How To Fight to Win
The Benefits of Conflict
There is only one way to avoid conflict in this life, and that is to avoid people. But in spite of the fact that conflict is almost synonymous with trouble, there are really a number of good things to be said for it.
First, conflict is a good way to discover yourself, a good way to find out what kind of person you really are. A hermit living out in the desert by himself can be a very nice person, but if you put him in a family with a wife and children or in a church with other people, everyone will discover rather quickly just how nice he really is. Only as you rub shoulders with other people and as you have conflict with them that you find out what sort of character you are. Of course, you also find out about the other person. So conflict is a means of getting to know both yourself and the people around you.
In the second place, and this may sound strange, but in a queer or paradoxical way conflict can promote closeness between us. It may not be the best way to be close, but it is certainly one way to connect. For example does your husband come home, barely speak to you, gobble down your supper, and then plop down in front of the TV to watch Monday night football? If he does, you may want to start a fight with him just to get something going between the two of you. Indeed, every parent realizes that sometimes children get obnoxious just to pick a fight. Human beings, you see, are social animals. They have to be involved with other people. And if they can’t be involved in a friendly way, they would rather fight than be alone.
Third, conflict can be good because it promotes change. Any institution like a home, school, business or church has a tendency to get into a rut. Often it is only as differences between people emerge that change begins in a family, church or organization. Unrest, even
arguments, are the forerunners of progress.
Finally, conflict provides a real test of the authenticity of your relationships. You don’t really know what kind of marriage you have until your spouse crosses you, and we will never know what kind of church we have until we have a disagreement. But when a disagreement happens, we find out quickly what kind of relationship we have–with a friend, spouse, or church. In fact. one of the benefits of conflict is that it gives us an opportunity to see if how deep our religion goes. You have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, right? Good. Now if you want to find out for sure how devoted you are to Christ, just get into a fight with somebody. Go to a church meeting and listen to something you don’t like, and then you will prove your Christianity.
One: You Win When You Listen
Now, let us look at some ways that you win by losing–ways you can win the fights at your home, office and church by losing. Here are four steps to winning by losing, not easy steps, not steps you are going to like, but steps that will make you a winner.
The first rule is to listen, listen to the person with whom you disagree. When your adversary gets irritated or is frustrated or is aggravated, and their voice begins to crack a little, the first thing to do before you answer or tell your opponent how wrong she is and how right you
are is to stop talking and listen. Just like the Bible says, “Be swift to hear; slow to speak; slow to anger” (James 1:19).
When somebody is getting hot under the collar, they can be cooled off simply by giving them a chance, as we say, to get it off their chest, a chance to vent their anger and frustration. I may not get my way, but if somebody cares enough to listen to me, to be patient and let me have
my say, to try to understand where I’m coming from, then I’m going to feel a whole lot better. When you get upset, most of the time it’s because you are trying to tell the world, “Hey look, I’m important, I’m somebody, and I want to be recognized.” It doesn’t matter nearly so much that I
get what I want from you, if I know that I matter to you.
Two: You Win When You Accept Differences
I know that it sounds radical, but it is O.K. to be different. Paul says, “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you” (Rom. 15:7). This counsel follows Romans 14 where the Apostle has talked about the fact that there are people in the church who have differences of opinion about many things such as eating meat and observing days. To the Jewish members of the church these were very important matters. Now to us Gentiles, eating meat or working on Saturday doesn’t mean much, and we are inclined to belittle the brother who holds these outdated views. But Paul tell us, “Accept the brother who is weak” (Rom. 14:1). Accept him without arguing with him and without trying to force him to see the light and to agree with you. Just accept him as different.
What a revelation! I used to have the idea that by the time I was forty years old, I would have learned everything there was to learn, or at least everything I could be taught. But I’m amazed at how much I have learned since I turned forty some twenty-two years ago. By the time I’m eighty-five, I should be pretty smart, but one thing I have learned that it’s O.K. to be different.
I used to think that it was my God ordained duty to get everybody to see the light, which meant to agree with my opinions. For example, if Doris disagreed with me, I was convinced that it was a major disaster and that our marriage would fall apart if she didn’t agree with her husband.
And believe me Doris has some pretty funny notions. She doesn’t play golf, and she doesn’t give a hoot about watching football–if you can imagine that. But one day I read the Bible and decided to just accept her, and we are still together. She doesn’t agree with me, but accepting her has
made me a winner.
Three: You Win When You Make a Commitment To Your Adversary
The third rule for winning the fights at your home and church is to be committed. If you are not committed to the person you are fighting with, you will lose every time. For fights to be constructive the relationship between the adversaries must be more important the issue about which they disagree. You see, the fact of being husband-wife or father-son or mother-daughter or brother-sister or fellow Christians is almost always more important than the issues we argue about.
The Hebrews had a word to describe the commitment required to win a fight, the word hesed, which is found ninety-four times in the Old Testament. It is difficult to translate into English, sometimes meaning “favour,” sometimes “goodness,” sometimes “”kindness,” sometimes “loving kindness” and in some modern translations “true love” or “steadfast love” or “wonderful love.”
There are other words in Hebrew for favor, kindness and love. What is different about hesed is the fact that it is a kindness or love exhibited in a covenant relationship. It is a love that has been promised, a favor that one has bound himself to grant to another. And the greatest example of that is God’s own favor toward us promised to us in his covenant with us. So hesed refers to love in the context of commitment. It is the kind of favor God swore to his people (Gen. 22; Heb. 6:13-20), the favor that God in his faithfulness shows to us even when we are faithless
to him. Hesed is the loving kindness and faithful mercy of God, his sticking by us even when we sin against him. We may give up on ourselves, we may reject Christ, we may be bound and determined to go to hell, but we will do it against everything that God can do to save us.
In order to win the fights at your house or church you have to have this kind of commitment; you need hese, as the foundation of your relationship. When you are in conflict, in order to resolve your differences and be a winner, there must be commitment. Otherwise, one or
the other will just walk away when it gets too intense. This is one of the main causes of divorce. A marriage cannot endure without a mutual commitment, a feeling that we are simply stuck with one another, not because we are forced to be stuck but because we freely vowed to stick together. So I say to Doris, “you may walk out on me, but I’m never leaving you. You’re stuck with me for the rest of my life.” (Don’t you feel sorry for her?)
But that is what we all said when we took your marriage vows. And that is what we said when we became a Christian. That is what baptism means. We are bound to Jesus Christ, and we are bound to the family of God, and we are bound to one another. We may and we will have differences, and we may and we will have misunderstandings, and we may and we will have conflict, but we are in it together, and we know we have one another for better or worse. And there is nothing that gives us motivation to make it better than knowing that we are stuck with each other when it gets worse.
But it is precisely this kind of commitment you need to win. You never win by walking out and abandoning a relationship. That is nothing but defeat. In order to win, you have to hang in there through the thick and the thin.
Four: You Win When You Submit
The fourth rule is submission. If you want to win the fights at your home and church, then you must learn submission. In Eph. 5:21-6:9 Paul talks about three human relationships, which in the first century were characterized by alienation, tension, conflict, enmity and abuse. They were the relationships between husbands and wives, fathers and sons and between slaves and masters. And at the beginning of the text where he gives advice for each relationship, Paul says to everyone involved: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). He says this to husbands and wives: “Be subject to one another”; he says this to fathers and sons: “Be subject to one another”; he says this to masters and slaves: “Be subject to one another.” He says this to everyone, to church members and to church leaders, to young people and to old folks, to everyone of us he says, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
This is the basis for the truth in the book, The Total Woman, by Marabel Morgan. She talks to wives like herself who had built up resentments toward their husbands and who had gotten into vicious, if sometimes subtle, power struggles with their husbands. So the author tells these wives that instead of trying to get their way, instead of trying to bring their husbands around to their point of view, they should do their very best to please them, to be the very best wife for them they could possible be, in a word to submit to them.
If there is a problem with the book, it is because it was written only for wives. Husbands need a similar book for The Total Man that gives him the same message. If you are resentful of your wife and are caught up in a bitter struggle with her, you need to learn to submit to her or as
Paul puts it, to love her the way Christ loves the church, which means serving her to the point of laying down your life for her if need be.
Or we could say the same thing for a member of the church or a preacher who is frustrated because things are not going his way. If you want to win the fights at your church, submit to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Learn to serve them. Look for the jobs that no one else wants. Visit the sick and the lonely. Go out of your way to encourage other people. Do something to help a family in need. If you really want to be number one at your church, learn to do more for others. Before very long you will turn everybody’s head. You will get lots of attention and have the greatest respect. You will be the most powerful person in the church. All you have to do is love people and serve them with a joyful heart.
Try it, you can be a winner.