Friday, November 30, 2012


(The context of this discussion is my experience with conflict and resolution principles in the United States versus what I see in Jamaica.  The lifestyle choices of ‘warring,’  ‘malicing (not talking with each other),’ and various other negative manifestations of conflict without resolution)
“Keep your tongue from sin and your lips from speaking lies. Turn away from what is sinful. Do what is good. Look for peace and follow it.”  -  Psalm 34:13-15 New Life Version (NLV)
As a child, in my parents’ home in Kingston and New York, I saw several bouts of conflict with neighbors, friends and even within the home itself with my mom and dad.   One obvious aspect of the conflicts that I saw and understood was that I never experienced violence or what we would term ‘warring’ as a result of these episodes.  My parents and their friends were uniquely different in that there was no ignoring the problem, no ignoring the person, it was always handling it and getting over it. 
Because of that foundation, I cannot really remember having a problem with brother or sister that had caused us to be alienated from each other.  We had a good relationship, still do, and differences were handled through communication without a ‘war.’   That method had been a lifestyle for me, I may be in disagreement with my peers but I strive to not be disagreeable.  Many times taking the wrong when I believe I am right.  Those with whom I may be in conflict assume that I have taken a position because I believe I was in the wrong, rather, I do what I do because of the scripture listed above.  We must “seek peace and pursue it.”

So when I am met with a vindictive nature, retaliatory and deceiving attitudes and coercive actions I am significantly challenged.   And, unfortunately I see that in the lives of those that should be leaders and Christian mentors for our people.

I was with a small group of teens and twenty year olds and asked them to tell me how they viewed, handled and lived with conflict in their lives.  It was an interesting and engaging discussion that I will be using for this series.  We shared these main points that we will elaborate on in later discussions:
1.            Conflict in our Spiritual Life
2.            Conflict in our Work Life
3.            Conflict in our Personal Life (family and friends)


It was evident to all that a lot of us have the ability to compartmentalize the various areas mentioined and deal with them separately but there is a place where these three areas converge that can cause some difficulty for us. For example, when we work with the same people that we live with, and may also worship with.    This causes a higher level of conflict resolution and accountability for our personal interaction with the world around us.
Now, also realize that men and women do have different ways of handling conflict and that is also influenced by cultural norms, expectations and experience.   A man’s approach, from his natural instinct is to conquer  and defeat the enemy.  He is apt to be physical, loud and animated with other men in conflict.  Conflict with women may be another scenario altogether where he is docile or to another extreme can be physically abusive. 

However we deal with conflict, there must be a biblical foundation to the process that we employ in:
a)  our daily (routine),
b)  in our communication;  and
c)  in handling those situations that can be incendiary for good reason or for no reason at all.    

The group offered another observation from their experience in home, school and community:  Conflict begins and is processed through these basic steps:

                1.            Offence (internal perception of a wrong done to you)
                2.            Verbal argument ensues
                3.            Physical escalation of the argument
                4.            Malice (ignoring the person for a season)

One teenager made a very interesting observation.  He said, “Rev.  It is usually our friends or those close to us that we have these problems with and not our enemies.  Then our enemies sit back and watch us and laugh because we are unable to handle our relationship in a better way.”
We can use teaching, experience or just sheer brute force to thrust us through a season of conflict.  I see  a variety of options at our disposal but I have discovered that witin the arsenal of good weaponry there are some not so good ones that I need to discuss also.  
For example, “attempting to influence through emotional blackmail or coercion.”   This I believe is not usually the man’s way of dealing with conflict but I do think that that the matriarchal influence has resulted in an emasculation of young men. Now, our methods of handling relationships is floundering from God’s and a man’s natural instincts in interpersonal conflict resolution