When a “Good” Fight Goes “Bad”

The other day I wrote about “good” fights.  The times when somehow, against all odds, and all our emotion, and in spite of our bent towards holding grudges, with God’s help, we address conflict and come out on the other side…Maybe more whole.  More compassionate.  With a better understanding of grace.  With a little clearer picture of redemption.

I outlined some steps that have been helpful to me, but…”1,2,3 steps” are always dangerous.  I really wish we lived in a “1,2,3 voila!” world, but we don’t.

What about when a “good fight” goes bad?  

Many years ago when I was first learning about what Jesus would ask of me regarding conflict I had a situation with a neighbor friend involving our kids.  I really, truly felt I had gone through each of the steps to handle our disagreement in a healthy way.

I prayed like crazy!  I examined my heart and thought I owned my part!  I was calm for Pete’s sake!!    I was warmly assertive and humble, darn it!

We sat at my kitchen table and you know how she responded?


Yep, she blew up.  She attacked me with a force that rocked me on my heels.

I was stunned.  And after she left I sobbed for 24 hours.

Where had I gone wrong???  I did all the steps!!!

After I was done crying and John had put in hours of cuddling and listening and trying not to just fix, I took a step back and said, “Lord, what the heck????”

Here are some of the things I learned then that have been reinforced over the years…

  • Conflict is only as healthy as both of the individuals.  Hurting people hurt people.  Always look beneath the surface.  The more personally you know the other, (and yourself!) the better you may understand the root of the conflict.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is get counseling for ourselves. 🙂
  • The heart is deceitful above all things (both yours and theirs).  We all have blind spots.  When what I mean to be a “good” fight goes “bad”, it’s easy to see where the other person is “blind”, but I need to circle back to my own heart and motives and ask “Lord, is there something I missed?” (This is always a great question to ask of the person you’re in conflict with too – “Help me understand what I’ve missed”)
  • You can only do your part.  You can’t control the response of the other.  If you’ve searched your heart with the Lord and done your best to forgive and ask forgiveness, to listen, and to work towards reconciliation, you need to open your hands and let go.  Continue to pray.  Continue to offer grace, but do it with open hands.  It may be, that in the future the person will circle back to you, but you can’t force reconciliation.

Those are a few of the things I’m learning, but it’s such a process!!  What about you?  What has your experience been and what are you learning?

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