Everybody has a problem with someone sometime. Maybe a friend has wronged you by saying something negative about you in your presence or behind your back. Maybe you feel you have been cheated in business, or treated unfairly in some way by a neighbor or a family member. Inside you may experience feelings of frustration, and even anger. You may even feel a desire to retaliate, but deep inside you know that retaliation solves nothing. What should you do?
First let’s look at a couple of common approaches. Some people suffer in silence. Instead of doing anything, they just simmer in their frustration. Using this approach, unresolved frustration can become bitterness in a very short time. If this is what you are experiencing, your silence is only hurting yourself.
Clearly, there may be situations when taking no action is the best way to handle things. For instance, Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.” If you can simply forgive and forget a wrong from the very beginning, it is to your credit and is sometimes the best way to prevent further hurt.
Another approach is to complain to a third party. Proverbs 17:9 speaks to this course of action: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” It is rarely, if ever, a good thing to involve another person in a matter that doesn’t directly concern them. It can damage important relationships. Though you may feel good sharing your frustration with someone who is sympathetic, it probably will do you no good in the long run. People often justify involving other people because they feel need for someone to talk to. Once again, there may indeed be situations in which godly advice is required. However, when a third party is brought in only to bolster your own side of things and share your anger, it is unproductive.
God’s Way: Reconciliation
So, neither suffering in silence nor complaining are effective ways to solve conflicts. OK. What’s left? In Matthew 18:15, Jesus gave God’s perspective on dealing with anger and hurt: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” In other words, Jesus teaches us to go directly to the person we are offended by as soon as possible in order to work out reconciliation. This is God’s way, and it achieves some wonderful results. For instance:
- It prevents a relatively small conflict from developing into serious anger and animosity.
- It prevents other people from getting caught up in a problem that really doesn’t concern them.
- It may lay the foundation for a new relationship with the person who has offended you.
- It results in a clear conscience on your part for having tried to do what is right, and can bring real inner peace until your own conscience is clear.
As long as we’re making lists, here is what the Bible says about how you should interact with the person you experience conflict with:
- Go to them in humility. Remember, there may be a point of view in the situation that you haven’t considered.
- Go determined to seek true justice. If you are even partly wrong, admit it and seek forgiveness. If restitution needs to be made, do your best to make it.
- Go in love. That is, never go to the person with the idea of humiliating them. Seek the peace and welfare of all concerned.
One more issue remains to be mentioned: What if your efforts are not well received? If you have truly made an effort to do what is right and seek peace with this person, then reconciliation becomes their problem. You cannot force them either to forgive you or to admit their own wrong. Pray for them and continue to be open should circumstances and attitudes change. You will have one very precious thing, however: the deep satisfaction that comes from having done things God’s way!