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"I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs. That's the Godly Thing to Do."

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I would like to address some more concerns a wife shared in response to my post about how we can be vulnerable and direct about our needs.

First, and this is critical:

Our sharing our feelings does require a delicate balance.

BALANCE

We can go too far one way or the other and make a big mess. If I share every single thought that enters my mind and don’t have any kind of filter for my motives or for sin – I will hurt others. I do need to have God’s wisdom, discernment, love, and compassion firmly in place before I share. I need to take my thoughts captive and not share sinful thoughts.

But I can also go too far the other way and share nothing. I can become completely unknowable and give up using any of my God-given influence in my family and in God’s kingdom. I can become an island – incapable of receiving. That is also unhealthy and destructive in all of my relationships – including my relationship with God. I end up full of self and devoid of God’s Spirit.

AVOIDING CONFLICT

Avoiding conflict can seem like a very noble, godly thing. Wouldn’t it be godly to try to prevent conflicts and tension and to try to keep everyone happy? “Blessed are the peacemakers” right? I mean – Jesus, Himself, said that! Why not scramble around trying to be extra nice to other people, bending over backwards, to try to keep them from getting angry at you at all costs? Doesn’t that sound like the loving thing to do?

I used to think so!

God does command us to love others and it’s great to head off unnecessary conflict when possible – but our motives are to be to please Him and to bless other people. Our motives are not to be:

  • to get people to like us
  • to have the approval of people/the world
  • to make things easier for us
  • to get what we selfishly want
  • to keep from facing constructive criticism/rebukes
  • to avoid necessary friction and conflict
  • fear of people’s anger or disapproval
  • guilt
  • false humility, playing the martyr, or self-righteousness (the root of which is always pride)
  • peace at all costs

If my thinking is, “I can’t let anyone ever be upset with me,” I am saying that I believe I am responsible for the thoughts, feelings, and actions of other people. Is that true? No! I am responsible for myself – other people are responsible for their own emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  (Please check out this post on healthy vs. unhealthy relationships for more detail.)

I might achieve a “temporary false peace” by avoiding addressing sin – but ultimately – allowing sin to continue on and on without a loving, respectful rebuke leads to destruction of the relationship.

I don’t want us to be afraid of negative emotions, or conflict. We are all human. We will all have a full range of emotions in various situations. Unless we are in actual danger – we don’t have to fear anyone’s negative feelings. Feelings are important, yes. But they are not Scripture. They are not God. They are not sovereign.

Instead of our being terrified at the thought of someone being unhappy with us – we can recognize that negative emotions are simply a signal that we need to investigate and see if something is wrong. Sometimes our feelings are incorrect. Sometimes they lie to us. When this happens, we can ignore the feelings after we thoroughly and prayerfully investigate. Sometimes our feelings are accurate and are important flags to warn us of a problem – like sin. Sometimes emotions tell us we need to eat or take a nap or have some time with God. Sometimes other people’s feelings are a method God will use to refine us. Other times other people’s feelings reveal sin or a need in their own hearts.

What comes out of a person’s mouth is about his/her character, not necessarily an accurate reflection on us. We don’t need to receive words from others that are not of God.

I can approach my husband humbly – willing to take responsibility for any sins on my part, willing to make amends, and willing to extend grace. I can listen to what my husband says and prayerfully consider whether I need to make any changes in God’s eyes. But I am not responsible for his sin or his obedience to God. If what he says is from the flesh and the enemy or twists God’s Word, I don’t need to absorb that. If what he says lines up with the Bible, then I can receive that word.

PEOPLE PLEASING

Let’s talk about some of the ideas about people-pleasing this wife shared in her objections to speaking directly and vulnerably about our needs, emotions, desires, and concerns:

  • People may get upset.
  • You will be judged.
  • You will look weak.
  • You’ll sound selfish and demanding.

Thankfully, we are no longer slaves to the opinions or approval of others when we are in Christ! Only God’s approval matters ultimately! Jesus is LORD.

Here is what Scripture has to say about people pleasing:

  • Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
  • for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. John 12:43
  • You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
  • I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4
  • Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! Acts 5:29
  • But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4

WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT CONFLICT?

There are times when conflict is unavoidable – even necessary and good – like when we need to confront sin. God gives us instructions about how to handle conflict without sinning. But He does not condemn conflict itself or tell us to do anything we can to make other people like us and to make them happy with us in the moment.

  • Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-19,21

Note that we have some level of control over conflict vs. peace with others. But we don’t have total control. We only control our end of things.

Jesus experienced a great deal of opposition and conflict. How did He handle it?

  • Did He cower and run to try to patch things up with the Pharisees who accused Him of blasphemy?
  • Did He try to placate the Pharisees to get them to like Him and want to be with Him? He called them “a brood of vipers,” “hypocrites,” and “blind guides.”
  • Was Jesus most interested in avoiding conflict with His enemies or was He most interested in doing God’s will and exalting God?

If you really read how Jesus interacted with those who opposed Him, He was not wimpy, tail-between-His-legs, sniveling, afraid of people, and “nice” in the sense we describe “nice” today. He was firm, unflinching, and bold. He called sin what it was. He did not apologize. He responded with righteous anger when that was appropriate. And yet, He was loving in the midst of it. He did what was right – not what was easiest or most politically correct. He humbly went to the cross because that was God’s will for Him and He loved God – not because He couldn’t stand up for Himself. 

Jesus wasn’t troubled by what people thought about Him – even when they totally misunderstood Him. His concern was what God thought about Him. He said things that ran a lot of people off for which He did not apologize. Things like,

  • “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
  • “Go sell all you have and give to the poor… then come and follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).  
  • He even talked about that people would need to eat His flesh and drink His blood or they have no life in them (John 6:53) – after that, many people stopped following Him. He was fine with that. How? He was able to be fine with them leaving because He knew that God would bring certain people to Him for eternal life and other people would not belong to Him. He accepted that. He never begged anyone to follow Him. He never ran after those who rejected Him, trying to get them to change their minds or trying to make them like Him.

CONFIDENCE IN CONFLICT

(If you are in danger in your marriage, please reach out for help when you safely can do so – www.thehotline.org, call the police, or a trusted counselor.) I don’t want us to fear conflict in normal relationships. I used to be terrified of conflict myself – but after the healing God has done in my own marriage and after over 37,000 comments on this blog alone in the past 4 years, I have seen what a powerful tool conflict can be in the hands of God to accomplish amazing things!

Conflict is often a platform God gives us to bring great glory to Himself! Our godly, Spirit-filled response during conflict can draw people to Christ in powerful ways like nothing else can.

The key to our ability to have confidence is that God’s Spirit must be in charge – not our flesh. If our sinful flesh is in control, we will make a big mess and hurt other people (and ourselves) in destructive ways. If God’s Spirit is in charge, He will take the conflict and use it to help us share His truth in love. It may even result in people being convicted of sin and may lead to healing, spiritual growth, and greater maturity. I have also seen conflict result in people coming to Christ!

  • Conflict sharpens and prunes us.
  • It helps us draw closer to others when approached in a healthy way.
  • It helps us understand others better when we seek to understand their different viewpoints and perspectives.
  • It can reveal sin in our lives and in the lives of others.
  • It is a necessary part of intimacy between imperfect people and it can lead to great good.

Usually, there is fear, ungodly thinking, or pain behind someone else’s anger. Look for their heart message. Address those deep fears or unhealthy ways of thinking as God leads you to. If you can address what is behind the emotions and negative feelings – the person may find healing in Christ.

Note – conflict does not have to mean yelling, violence, rage, contention, division, hatred, and bitterness. Conflict simply means a disagreement or misunderstanding. We can have conflict without sinning. We can have conflict without drama when God’s Spirit is involved.

Verses about conflict

RELATED:

The Snare of People Pleasing

Healthy VS. Unhealthy Relationships

Responding to Insults, Criticisms, and Rebukes

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

My Identity in Christ

My Security Is in Christ Alone!

Roots of Insecurity

 

22 thoughts on “"I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs. That's the Godly Thing to Do."

  1. April. THIS was a direct hit for me. As I look back over this last year, I realize how far I gave come. With the grace of God, sending me the right people, the right words and the Holy Spirit being allowed to guide me, I am eons away from the ungodly, selfish, full of pride and controlling person with a bad attitude that I once was.

    BUT this is still my struggle. It is really tough to know for sure if I would be calling out sin or sinning myself. I am very much trying to make sure I am not “pushing my drowning husband’s head under water”. So often I sit on my feelings. I struggle and have conversations with myself and pray. I am not sure if there is a lesson I need to learn from God about taking action or to keep resting. It’s hard to know if I’ve swung too far on the pendulum. I know God doesn’t want us to sit and do nothing, expecting God to just “handle it all” as if I was saying “Hey God, I’ll just sit back and let you fix my problems, let me know when it’s all fixed and I can come back in for the fun parts”.

