We all experience and see conflicts and disputes everyday. Whether it’s ‘just’ being cut off by the car in the next lane, arguing with our spouse on how we should spend our money, or living out a world view and trying to ‘make’ others do the same. It fills our lives, newsfeeds, social media, magazines and newspapers.
Why is it that we just can’t all get along?
The book of James in the Bible tells us why we don’t get along.
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. (James 4:1-2a)
So there it is. Ultimately, it’s because often we are so desperate to get what we want that we’re willing to fight and quarrel to get it.
We want what we want when we want it and we won’t take no for an answer!
Is it really as simple as that? Ugly as it sounds, yes, often it is. When we boil it all down – we are just wanting what we want (or even believe is best) and if what another person wants is not the same as us then that’s unfortunate – because we still want what we want!
Is there a reasonable solution to dealing with conflicts?
We are used to seeing those with the most power, money or authority ‘win’. Those with the least energy or ability ‘give in’. Even those with altruistic aims simply ‘taking turns’ – even if compromise is not necessarily the best outcome. Regardless of the fact that these efforts (or a variation of them) are used time and time again in our society, organisations and families, one or more of us are left with a residual dissatisfaction or disillusionment with the relationship. Is there a better way? Is there a good and reasonable solution to dealing with all our conflicts?
James not only tells us what the cause of our conflicts are, he also goes onto tell us the solution.
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2a-3)
So we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask God for what we want, but more than that, we don’t even get what we want from God when we ask, because we ask with wrong motives! And what are these wrong motives? Our own selfish heart desires! When we ask, it’s all or mostly about us and what gives us pleasure, with little or no concern about others and their interests.
So what is the solution? Asking God – but with right motives. Motives are what drive our choices.
And what is the right motive?
The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 37.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
So if we take delight or get pleasure in God himself, our motivation or desire is actually in enjoying God himself and not primarily the gifts he gives. And when we ask to receive ‘more’ of him, he is willing, ready and able to grant this request.
But what about the ‘things’ that we want or need or the concerns we have on our hearts? Can’t we ask God to give us these? Of course we can and should. (Phil 4:6) However finally, because the God of the Bible is all powerful and all loving, we can and should learn how to trust him to give us what he determines is best for us – rather than quarrel and fight with others to get what we want. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Next time you find yourself fighting or arguing about something with someone, it might be worth asking yourself some questions like:
- Have I asked God for what I want?
- What is my motivation for making this request to God?
- Am I wanting more of God himself in asking this or more of what God can give me?
- Am I quarrelling and fighting with others mainly so that I can get my way?
- What would please and honour God in this situation?
- In this situation, how could I show God’s love to the other person best?
Self reflecting on these sorts of questions before you launch into an argument (or even mid way through an argument!) might just help you minimise or even avoid damaging your relationship!
For more practical tips on how to respond to the everyday conflicts that you face, come to our Everyday Peacemaking and The Heart of Peacemaking courses near you. Courses are still open in 2017 in Canberra (if you book NOW), Darwin, Perth, Melbourne and Launceston – and there are some great early bird specials if you get in early.