I’ve always hated conflict. Growing up, conflict felt catastrophic. Very early in my life I learned to avoid conflict and make everyone as happy as possible.
But avoiding conflict never worked for me. I’m guessing it hasn’t worked for you, either. Resentment grows, walls build, and we’re more separated and less connected when we duck away from conflict as if it’s the end of things. God has shown me that healthy conflict is an important part of relationships.
Toxic conflict is what we should avoid: conflict paired with anger and reactive behavior that cuts and wounds us deeply.
Loving, healthy conflict? It’s the beautiful stuff of deeper living.
When we share our differences in openness and honesty, it can become a bridge to unity and connection.
How do we solve conflict and build those deeper bonds? Jesus modeled a powerful posture for building bridges between us: empathy.
Loving empathetically requires the act of stepping into someone’s shoes. This isn’t timid pity, this is the act of brave empathy.
When we ask “What is it that they are feeling, thinking, experiencing? What’s their perspective of this story?” we begin to understand. We can start loving better and stronger, deeper and wider when we exercise empathy.
You see, God is empathetic. We were in conflict and separation from Him, but he “took on flesh and dwelled among us…” (John 1:14)
God’s love is an understanding love, not a distant-and-far-away-from-us love. He doesn’t build walls between us, but tears them down and comes near us. God understands our experience in the most personal way, and shows us mercy and grace. The great gift we give each other is to stand in each others’ shoes and allow the messiness of relationship and conflict to change our perspective, to expand our love for one another.
Who do you need to reconcile with? The best and healthiest ministries foster environments where conflict and honesty is not only welcomed, but walked through.
God desires that we walk the road together, listen, love and forgive. The process of forgiveness is the hallmark of our faith. God forgives us, and calls us to do likewise.
Loving well requires the effort of empathy. God models this for us in His life, death, and resurrection. Don’t be afraid of the messiness of empathy, you’ll be more like Him for sacrificing and stepping into someone else’s shoes.