Did you ever notice it takes months of detailed planning and diligent building to erect a magnificent edifice, but only days or weeks to raze it to mere memories? Over seasons of integrity and years of faithfulness is our trust in another established; sudden is its betrayal, however, and we behold its ruins through blurry eyes of bitter tears. We hard-earn honor over lifetime of prudent decisions, only to damage our reputation with an unconstrained word or a me-first choice. So it is, also, with dissension and peace: “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.”1 There are few ways as impactful to “making a difference” than to defuse conflict and foster peace in our small space in the world. Here, then, are some peacemaking observations from throughout the years. Feel free to add your own at the end of this post.
Listen. We often talk when the solution lies in listening. As Job in his agony implored of his friends, “Listen carefully to my words; let your ears take in what I say.”2
Look beneath symptoms. Too, we often stop at the symptom of conflict but neglect to dig to its roots. “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” queried James, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”3 We do well to stop an honest moment and think.
Stay on point. For a variety of reasons, it is very difficult for some people to accept or admit their own shortcomings, so they marginalize their offenses by pointing to the offenses of another. This gets us nowhere in terms of conflict resolution, so I’ve learned to remain focused by acknowledging impertinent issues, then setting them aside for later conversation.
Find shared values. I think people’s common ground is much larger than their battle ground. Most, for instance, value faithfulness, justice, goodness, honor and mercy. To the extent conflicting parties identify common ground, their differences become more clearly defined, seemingly smaller, and easier to address.
Move beyond detente. Personally, I think detente—the mere absence of conflict—is only slightly better than conflict itself. True resolution settles for nothing short of unity. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”4
Know when to stay clear. “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own,” advised Solomon.5 I can’t quarrel with that.
Father, give me an honest heart to confess my sin and turn from it. Give me a discerning heart to know when to be—and when not to be—involved in conflict. Give me a wise heart to know how to help calm a quarrel. Give me a patient heart, because peace takes time. Amen.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Christ in me is peace.
1 Proverbs 15:18
2 Job 13:17
3 James 4:1
4 Psalm 133:1
5 Proverbs 26:17