Everybody knows that it’s prideful people that cause the most fights. Think of super villians. The good guy is always stealing the bad guy’s fame or power so the bad guy has to fight them. Captain Hook and Peter Pan, The Queen and Snow White, whatever that big fella’s name was and Popeye. Their pride all came out in their constant conflict. But there’s a sneaky form of pride that I have recently been investigating. It is the pride of conflict-avoidance.
What I have concluded is: Pride can be revealed by a lot of conflict around someone and also by no conflict. This little sneaky form of pride is resisting any and every form of conflict.
Here’s the test: if I am avoiding conflict for the good of another, that’s love. If I am avoiding conflict out of prudence and discretion, again, it’s a win. If, however, I am avoiding conflict because I don’t personally like conflict, then maybe I need to take a closer look at my motivations.
Bad Reasons to Avoid Conflict
What are some of the wrong reasons I have for avoiding conflict?
One, it tarnishes my perfect record. Arguments tend to expose. My emotions become a little more raw and unpredictable. I may end up saying something I didn’t want anyone to know was inside me, let alone hear. I may reveal a selfish motivation or hidden insecurity, and have now given evidence against myself. I don’t want that because I want a perfect score.
Here’s a painful truth: conflict-avoiders, like myself, are prone to self-righteousness. Since we are expert emotion-controller/concealers, we think those hidden faults are more excusable. We think that our composure and restraint render us irreproachable. Jesus liked Peter more than the Pharisees, and he let it all hang out. Just saying.
Secondly, I may avoid conflict because I just don’t want to be bothered. It’s draining and sticky and takes a lot of brain-power and emotional energy. And so, I find that in trying to avoid conflict, I often avoid contact. This especially happens with people who irritate me, people who seem antagonistic to me, or people whose problems I don’t think I can fix. I’m not only avoiding conflict, now I am avoiding potential conflict-makers.
You know who I’m talking about. You have faces from your circles of acquaintances popping to mind. There are people you view as sleeping lions and you tiptoe around them. God has amazed me, though. Some of the people with whom I assumed I would have the most conflict, have ended up being some close allies. In short, God is teaching me honesty, forthrightness, love and sacrifice will go such a long way in bringing opposites together. Love being the key ingredient.
Also, I have realized that in these situations, I haven’t stopped to ask God for help. I am pridefully relying on the resources I naturally have. But God is showing me to reject my “personality test results” if it gives me an excuse not to step boldly into new territory. I am a lion chaser, even though people have told me my whole life I am a “peace-maker”. I can’t let the assumptions I have made about my natural makeup to trump what God is challenging me to become. My personality test should just show the areas of sanctification that will be more of a challenge. I can’t say, “I don’t speak the truth in love” because I am an “I” (for introvert), or I can’t “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” because I am a “T” not an “F” (thinker, not feeler). We must embrace Jesus as our personality, though it will be expressed in many facets through our different make-ups.
Thirdly, maybe you don’t avoid contact but you try and diffuse situations and never address anything. Acquiescence may be godly wisdom and humility...and it may be the opposite. Letting things lie and not challenging people may seem like love in your eyes, but it really may be pride.
Yes, God says we are to live at peace with all men, “as long as it depends on us”. But is it lasting peace to cover things and pretend like they don’t bother us?
I was having a conversation with a friend this week who said, “I use the rule that I forgive offenses. But if there is someone in my life with a pattern of behavior that continually causes offense, I talk to them about it. It’s more loving that letting my resentment build.” This of course has to be accompanied by discernment and wisdom for the person in question and the situation, but I think it is very good advice. If I absolutely refuse to bring up a friend’s offensive behavior (and I say friend because you most likely don’t have the right to bring up a stranger or acquaintance’s faults), then you are not a loving friend.
Don’t let the preservation of your personal peace bubble supercede your love for a friend and passion to see them walk in the fullness of the Lord. Desire their good always. If something is ruffling your feathers and it’s more than just your irritable nature, they deserve to have a loving friend point it out so they don’t walk around offending others in the same way. You know the friend that points out when you have spaghetti sauce on your cheek or spinach in your teeth? Same idea. Help them avoid future embarrassment. Lay down your own uncomfortableness. Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to take the chance of having misread them, even. Maybe in the process, you will learn something about yourself that you can change, and that’s a bonus, right? Yes, right.
Be prepared for people to rage, qualify, or flat out deny the things you bring up, but here again will be a glorious chance to lay down your life and its pride, and take up your cross of self-denial. There will be times that God calls you to be a loving voice of conscience in someone’s life and you still walk away blamed and with a tarnished reputation in some circles. As long as from start to finish you were humble and full of generous love that wanted reconciliation, then it’s okay. It’s okay if you weren’t proven right in front of others. It’s okay if it wasn’t immediately well-received. Jesus was maligned, ridiculed and scoffed at for bringing loving truth. It’s your inheritance too. Follow it out in love. Keep walking away in love and never stop the love when they have stopped theirs. Hope for the best, pray for the best, and be humble.