others of how to deal with conflict and not “ideal” situations?
How will you handle these situations differently from now on?
I know for me, I want to be someone who is known to handle not “ideal” situations, especially conflict, well. I want to be someone that people will look up to and follow just like my dad’s first boss. No, I have not mastered it…but I am praying about it and working on how I am going to deal with conflict not only in my family and with the people I love but with people who are not-so-ideal in my life. It would be so much easier if we lived in a perfect world with ideal outcomes…but we live in a fallen world…and we must not only deal with conflict but we must decide how we are going to respond when situations arise. As for me, I want to respond in the right way. I want to respond with the utmost respect and grace. I have not always done this- in fact, I have responded in hurtful ways more often than not…but today I am making a commitment to try…to try to respond differently; to respond with grace and respect.