I wanted to throw my phone against a wall and crumple in sadness from what I was seeing on our family group chat. Hidden and unresolved dissension between two family members had erupted into an explosion of flared tempers, accusations, judgements, justifications and misunderstandings. Some family members abandoned the conversation altogether as others picked sides or tried to grasp what the hell was going on.
I was in the latter group, though my somewhat-combative personality (holler at my fellow enneagram 8’s!) and close relationship to one of the people directly involved caused some to peg me as having picked a side.
In all fairness, I most likely would have, had I not recently fought to overcome some divisive issues within my own home in recent years. In the past, I would have judged who was right or who was wrong. I would have defended the person closest to me and vilified the one who was not. I would have crafted well-thought out arguments explaining our “rightness” and the other party’s “wrongness.” I would have jumped into “defense mode” and steadied my position as the self-proclaimed protector of all I felt were victimized.
But not this time. This time, I could see with clarity the strategy of the enemy and I determined I would NOT be a pawn in his games.
In any relationship there is a force—a real enemy—who is working to tear apart. To divide and conquer is his favorite strategy. He plays on our woundedness, our fears, our insecurity and the lies we believe to isolate us and create sides. He pits person against person, then sits back and watches us do his job of destroying one another and sometimes ourselves.
To be frank, I’m sick of his shit. I’m sick of families being ripped apart through divorce or mishandled conflict. I’m sick of people suffocating under the weight of shame, self-hatred and addiction. I’m sick of people aching for true, safe and covenant connection while indulging on the counterfeit version that only exists behind an electronic screen. I’m sick of loneliness drowning those desperate for true friendship but terrified of rejection.
This recent family conflict deeply affected my heart because it came on the heels of these two non-comparable, large scale pictures of division: The murder of George Floyd and Rachel and Dave Hollis’ divorce announcement. George Floyd’s murder and the Hollis divorce are in no way similar, but rather illustrate two completely different ways the enemy tears people apart.
George Floyd’s publicized murder was the tipping point of public outrage over the wide-spread racial injustice endured by black Americans at the hands of corrupt people in a position of authority. This outrage manifested in protesting, rioting and looting. To be honest, I have a hard time writing about this topic because I know that—as a simple, rather-uncultured white girl— I don’t have an ounce of the understanding I need to process these events with any kind of authority. But as an American citizen, I have felt the tension of a nation divided. I have wept imagining the horrors black people have faced simply because of their skin color. I have been incensed with rage over those who refuse to lay down their pride and agree with the blatant truth screaming that—as a nation—we have got to do better. I can’t possibly understand; but I deeply ache to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
As for the Hollis divorce: If you are unfamiliar, Rachel Hollis is a New York Times best-selling author of the books Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. She and her husband Dave have four young kids and built their business from the ground up on the principles of personal growth, self-discipline and adopting a no-excuses approach to life. They had a daily morning show on social media and a widely successful marriage podcast. Millions of people have eaten, slept and breathed their advice on becoming better partners and living a successful life. While millions were practicing their “proven principles” to better their relationships, they were headed for divorce.
What. Is. Happeninggg?!?!
I read comment after comment on their social media posts from those who are angered, disenchanted and simply floored by their announcement and my heart echoes many of those same feelings. How can two highly-motivated people who have the practical keys of success on lock not make a marriage work? Why can’t they apply the same grit they applied to making millions into making a lifetime-covenant relationship stand the test of time?
I don’t mean to come off as judgy, but like so many others who cheered them on and supported their work, I’m heartbroken over their split. This situation just goes to show the enemy’s strategy to divide and conquer manifests in myriads of ways and can make even the best of relationships a causality of war.
When family drama erupted amid these national crises, it felt like my personal life was resonating with the enemy’s battle cry. In 2018, my marriage survived a brutal assault during which I was made privy to so many of the enemy’s schemes as well as my own weaknesses, making me susceptible to his relentless attempts. So, instead of throwing my phone across the room when the family group chat went haywire, I threw my hands up in worship. Instead of crumpling to the ground, I dropped to my knees in prayer. I committed to being a peacemaker and a speaker of Truth instead of a self-proclaimed protector who chose a side (as I had always done in the past). Satan wouldn’t work so hard to destroy relationships if healthy ones weren’t such a beautiful display of God’s love.
So, what does it look like to be a peacemaker and a Truth-bringer in times of conflict? Here are a few practical ways I’m learning to navigate conflict in a healthy way:
We are all human beings made in the image of God. It’s possible to disagree with someone without dishonoring them. To honor someone is to acknowledge the piece of God they carry and treat them accordingly, no matter how they behave. How you treat people says a lot about you and little about them.
Assume the best.
We all know what it’s like when we have been falsely accused. It’s painful and immediately puts us on the defensive. Instead of accusing, ask questions.
Have the tough conversations.
So much hurt could be avoided if we were willing to communicate through awkward conversations. If we were honest about our fears and our pain without putting up our defenses and protecting ourselves, it would be so much easier to see conflict through to a real resolution.
Speak the truth, even if it hurts.
I’ve been accused many times of being brutally honest. I’m learning to temper that and speak what I perceive to be true in a way that’s honoring and life-giving. However, withholding and “keeping the peace” is just as a destructive—if not more destructive—than brutal honesty. There is a proverb that says “The wicked flee when no one pursues but the righteous are as bold as lions.” If our intentions are pure, we should have no problem speaking our truth. It’s not our job to manage another person’s perception of us. It’s our job to be our authentic self and offer up that authenticity in times of conflict in relationship. Withholding and putting up walls in conflict plays right into the enemy’s plan to divide.
Know the difference between keeping the peace and making peace.
A peacekeeper is not a peacemaker. A peacekeeper shoves shit under the rug to maintain a false sense of calm, ignoring real issues. A peacemaker is willing to approach divisive issues and conflict, knowing that true peace is a result of working through whatever has set itself up to tear us apart. A peacekeeper adds to division through buried feelings of bitterness and resentment. A peacemaker talks through heavy-emotional topics for relationships to be healthy, whole and reconciled.
Understand that relationships are messy.
People are messy, so relationships are even more so. True humility, mercy and forgiveness are essential for any relationship to thrive. We are all human beings with an abundance of weaknesses. We need grace from God and from those closest to us to truly grow and build thriving relationships where we feel seen, known and loved despite our flaws.
This is in no way an exhaustive list on how to dismantle division in relationships. These are just a few “tools of the trade” I’m committed to growing in personally in order to bring peace into divisive conflict.
Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!