    No, God refines us often at the same time He is working in others’ hearts as well. We still need to be active in our own refinement. But is there a way to know when you have learned that “lesson”? When you can be at peace that you are on the right path? Are there “breaks” in the learning process to know that you can rest for a while? Sometimes I think we need that time to digest what we learned and let it “cure” into our hearts, like a fresh coat of paint. It can feel exhausting to go ftom one sin to another constantly and rip and tear and spiritually bleed without having a break or some peace once in a while.

    I think that is why I am so reluctant about talking with my husband. I feel he needs some time to work things out too. I don’t want to badger him and pile on when maybe he needs more time to process, allow God in, work it out. I don’t want to overwhelm him. So although I may have a faster pace than my husband, I need to make sure I am listening to God’s instructions for me first. It may be to speak up in love, kindness, and respect, or to pray, think, learn something about my own thoughts, actions, feelings and motives.

    It seems to boil down to learning how to hear God in our own personal way, being willing to submit fully to Him, and in all things, do our best everyday to seek to please God. Jesus was our living, breathing example to do this by. In all things, we need to do what Jesus would have done. Not just get swept away with the tide of our emotions and feelings, wants and desires. Self control, not other control, love, not selfishness.

    Thank you April FOR THIS post. As always, it’s a blessing.

    1. LMSdaily115,

      In our own wisdom and the power of our flesh, we will always overcorrect and swing too far one way, then too far the other way. But there is also a process as we learn to listen to the Spirit. It takes time to learn to hear His voice and to be sensitive to Him. Ultimately, yes, this is all about hearing God’s voice in each situation. Sometimes He does call us to wait, sit, rest, pray, and be still. Other times He calls us to speak up, to confront sin, to be bold and courageous. Sometimes a husband is so wounded, he wouldn’t be able to hear our words for a time. But then, God will let us know when it is time to speak up.

      To Speak or Not to Speak

      There are certainly times we need to digest things and take a break. It is impossible to do this entire journey at one time. I think of it like a cross country hike of 3000 miles, or eating an elephant. We can’t do it all in a day, a week, a month, or several months. We must do it in chunks. There are times when we need to just rest in Christ. This is a process that can’t be rushed. Sometimes going slowly is very necessary to be sure that we are fully allowing God to speak to us about everything in a certain area and that we are not rushing and glossing over things.

      I completely agree – this all boils down to learning to hear God ourselves, fully yielding and submitting to Him, and seeking to please Him every day and every moment.

      I’m so glad this was a blessing. 🙂

      1. LMSdaily115,

        I just added something to this post that might be helpful:

        If my thinking is, “I can’t let anyone ever be upset with me,” I am saying that I believe I am responsible for the thoughts, feelings, and actions of other people. Is that true? No! I am responsible for myself – other people are responsible for their own emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions.

  2. An excellent post, April. Husbands who avoid conflict, such as myself, will benefit from this as well. Maybe Greg could post some of this over at his blog . May God bless you beyond all you could ask or imagine.

    1. elovesc35,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I’ll let Greg know about your suggestion. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support, my brother!

  3. Ok, so how do I fix this.. I mean I’ve been praying that I only care what God thinks, but I still don’t understand how you have difficult conversations.

    1. Elizabeth,

      I have a number of posts linked at the bottom of this post that go into detail about various aspects of how to have difficult conversations. But – ultimately – we must depend on God’s Spirit, His wisdom, His power, His prompting, His words, and His leadership.

      If you haven’t read the posts about healthy vs unhealthy relationships and about how to be vulnerable and direct, those are super helpful, in my view.

      A few other posts that may be a blessing –

      How Do You Stay Filled with the Holy Spirit?

      I am Responsible for My Spiritual Growth

      I Am Responsible for My Emotions

      Are We Responsible for Our Spouse’s Happiness?

      Control and Boundaries

      I also have a Youtube video about how to ask for things respectfully.

      Is there a particular difficult conversation you would like to use as an example? We could hash through it together. 🙂

      Much love to you!

