|Dali's Sacrament of the Last Supper|
Church history shows times of disagreement about various things. Imagine, instead of divisiveness, if Christians had continued walking together, putting unity first.
Every one of us faces conflict or confrontation of one kind or another. Such experiences are not only inevitable, they can make for better human relationships. They can be an opportunity to set a relationship on a healthy course, if we commit to keeping first things first, for constructive solutions and stronger relationships.
I like to share the following guidelines, so that conflicts can be a healing rather than a hurting, a constructive rather than a destructive experience:
1. When we have a bone to pick with someone, we need to set up a time to settle the issue as soon as possible. We don’t want to “bottle up” anger indefinitely. Setting an agreeable time and place allows us to cool off and sort out the crux of the issue.
2. Clarify the particular behavior that annoys us. For example, dirty clothes on the floor makes more work for me. Always make “I” statements, not “you” statements. “I” statements avoid name-calling (“you’re” inconsiderate), generalizations (“you” never think of anyone else), abusive language (“listen, you airhead”). Avoid negative judgment. For example, someone is late. A negative judgment would be: you never think about anyone but yourself. The actual behavior is: you’re late; maybe there was an unavoidable delay.
3. Express your feelings honestly. Disguising our feelings can be dangerous, like using the silent treatment. Feelings are neither positive nor negative; they are facts. As aches and pain alert us to physical problems, feelings alert us to our relationship. There’s nothing wrong with expressing feelings honestly and calmly.
4. Lastly, come up with creative solutions. The goal is to resolve a problem in a way that is agreeable to both parties. We may have a specific request that will resolve the issue. Many times, we cannot think of a solution. Then we brainstorm together: the more ideas, the better. Sometimes, we may come up with a new creative solution. Other times we may simply agree to disagree.
All the while, we continue living and working together. All relationships call for nurturing if they are to become stronger.
St. Paul wrote that love “does not brood over injury.” If we do things together and communicate regularly, then we create a climate of love, respect, and trust.
In chapter 6 of St. Luke, Jesus advises: Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Amen.