Let’s be painfully candid here. I’ve had my own share of arguments, and you’ve had yours. I’ve had some that were never reconciled. Thankfully, most ended in a renewed friendship. I’ve learned through the years a few strategies that have proven effective in facing difficult disagreements.
1. When in a disagreement, work hard to see the other point of view. That begins with listening. Include in the formula three qualities that don’t come easily: honesty, objectivity, and humility. That’s the full package for handling conflict God’s way. None of that comes naturally. They come to full bloom as products of the Spirit-filled life.
2. When both sides have validity, seek a wise compromise. For those who were reared as I was, even the thought of compromise makes you bristle. If you’ve got backbone, you don’t give in. You stand firm, regardless. I appreciate an individual with backbone—true grit. But one who never bends, one who refuses to negotiate toward resolution? Hardly. I admire more someone who willingly and graciously seeks a suitable solution to disagreement, without in any way compromising biblical principles.
3. When the conflict persists, care enough to work it through rather than walk out. Slamming a phone down in the middle of a conversation or breaking through the screen on the front door as you stomp into the street solves nothing. Nor does a lengthy, manipulative silent treatment benefit either party. Or bolting from a marriage. Or quitting your job in a huff. That’s not how to handle disagreements. Work it through. Stay at it. It’s some of the hardest work you’ll do, but it’s also the most rewarding.
4. When it cannot be resolved, graciously agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable. I think Paul and Barnabas did that. Paul never takes a shot at Barnabas when he later wrote to the churches they had planted. In all of his letters, you’ll not find one slam against his former companion. And there’s no evidence of Barnabas licking his wounds either.
Honestly, not all separations lead to bad endings. Some of the greatest seminaries were birthed from a crucible of conflict. Some significant churches started as a result of an ugly split. It’s never too early to start moving on.
Phillip Melanchthon, that persuasive tempering force in Martin Luther’s life, put it best in these few words: “In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.”
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.