by Jim Mitchell

So I was thinking again about conflict resolution and about how my wife and I often have conflict about our conflicts.  As I’ve confessed, our approach has been to find balance between us and to try to manage the conflicts better.

What I’m learning is that this is really a surface approach and that the real issue is something altogether different.  Let me explain.

After watching my own kids fight, I’ve come to realize that as a parent I don’t really care to resolve childish disputes—who turned the TV channel or ate the last potato chip or interrupted the other person’s joke.  Those details are tiresome, though my kids see them as critically important.  What interests me is whether my daughter (eleven) is being compassionate and whether my son (six) is learning self-control.

Sure, I’d love for them to learn to be peacemakers.  But in the end, if their hearts are right, I’m pretty sure most of their conflicts will be resolved accordingly.  In other words, the actual conflicts look to me like kid stuff compared to the heart issues lying underneath.

And it dawns on me that the same is true of my heavenly Father.  He asks of me, “Why is your heart toward her hard and not soft like Jesus?”  But God, you don’t understand.  I’ve told her a thousand times that I hate it when she… “Why are you angry and not self-controlled like Jesus?”  Well, that’s tough because I’ve tried and tried but she just won’t quit… “Why are you being selfish and not selfless  like Jesus?”

The conflicts, and the conflicts about the conflicts, look like kid stuff compared to the heart issues lying underneath.  “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1-2)

So I’m resolving to focus more on God perfecting me and less on me perfecting my approach to conflict resolution.  Who knows?  Maybe the conflicts will be resolved accordingly.


Taking it One-to-One:

  • In what ways can you and your spouse relate to this article?  Discuss together.
  • Where would you say your attention focuses during conflicts: on the other person’s faults, on the conflict itself, or on your own heart motives?
  • How do you see James 4:1-2 playing out in your own life?  Talk to God about that.