  4. Lovely post. I would say that avoiding conflict is actually ungodly. We are called to speak the truth, to discern and embrace the truth. Unfortunately the truth, even if it is only a little one, often creates confrontation, conflict, and sometimes offense. Bit of wry humor here, but the fastest way to win friends and influence people is to lie to them. Speaking the truth seldom wins you any accolades.

    One problem many of us experience is wounding from having seen too much unhealthy confrontation and conflict. It’s not the conflict that was bad, it’s the way people handled it. If you’ve been through this, it’s a bit like being gun shy, fearful of creating those negative experiences all over again.

    1. insanitybytes22,

      YES! Such an important point that avoiding necessary conflict is ungodly. Avoiding dealing with our sin or someone else’s sin that God wants us to address is not a gift to anyone. It is actually unhealthy and destructive.

      I definitely understand that we can be gun shy after having conflict blow up in our faces and experiencing the pain of conflict not going well. But in Christ, we do not have a spirit of fear but a Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.

      Great insights, my sister!

  5. hi LMSDAILY115, your post is touching my heart right …..i am currently working my way towards Jesus to find my self and see the light and repent on all of my sins …..so much pain with so many issues on our 20 yrs of marriage….me making a mistake 15 yrs ago (repent and tried to fix it without surrendering to Jesus then)….then him constantly having close female friends and then on sept this year, found out he was having an emotional affair….confronted him humanly (not godly….so that means a lot of disrespect)……but when my husband started to open up that he wants to fix himself……i got overwhelmed …..wanted things and events to turn out how i want it to be…..by our own efforts……I TOTALLY IGNORED THAT GOD IS GOD …..of course i was praying but only to fix the mess, stop my husband from lying, commiting sin….as i was trying to find answers i came across this site…..have been following April’ s blog…..and by her inspiration…..follow on to God’s calling…..and now that i know my husband might be still struggling to his own self to get up, might be feeling sorry for everything….and when there are some conflicts i would like to settle…..i know i am struggling so much to say it in a GODLY manner…..but i know from this day forward …..because God’s loving grace and mercy saved and set me free from bondage of sins….I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH GOD WHO WILL STRENGTHEN ME…..i still have fears of the things unknown (if he really stopped talking or texting her while he is at work)… but truly i can say now that i am finding my joy, peace and contentment in Christ our Lord…..i am able to sleep at night and be still ….thanks so much sisters in Christ…..i ask for your prayers …..and Thanks again for your blessing other wive’s life

    1. ecidnac20,

      Such a tough time y’all have had! I’m so sorry for all of the pain. 🙁

      But how I praise God that you are seeking Christ and allowing Him to work in you! THAT IS AWESOME!

      How can we best pray for you?

      Much love, my dear sister!

    2. ecidnac20,

      How wonderful you have embarked on this important spiritual journey! My thoughts and prayers are with you, that you may experience God’s love and strength in fullest measure, and gain his wisdom to help deal with this difficult situation. YES, you really can do anything with his strength! Know that many of us are on this journey with you, learning every day–no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been traveling. We learn from our mistakes, too; we get up and keep going, and with time get stronger, wiser, and more confident.

      I’m so glad you realize your husband is also experiencing his own spiritual struggle trying to get his own life “right” after making mistakes. Please reach out to him in God’s love, even though you’re hurting. Let God’s perfect love for you throw fear outside–hard to do as a human but God can empower you not to live in fear! Loving someone unselfishly and living God’s way is an amazing power for good. Be willing to forgive, even through the hurt, and let your husband see a woman shining with God’s qualities at work in her life–forgiveness, mercy, patience, and understanding. Praying for you, my dear sister.

  6. Dear April,
    Below is a letter that I wrote to my wife and Jesus in hopes that they will answer my prayers, she divorced me over year ago because of my infidelities I beg for her forgiveness…we were married 40 years in April 2015
    My Dear Sweet Lord Jesus, the safe keeper of me, my wife _____ , our children, and grandson, my precious gifts from you God…
    Please Lord please, answer my prayers as I pray to you without ceasing…
    I know I’m not perfect and far far from it…
    I know I am a filthy rag, a horrible sinner, no one has to tell me, I know that’s what I am… Woe is Me…
    Lord you know my heart best, you know how my love for you and my wife is unbreakable and unmeasurable…
    Sweet Lord, I have contributed so much to the failure of my marriage to your daughter ______ and I hold my head down with shame in your presents …
    I know now that she left me for you, because I mistreated her and I know now she is safe and that you will comfort her, because I have hurt her so badly and deeply…
    I am glad its you Jesus, that is taking my place as her husband in her life and it warms my heart to know she is safe in your arms and no harm will come to her and she will not be defiled and remain pure…
    I will walk and talk with you everyday Jesus with ______ the wife of my youth in your loving arms listening to my apologies and to my sorrowful words of remorse and repentance, for the inmature ungogly way I have behaved as the spirtual leader and head our household…
    I’ve been so foolish, and I feel so dirty and so ashamed…
    Please Lord as you carry her and as we walk along that narrow road with you, please let her hear my pleas of Mercy and know that I have changed, please don’t let it be to late for us both…
    You know life is a Vapor, you know how much I love my wife with all my heart and how much I need her back in my life so badly, so I can make up for all the inequities and the inadequacies I have brought upon us in our lifes together…

