What if God allows conflicts in relationships to grow us rather than simply to frustrate us? What if the deepest levels of intimacy are achieved only while facing our differences and negative feelings? Would your response to conflict change in light of this?
My personal experience with conflict over the years has not been “a healthy opportunity for growth.” Conflict meant one person had supreme authority and control over all others, and nobody was allowed to have their own opinion, express their emotions, or argue. Conflict in my experience was a one-sided event, and since there was no tolerance for disagreement, I internalized the conflict. I had to figure out how to deal with the mandate coming my way (and deny any discrepancies of my own perceptions), regardless of how rational or truth-filled it was. End of story.
I wish that was the end of the story; but forty some years later, I am still experiencing emotional pain and anxiety from the unresolved issues of one-sided conflicts that continue to impact my current relationships with myself, my family, and God.
Thankfully, my emotional pain is not a surprise to God. I believe that His desire is to heal all of my wounds, and as I am able to bring them to Him (one at a time), He ever so gently and lovingly comforts me, validates my emotions, and talks to me about the incorrect conclusions I came to as a result of one-sided unhealthy interactions. For example, “My voice doesn’t matter – I don’t matter,” or “It’s not OK to have emotions or express them,” or even worse, “If God’s sovereignty is anything like the abuse of power and control this family member used over me, then I’m not sure I trust God either.” What a tragedy! The very nature of God – His love and sovereignty, got distorted and twisted very early on in my undeveloped and inexperienced mind by unhealthy relational experiences.
I could succumb to this seemingly hopeless condition and continue believing the lies that have framed my perception of God and others, but God’s Word tells me there is hope! In His mercy and grace, God is able to heal wounds, transform our minds, and create deeper levels of trust and intimacy, and He often does it in the context of our close relationships. Not unlike the experience of Jesus, there is a price to pay – we must be willing to engage in two-sided interactions, to face our differences and negative feelings, and stay ‘on the mat’ with each other during painful times of conflict.
In those moments when we are willing to pay the price (engage in two-sided interactions; face our differences and negative feelings; and stay ‘on the mat’ with each other during painful times of conflict), we grow and we achieve deeper levels of intimacy with God, ourselves, and others.
This is loving each other well – and love heals!
Thank you Jesus!!!