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  • Writer's pictureEric Bents


Using wisdom to approach and resolve conflict that builds relational wealth.

Conflict is an inescapable part of life, but it does not always have to be detrimental or immoral. Conflict exists when two opposing parties have interests or goals that appear incompatible.

There are five general approaches to managing conflict I learned during my USAF Squadron Officer School (from a study by K.W. Thomas). I have found each approach has its place in managing a variety of conflict situations:

  1. Competition: Achieving one’s own ends at the expense of someone else. This is domination or a win-lose orientation.

  2. Accommodation: The opposite of competition. In this approach, you totally give way to the other party with no attempt to achieve one’s own ends.

  3. Compromise: Both parties give up something yet both parties get something.

  4. Avoidance: Indifference to the concerns of both parties. Reflects a withdrawal from or neglect of any party’s interests, at least for a period of time.

  5. Collaboration: An effort to fully satisfy both parties. This problem-solving approach requires the integration of each party’s concern and is also known as win-win.

Jesus utilized all five strategies in his leadership:

  • Competition - “Let the dead bury the dead… No one after putting their hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

  • Accommodation - Jesus' first miracle at Cana, at the request of his mother. (John 2)

  • Compromise - Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman. She compromises her ego and Jesus steps outside his call to the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:21-28)

  • Avoidance - The people of Nazareth turn against Jesus and he slips through the crowd to get away. (Luke 4:8-30)

  • Collaboration - Jesus and the Centurion. “Just say the word.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

We tend to handle the majority of our conflicts using one or two of these approaches. But healthy individuals intuitively draw from the entire spectrum of conflict resolution strategies. Christ-following leaders have the additional advantage of the indwelling Holy Spirit who helps us apply wisdom to the situation at hand (1 John 2:27). Ecclesiastes 8:6 instructs “There is a proper time and procedure for every matter.”

  1. Ask God which approach to use. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” James 1:5. Gravitate to a strategy that brings the love and wisdom of God to bear.

  2. Examine your heart. Look at the motivation of your heart when you step into the conflict, and make a conscious attempt to get the wisdom of God in the situation. Pursue excellence not perfection.

  3. Broaden your reach. If the conflict persists, employ a variety of strategies, and self evaluate.

  4. Let others balance & complement you. If the right strategy is outside your “comfort zone” it may be an indicator to rely on the strengths of others. You can utilize this strategy within your Relational Investment Groups, with your business Partners, or other leaders you employ.

  5. Depend on the counselor, the Holy Spirit within you. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” I John 2:20


Questions to ask your covenant friends:

  • What is your comfort level with conflict?

  • Where are you experiencing conflict right now? Share how you are approaching it. Does your approach to conflict come from a healthy perspective or from personal dysfunction?

  • What is your default conflict-resolution approach? Share a real-life scenario where you used this approach. How much of your default approach comes form a healthy perspective, and how much from dysfunction?

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