Is it possible to work through conflict — even major conflict — in grace and truth?
“Believers are no different than most Americans who’ve been caught up in the culture war today. It’s what [Georgetown linguist] Deborah Tannen calls the ‘argument culture.’ So we approach everything as if it’s a huge argument…”
Those are the words of author and Biola University communications professor Tim Muehlhoff. Muehlhoff is the author of , an extremely insightful book on the inner-workings of conflict, why it seems humans are wired for conflict, and how conflict can be resolved.
Muehlhoff told Dr. Bill Maier that, generally, there are two reasons why people seem drawn to conflict:
“I think in some ways, believers are just like Americans; we’ve lost our ability to talk about really important issues at a time where we have issues to talk about like immigration, same-sex marriage, and issues that affect all of us.
“Second, because we believe, as Christians, that we have God’s truth. That there’s no give. There’s no compromise. To compromise is to see ourselves as not defending God’s truth at every single point. So, not only are Americans bad communicators, but specifically Christians are really bad communicators because we feel like, ‘man, I’m representing God’s Word, I can’t give on any issue.’ And therefore, all we do sometimes in engage in monologue, not really dialogue.”
So how do we start to work through conflict?
Muehlhoff gives many ways for Christians to practice conflict resolution, but the first change a person must make is that of the heart. Heart change, Muehlhoff says, starts with practicing spiritual disciplines. Then, he says, there are four distinct steps a person must follow when stepping into a difficult conversation: