Most days when we catch the news we’re both surprised yet not surprised at the latest scandal reported. Whether the controversy involves politicians, sporting heroes, celebrities or prominent religious figures, we’re often left wondering what is happening in this world. We can feel dismayed or even quite angry at what we read or see. This makes it so easy to react rather than respond prayerfully.
Our response can vary depending on the issue, the personalities involved and the circumstances surrounding the dispute. How we feel at the time can also influence our response. We may feel so strongly about the topic that we find ourselves wanting to engage on social media. I have often needed to tell myself to hold off from saying something which I will later regret. I do marvel how some of my friends can engage in dialogue involving difficult situations and yet always glorify God in the process. If only I had such wisdom, but alas, I find most of us don’t.
As I find myself locked between wanting to engage but realising I should not engage, I am reminded of my peacemaking training. Particularly the PAUSE principle. Aptly titled, this principle highlights the wisdom we all could seek to embody. We need to pause prior to engaging (or re-engaging) with someone with a different position regarding a particular issue.
The wisdom that results in peace makes us pause in prayer, thought and deed when conflict abounds. When we choose to PAUSE in the midst of a difference of opinion or belief, hope for a real resolution is sown. It is then that the strengthening of a relationship is possible.
The PAUSE principle is not a silver bullet to resolving every material problem. It does not guarantee everything will work out. However it is a practical framework which helps us negotiate material issues tangibly. It also helps us demonstrate the peace of God and the worth of relationships.
How do we PAUSE?
- PREPARE – it is essential that we prepare (including praying) before we go and speak with someone whom we are in conflict with. We need to consider prayerfully what, when and how we are going to talk about difficult issues. We should not enter into the conversation with a judgmental, condemning or self-righteous attitude. But rather ensure that our hearts are soft and for the other person.
- AFFIRM – we should choose to start the conversation by telling the other person how much we care about them. We should also affirm the importance of our relationship with them. When we do this, it demonstrates our care for them. It also shows that our relationship means more to us than the issue between us. It gives the other person a feeling of being safe in the relationship.
- UNDERSTAND – we should listen to what the other person says and try to understand their underlying interests. Without an understanding of this, we can find that the deadlock between us actually grows as we dig our heels in. But if we choose to listen to the other person (no matter how hard this is) and seek to understand them, we demonstrate empathy. They will see that we are trying to feel with their feet from within their shoes.
- SEARCH for creative solutions – once we’ve demonstrated that we are for the other person, we have given them some tangible reason to trust us. It’s from here that we can make a start on solving the problem. We can begin to have a unhindered conversation and work constructively through the material issues.
- EVALUATE the options – with the relational and underlying dis-ease dealt with, we can discuss the issue objectively and find the best solution.
Our opportunity to imitate Christ
The Apostle Paul exhorted us in our relationships to humbly look to the interests of others. As we do this we have the opportunity to imitate Christ who chose to be humble when he had every right to demonstrate his divinity.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5)
And we can do this because of Christ’s love for us shown ultimately in his death on the cross in our place!
So the next time you find yourself differing with someone over a material issue, take time to consider the overwhelming love Christ has for you. As you PAUSE just see what the Holy Spirit can do in and through you!
This article is by Steve Wickham. Steve has been married to Sarah for 11 years. They have one son, and Steve has three adult daughters. Steve has a passion for peacemaking and is a PeaceWise trainer. He has worked as a registered safety practitioner in chemical manufacture, downstream petroleum, and ports initially. He has also served as a pastor, counsellor and school chaplain.