    I know she probably won’t want to listen to me and that she won’t want to leave your arms for a mere mortal sinner like me, when she is surrounded by your Holy Awesomeness…
    But, one thing i do know for sure is that everything I have learned about you Jesus, all of thousands and thousands of words I have read, heard and wrote, is that you say these things, that it is always your Will no matter what happens in a marriage… (and there will be times of troubles) we must truly forgive one another and love each other and return to one another and pray for one another in your name with an agrap love for you and each other and we should know just how much you despised divorce and that ______ and I (WE) are still married in God’s eyes and you want us to always be together, because you have said that and you’re the same today as you were yesterday and will be every day, you never change….

    Lord please, dear lord the God of all man, hear my cries and my prayers for your Mercy and for your Grace and wipe my tears from my eyes so I can see my way to you and pursue you more clearly and cleanse me and please soften ______’s heart for me and lead us both down that narrow road of rightousness together, so we can have eternal life and show us the awesome power of your Grace and Mercy and please come to me and place my wife _______ back I’m my arms, so we can have another chance to make it right and fulfill your plans of a Godly marriage…. In your name Jesus, I Pray for these blessings and that your “Will” be done on earth as it will be in Heaven…. Amen…
    Love, your son Joseph
    .

    1. Apachejoe,

      I pray for God to bring you to Himself and for Him to radically transform your heart, mind, and soul for His glory. And for Him to heal your wife. I pray for healing for your marriage for God’s glory and in His timing, my brother.

      1. Thank you Ying, I’m so glad I touched your heart…
        I want to touch everyone’s heart…
        Especially my Wife’s…
        If i can touch someone’s heart, Dear God, how blessed am I…
        I think it is Jesus working in me or through me, he’s working in me to spread the gospel to others… God has given me a discernment about these things, and about marriage, but, I never put them in use until my wife divorce me and now I know exactly what he wants from us…
        Its forgiveness, true forgiveness, its repentance, true repentance and reconciliation to one another…
        That’s what the whole Bible is about from Genesis to Revelations…
        It’s all about forgiveness and reconciliation and the love for one another…
        Love, I don’t think most people even understand what that word really means…
        What it means to have or having a Agape love for someone, love covers a multitude of sins, love is forgiveness, love is repentance love is reconciliation…
        Love is Christ, so love your neighbor, your spouse and your children as you love Christ, and as he loves you… Joe

  7. Speaking as a guy, I can say what I feel is generally true for most men.

    We can deal with a substantial amount of conflict, provided the conflict remains within the boundaries of “fair play”.

    One of the most crucial skills in interpersonal conflict resolution is realize that it is not acceptable for one person to appoint themselves the ultimate authority over whose concerns or grievances are legitimate.

    There is a bit of narrow path to walk here, since we are not required to roll over and get trampled, but we have to make sure we are not inadvertently doing that to someone else. This goes back to the “submitting under protest”, concept. It does not mean the other person is right, it only means that one person has decided not to perpetuate the conflict with no definable end.

    If the husband is in the wrong and the wife submits to his decision, God will hold him accountable all alone for failing to give proper heed to his helpmate. Even if she is wrong, he has an obligation to listen and give proper consideration to her views.

    Regardless, whoever is right loses all their chips if they cash them in on an “I told you so”. Those are some expensive words to say. Most of the time they are not worth the cost. Displaying grace is not always pleasant in the moment, but it pays huge dividends over time.

My grandmother is on hospice and won't be with us much longer (11-30-16). I will get to comments when I am able to but I need to be with family right now. Thanks for understanding.

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