Have you ever been in conflict with someone that just gnawed at you day and night? Where you did everything you could think of to try to solve the conflict? Where you may have talked to the other person to resolve the matter, but it goes no where. Where it’s so perplexing and you just can’t figure out how things got to where they are now?
Stay tuned and I’ll explain an easy-to-understand 2-step process you can use to bring clarity to most conflicts.
I’ll start by giving you a recent real-world example of this process in action. This past spring I had several Skype conversations with a missionary, let’s call him Tony. Not his real name, and I’ve changed some of the insignificant details to protect this man’s identity.
- Tony saw an article I wrote about conflict on our Caring for Others missionary care page (caringforothers.org), prompting him to contact me
- Set up a Skype appointment to discuss his conflict
- Conflict developed with his teammates on the field in Argentina, to the point he and his wife, to protect their sanity, had to leave the field and return to the US where he got a position at the home office of his sending agency
- Conflict centered around gossip and criticism of his wife, and accusations about her that were just not true.
- Tony and his wife talked to the other party, trying to understand their point of view. They apologized for any perceived offense.
- Things got better for awhile, but then the criticism resumed
- The gossip and un-truths were spread by a couple that Tony and his wife had mentored, and now they were turning on them.
- Very discouraged at this betrayal
- A sad part of this story is that no one from the mission agency stepped in to help these two couples. It needed an independent 3rd party. Unfortunately, this is all too common.
- Very deflated and feeling like failures they returned home to the US.
- So we talked about the conflict, and while the details aren’t important, the process to move toward clarity is.
So here’s the process. It’s what I call the “Drama Dynamic,” which I wrote about it in my book, THEM – The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others. I went over this with Tony and sent him a copy of the book. I’ll read from that section of the book, now:
[Reading from pages 140-142]
In the book, I don’t go into specifics of how to be a great supporting actor. We’ll have to save that for another podcast. But for now, just asking the question of the Lord can fill in these details, for every play is different, and every lead actor is too.
Sometimes being a great supporting actor can mean going toe to toe with someone on center stage confronting their behavior and attitudes directly.
Other times it can be by remaining silent, in the background, and even off stage, so the spotlight shines on your nemesis.
It can mean asking a rhetorical question of your antagonist as you walk out the door.
It can mean writing an actual letter, where you give no opportunity for the lead actor to respond to you at that moment.
There are all kinds of options to wins that academy award for best supporting actor. We’ll go into those another time.
Here’s an example of what can happen if you look at interpersonal conflict through this “Drama Dynamic”
Read “Tony’s” email from a month ago
Main point: Sometimes when we’re the supporting actor in a conflict, we need to be patient and wait for the audience in the theater to see the main actor for what they truly are, and to wait for them to self-destruct.
Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence
When you find yourself in in an interpersonal conflicts, ask yourself, “Am I the main actor in this drama , or am I a supporting actor; and then respond accordingly.”
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show
Reflect on one or two difficult relationships in your life, and ask, why is this relationship so difficult for me? Is God using this other person to try to get through to me about something I need to change about myself? Or is the relationship difficult because of my lack of compassion and grace for the other person? Or could it be, we are just so different in our views that the best we can do is just accept those differences, and relax in knowing it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change that person, and not mine.
Another thing you can do, would be to let me what you’re learning about how to deal with relational conflicts that could help our other listeners. I’d especially be interested to know when you’ve seen this “Drama Dynamic,” with the lead actor/supporting actor, played out in your life. I’d like to share this is a future episode, all the while protecting your confidentiality as you wish.
Before I leave you with our relationship quote of the week, I want to thank you for joining us today, and for showing the world the character of Jesus in the way we relate to each other.
Above all, even in the midst of interpersonal conflict, always remember what you were made for. You were made for THIS. Relationships that: T – Transcend our natural inclination to focus on self, to think a conflict is always about us. That H – Honors others as we bring out the best in them, which at times means being a supporting actor in their life. Where we I – Initiate self-reflection to see where a conflict may be about a chink in our armor. And where we S-Serve God by being an agent of change in the lives of others.
You were made for T.H.I.S.
To close today’s program, here’s our relationship quote of the week
From the closing of Tony’s email to me:
I always find it helpful to learn that others struggle with some of the same things I do. We are not alone in this world, and the more we connect intentionally, communicate openly and talk honestly about our struggles, the more God can use our weaknesses for His purposes. ~ “Tony” from Argentina
That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.
Resources mentioned in today’s show