Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Resolving Conflict

The following is my lesson given at our RS activity on 9/18/2012.

Aside from simplistic problems,
no real progress or change happens 
without conflict.



This week was a hard week because I’ve had more conflict than usual. Or, maybe I just noticed it more because I’ve been preparing this lesson: A disagreement with my husband with required an apology, a conflict with a coworker resolved by a private talk with honest, non-accusatory sharing, and observing a conflict between a married couple requiring only a validating listening ear with no advice giving.

What kinds of conflict do we have in our lives?


Marriage: Money attitudes, info sharing or withholding,  household duties/chores and level of effort, parenting differences, scheduling, having enough me-time to recharge, how differences are resolved.

Also these myths persist, “I never saw my parents argue,” “we should sleep on it,” “ you should never fight in front of the children,” “keep the peace at all costs”.  These are myths in my mind...when two people live together they have differences. By the way, if you do fight in front of the children also show them how you resolve it. Sometimes a good night's sleep brings perspective. Keeping the peace at all costs means one of you is being repressed and backing down all the time.

Children/Family: Whining, tantrums, grocery store begging, cleaning/chores resistance, homework resistance, scheduling, practicing piano or sport. “But so-an-so’s mother lets her do this”, “I don’t want to go to church”, “I hate being with my family”.

Work: Backbiting, gossiping, undermining, taking credit for your work, salary, hours, work/life balance, differences of opinion

Ward: Someone doesn’t show up or follow through, a ward member’s child and your child conflict, parenting styles, a judging remark overheard, differences of opinion.

The point: There are as many conflicts as there are people. Some small, some large. Some silly, some very important. Look for patterns in your life. Keep reading for ideas about how to resolve.

Why do we avoid conflict, how do we avoid conflict?


Is just talking about this making your stomach tight, your breathing faster, your face red? Are you cringing, is your skin crawling, are you feeling angry or anxious or depressed?

We avoid conflict, because it just plain doesn’t feel good. We handle it by...
  • Passive aggressiveness or being sarcastic. “Gee, looks like garbage didn’t get put out today.”
  • Resentment build-up. “I don’t know why he keeps saying that over and over again.”
  • Coercion, bullying, threatening. “If you don’t do something about this I will.”
  • Bribing, promising. “If you’ll eat two more bites of vegetables, you can have a cookie.”
  • Hurt or get hurt. “This is your fault. You are the cause of all my unhappiness.”
It’s not good behavior. It’s not strengthening relationships. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do.

A word of caution: Avoiding conflict for a long time, using control and coercion, or playing the victim can lead to codependence—a pattern of unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Don’t let conflict fester or go un-handled. Value yourself and your self-care.

There are healthier ways to handle conflict


A. Perspective. Look at it another way.
  1. Quote from my reading this week:

 “Aside from simplistic problems (for which there is already a solution), no real progress or change happens without conflict.”

    Do you believe it? Does that idea help you? 

When you have conflict, look for the growth and progress. Focus on that outcome.
  2. Remember the connection between weakness, faith and hope. In Ether 12: 27 it says, 1 min.

27 And if men [and women] come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men [and women] weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [women] that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

    This gives us perspective. Have more faith and hope. Our weaknesses can be come strengths. Our loved ones weaknesses can become strengths.
  3. Look for the underlying need. Usually there is something more underlying a conflict: pride, fear, sadness, desire for love, on your part or the other person. Stop and look for the underlying need.
Get a new perspective. Trust that you can resolve it, that healing can come, that the power of God can help make weaknesses become strengths. Look for the underlying cause.

B. Prayer. Get advice from an all-knowing, loving father.

Jeremiah 33:3 - “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

  2. D&C 6:36 - “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”

  3. Romans 8:28 - “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

Prayer is a powerful way to resolve conflict. 

Pray very specific prayers for a very specific moment. Then listen intently over hours or days or weeks. 

Have you had an experience where prayer has helped you resolve a conflict?

C. Scripture study. Discover how Jesus and other prophets resolve conflict through scripture study. You can get your answers from the scriptures.

Let’s look at a 3 minute video of John 8:2-11 and see what we can learn.

Jesus was teaching in the temple. The Pharisees come to trap him. He has a crowd who now have an object lesson in front of them. A teaching moment. He has 3 audiences: followers learning from his example, adversaries seeking to trap him, and a sinner who has done wrong. What will he say?

