We all have experienced conflict and criticism with someone in our lives. Those “someones” could be members of our families, co-workers, friends, spouses, fellow church members — even strangers. If you are feeling pious, you are only kidding yourself. In reality, we’ve all run into these problems at one time or another. Many of us deal with these stressors constantly, even on a daily basis. It’s easy to feel like you’re always in the middle — or a target of — this type of troubled relationship issue. No one enjoys conflicts. Most people try to avoid them at all costs. But believe it or not, “we” actually may be the reason for conflicts and stress in our lives.
We all know that disagreements are a part of life. We try to avoid them. But instead of trying to find a way to remove them, maybe we should concentrate on ways to deal with disagreements.
The first step to handling difficulties in our lives is pretty standard: Let’s find the root cause. The answers usually are not that far below the surface. Let’s look at and think about some possible causes:
• Differences of opinion: This is, perhaps, the most common of conflict because we all have opinions on just about everything. A simple, minor issue can turn into an ugly, heated argument if it’s not handled correctly. We all can recall some dandies we have witnessed or been involved in.
You really have to love this one. Of course, none of us ever have thought we heard something different than what actually was said to us! Nah, couldn’t be. But seriously, misunderstandings based on misheard words rapidly can spiral into deep feelings of betrayal, separating us from our loved ones and friends.
• Jealousy, envy and gossip: These three evils — and others like them — often are the result of poor communication. That’s what happens when people are willing to believe second- or third-party information without bothering to verify it for themselves. You see this a lot, especially in larger groups and organizations such as churches and fraternal groups. This can be devastating to people who have real and truthful relationships, accountability, goals and directions.
• Deep convictions: Many of us are products of years of abiding convictions and beliefs that stem from childhood, personal experience, work environments, friends, family, hurt, mistrust and many more reasons seemingly “custom-made” for each of us. These beliefs can make us appear isolated, elitist and, in the case of those who believe themselves to be Christians, “holier than thou.”
These convictions, along with the aforementioned jealousy, envy and gossip, can deal critical blows and setbacks to Christians and those who are trying to live in the secular world.
• Personal baggage: There are many who also endure conflict and criticism on a daily basis, or have endured much in the past. These circumstances can include deep-rooted feelings of unworthiness, abuse, worthlessness and guilt that may trigger negative reactions, anger, over-the-top verbal and physical frustrations and defensiveness. All of these can build walls between people, devastate relationships and upset lives. Even well-intended Christians, in a misguided effort to appear more Christian to others, can make the terrible mistake of repressing other people’s criticism. They act as if nothing has happened. They simply ignore the conflict, pretend it didn’t matter and try to believe it won’t impact the future.
It is important that we recognize all of these triggers. Understanding brings about healing and the healthy lifestyle that we all deserve. Those around us deserve that, too. There is so much to do in our lives for those we love and meet. God put us on His earth to learn, grow, reach out to others and, most importantly, praise Him for the love and grace He has shown us. We must pass it on!
Stephen Ministers can make a difference to people who are experiencing conflict and criticism in their lives and those around them. If you or someone you know might be coping with these problems or other issues, maybe a Stephen Minister can help.
Stephen Ministers are trained to be there. The help they provide on a one-on-one basis is free, gender-sensitive and confidential. Our counselors will meet with you at any time of the day or night in a professional environment. They will walk with you and help you address your problems for as long as it takes. Stephen Ministers are trained to recognize when a client needs to be referred to a professional health-care specialists. Religious beliefs and positions are not a prerequisite for Stephen Ministry services.
If you or someone you know could use a Stephen Minister in their life, please call 320-7840 for a confidential appointment. Stephen Ministry is a global, faith-based, caring ministry. Learn more at stephenminisry.org.