This past Memorial Day weekend will go down as one of my least favorite holiday weekends with my family. We scrapped, argued, bickered, and nitpicked each other much of the three days. I’m sad to say that I found myself in the middle of too much of the family conflict. Tuesday morning I couldn’t wait to get to work and go separate directions from my wife and kids. This is NOT the typical pattern for our family or our weekends.
Part of my job as a marriage pastor is to help couples communicate and resolve conflict. In fact, the day before this post went live, Kristen and I taught a room of 150 couples biblical communication and conflict. How about that for irony!?!
All weekend long I chose not to practice what I preach. Pride held me back, the apologies and requests for forgiveness got stuck in my throat, and I refused to humble myself in front of my wife and boys.
Am I the only one who struggles with communication and conflict resolution?
On my recent reader survey, communication and conflict showed up as one of the top requested topics for readers. For obvious reasons, pretty much every single one of us struggles in how to best communicate and resolve conflict. This plays out in marriage, friendships, work relationships, community, and parenting.
Today I write as someone in the trenches with you.
- How can we speak to each other in a more loving tone?
- What do you do when you know you need to ask for forgiveness, but you just don’t want to?
- Why can’t others see things the way I see them?
We can learn a few lessons from Paul’s words in Colossians 3:12-13. I spent some time earlier this week meditating on this powerful passage. Paul writes,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.”
What can we learn from Paul?
1. Put on humility. It looks good on everyone.
Some of us look good in certain outfits, but not so good in others. Some might like bright colors and others dark colors. But, one thing is for certain – we all look good when we wear humility. James 4:6b says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God to ‘resist me.’
This weekend, I needed to wear some humility.
2. Try on some compassion, kindness, and gentleness.
Too many times this weekend I did not love my wife and kids with a spirit of compassion, kindness, or gentleness. In fact, I lived as if I tore those garments off and instead put on harshness, anger, and a critical spirit.
It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Be kind to one another.
3. Remember to be patient with everyone.
Paul tells his readers to put on patience. Doesn’t he know I don’t have the time for that (pun intended)? In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul writes, “And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Sometimes we warn, other times we comfort, and sometimes we help. But, we’re always to be patient, with everyone.
I would have done well to put on some patience this past weekend.
4. Forgive in the same way the Lord has forgiven us.
So often we only want to forgive if the other person has forgiven us. We hold a lack of forgiveness over others because we don’t want them to get away with anything. But, I need to be reminded of the way the Lord has forgiven me. I need to remember that He doesn’t forgive me not because I deserve it or did anything to earn it.
Rather, God’s forgiveness is unconditional. A Christ-like forgiveness goes first and doesn’t wait for the other person to seek forgiveness first. I acted like an eight-year-old this weekend as I waited for my kids to apologize to me before I apologized and sought forgiveness from them.
5. Remember how #’s 1-4 above happen in the first place.
Last, but certainly not least, remember how you do these things. You do them as one who is chosen, holy, and dearly loved. This passage from Paul is not just a to-do list. We’re unable to do these things on our own apart from God’s grace and His Spirit (John 15:5). We wear humility, treat others with compassion, and forgive others because we’re God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved.
Dive in deeper on biblical communication and conflict resolution. To help you, I’ve listed a few resources I think you’ll find useful:
- No one does a better job of talking about biblical communication and conflict than Watermark’s lead pastor, Todd Wagner. Check out his 4-part series called Conflict: A Constant Opportunity.
- Is there a difference between saying, “I’m sorry” and saying, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”. Click here to find the answer.
- This past weekend at Watermark, Jonathan “JP” Pokluda preached an outstanding message about 10 things Extraordinary Parents practice. #5 on the list? Extraordinary Parents ask for forgiveness, and they ask for it frequently. They don’t let pride get in the way, and they leave an example for their children how to humble themselves. Check it out!