Just as in other parables, we could put ourselves in all three places, such as the Prodigal son, the father, the brother; or Mary or Martha; or the good Samaritan, the injured man, the priest who passes by.

Put yourself in each place as you watch.

First, as Jesus

What did he do?
  • He assesses the people involved.
  • He listens.
  • He thinks about it, with patience, doesn’t rush.
  • Let the heat of the moment pass.
  • He chooses his words carefully.
  • He ends it with love and mercy.
  • Teaches a lesson on forgiveness, judging.
Stooping, writing...why?
  • Calmed himself
  • Choose his words
  • Listen to the spirit
  • Let His AND their emotions dissipate
  • Not just to aggravate
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
  • He sought teaching words of wisdom.
  • Can we seek for words of wisdom that shed light on a truth?
  • Does not mean that only people wholly without sin can impose penalties.
  • Does mean that these men were actually or in their hearts guilty of the same offense. And Jesus knew it.
Apply: Handle tattling, gossiping, judging. Could apply to accusers when we know they are guilty too.

Now the Pharisees

What can we learn from them? What do we know about them? How were they trying to trap Him? To tempt Him?
  • They wanted prove their authority and power, their worthiness, to establish themselves
  • They wanted to discredit Jesus and his proclaimed origin.
  • They wanted to see if he would uphold the accepted Law of Moses or contradict. The Law of Moses penalty of stoning was no longer in effect. Roman rule had ended that. Adultery was common in that time. If Jesus agreed, he would arouse ire in the people and run counter to Roman civil law. If he disagreed he would be accused of perverting the law, disrespecting past practices and favoring her crime.
  • They wanted to accuse him of taking on himself the power over life or death.
Why would they want her death?

Adultery is one of the worst sins you could commit as a Jew. The penalty was death. But they didn’t care about her, only about being right. Do we sometimes want the worst for our opponent? Why?

“Let him who is without sin [the same kind of sin] cast the first stone.”

Are there any of us who don’t sin? What about when we are truly wronged? Why do these discussions always come back to us?
  • We can’t control another, nor should we.
  • We can’t change another. We can only change ourselves.
  • We don’t want to be judged as harshly as we judge. Let’s watch our judgements.
  • Let our judgements be just.
  • We don’t want to be found casting stones.
  •  (Casting a stone...footnote to Gossip in the topical guide.)
Why did they withdraw? Convicted of their own conscience… we know better don’t we? Do we listen to it? In conflict we think we are wronged and we are owed and we are right. Pride.

Apply: Stop to evaluate our own behavior, our part in it, our underlying motives.

Last, the woman

What do we know about her?
Caught in the very act...were they lying in wait, perhaps involved themselves?

Where is the man who was with her? Is that important in the story?

Why would Jesus ask her “hath no man condemned thee” when he could see they had left?

Neither do I condemn thee...did He forgive her or not?
  • Not pardoning or condoning. He merely declines to act as Judge in a case that should go     before officials.
  • I do not condemn thee...to death.
  • He does admonish her to repentance.
  • He showed mercy even though she was caught and a punishment affixed.
  • He was teaching a new way.
  • He gave her space and instruction to change her life.
In the Joseph Smith Translation it implies that she sought repentance, “And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name.” Her life was changed.

Apply: When we are caught in sin, do we not hope for Him to see past the stain of our sin, to give us hope that all is not lost, to warm us with his light and guide us back to confidence and righteousness?

The point: 

This situation won’t apply to every conflict. But it’s an example of how the scriptures can help us in our real everyday lives.

Ask yourself questions as you read the scriptures and you will find answers to everyday problems and conflicts.

What we just did was what I call "scripture capturing". Take a scripture or story. Write it down, ask yourselves questions and answer them. Put yourself or your name in the scripture. Insight will come and you will have made it your own, “captured” it.

For more insights and study read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5.

More, practical, everyday ideas


Handout: Things that work for me
20 Ways to Make a Good Marriage Great
Overcoming Differences of Opinion: 
A Formula for Finding Unity in Marriage
7 Tips for Handling Criticism



One of the main purposes of this life is to learn to love—God, ourselves and others. Think of the first two commandments, thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself.

He wants us to learn to love unconditionally as He does. For his love never fails.

How do we do that?

Jeffrey R. Holland tells us in this video, with “Care and sensitivity. Think the best of each other. Especially of those you say you love. Assume the good, and doubt the bad.”

Let's resolve to handle conflict resolution sooner than later and with love.


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