“You two will just have to work it out,” my mom maintained firmly while continuing to scrub dishes at the kitchen sink.
My big sister and I groaned audibly, both of us stomping through the dining area and back to the living room to begrudgingly resume play. I craned my neck one last time to check to see if Mom had changed her mind, but the light from the open window cast a peaceful glow over her unconcerned face. The amicable distribution of Barbie dolls was clearly not the priority of her morning. She meant it: we were to settle our dispute on our own.
There is something within human beings that drives us to seek the resolution of our problems somewhere outside of ourselves. My sister and I wanted our mother to do it; the church in Corinth wanted secular judges to do it; and as adult women, many of us subconsciously hope our peers or significant others will do it. Reconciling disagreements face-to-face is not easy, and we often go to great lengths to talk about the conflict with everyone except the person we are actually at odds with.
When left to our own devices, our inclinations for conflict resolution typically go one of two ways: either we’re tempted to gossip about the person who has wronged us, or we repress our feelings (temporarily) and let bitterness take root in our hearts. Neither of those ways leads us to truth, beauty, or goodness. Neither way reflects the heart of God.
Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians reminds us that God cares about seemingly little things like conflict resolution. Our relationships with all people, and particularly with other believers, should reflect the love that exists between the Persons of the Trinity. We all know we can’t control the choices of others, but we can control how we respond to them. Stuffing our emotions honors neither their dignity nor our own, but neither does airing our grievances with everyone who will listen.
To honor God in our interpersonal relationships, we must take responsibility for communicating our feelings honestly, listening with an open mind, being willing to stand corrected, and bringing in a wise third party when necessary. Taking ownership of such peacemaking efforts is not an easy task, but the Kingdom of God is advanced one awkward conversation at a time.The Kingdom of God is advanced one awkward conversation at a time. Click To Tweet
What relationship is sitting on your heart as one that needs some fresh air and conflict resolution? Take it to God in prayer and maybe even to that person.
Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. She is a writer, podcaster, and speaker, but potty training four boys will be the achievement on her epitaph. Shannon and her family make their home in central Iowa, where they seek to live out the social teachings of the Church in their small and ordinary days. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of our 2018 Advent Study, forthcoming and Blessed Conversations: The Our Father study found here.