In Part 3, we began looking at the manner in which biblical conflict resolution should be handled. In addition to the general attitude in which such interactions should take place, it’s a good idea to remember a key aspect of interactions: Questions convict, while accusations harden the will.
While there may be a place for you to explain how particular actions or words appeared to you or affected you, you don’t want to jump to conclusions about the other person’s motivations or intentions. Just as you’d want them to do for you, you should give them the benefit of the doubt, aiming to explore the issue and understand their side of things. As you probe, you may help them realize that they came across in a way that was hurtful, and then apologies, forgiveness, and restoration can ensue. (Remember, that is the goal!)
The antithesis of such loving methods of dealing with interpersonal problems is to discuss them publicly or with the aim of simply venting or blowing off steam, for your own self-focused reasons. While getting the issue out in the open may provide a sense of relief or release, your motivation should not be self-centered; instead, you should be focused on the other person and his or her best interest (Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3).
Regardless of the other person’s ability or willingness to see things from your point of view, your disposition should be that of forgiveness, desiring to give a pardon with no strings attached. This means no punishment and no re-hashing the wrong, either mentally or verbally (1 Corinthians 13:5). In this, we model God’s love for us.
Unlike sometimes blind romantic “love” in which emotions can cloud our thinking, God fully knows us and realizes our sinfulness, and yet He chooses to remove our sins from us and to see His Son’s perfect righteousness when He looks at us (Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 61:10). Far from a senile delusion, God consciously makes the choice to wholly forgive us. When we realize the full weight of our own sinfulness and the measure of God’s great mercy and grace, forgiving others comes easily (Matthew 18:21-35).
Of course, no amount of Bible study or instruction can replace a young person’s first-hand view of what this kind of forgiving spirit looks like, and no where will it be a more poignant example than when it is expressed toward them. As common as it is, the whole “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” mantra is hypocritical and damaging. That’s not to say that we won’t blow it and deal with problems badly, at times; however, such scenarios only give additional opportunities to model a humble, repentant, and broken spirit. This spirit is the same thing we want to instill in our kids. Perfection is not possible, but growth and confessional living are possible, by God’s grace.
While it may seem like it would be discouraging, teens often find it refreshing to know that doing right does not come easily to adults. When we allow them to know that we struggle too and yet fail to give up, we give them imperfect but positive role models to follow.