Conflict Resolution and My Right to Bitterness
Matthew 18:15,16 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
I must confess, I do not follow Jesus’ model of conflict resolution very well. When I am offended by someone, I consider it my right to be bitter and to denigrate him or her to others. Do I go to that person and address the issue directly? Goodness no. I just take my revenge by assassinating character. You will not believe what a jerk he is. Do you know what she said? I lie in bed at night, brooding over this horrible person, then I share that with others.
Jesus knew my propensity for handing conflict poorly and here, laid out guidelines for how to do it right. When I am hurt or offended by another, I need to do one of two things. I need to address it with that person, or I need to let it go. If I am unwilling to simply talk to the one who injured me, then I am not offended enough to stay offended.
When I insist on my right to be bitter and angry, I focus on me and the fact that my will has been thwarted. I only injure myself, when in anger, I focus on my own bitterness. If I want to continue to grow in my spirit life, I must let go of resentment. I cannot wallow in my anger and pursue God. My bitterness may be my right, but it will rot me from the inside.
Of course, I do not stop the decay and poison at the borders of my own mind. In my wrath, I must share it with others. I go not to those who may be objective and see both sides of the story. I go to those whom I know will take offense and commiserate with me. It is not enough that I make myself miserable, I must drag others into my destruction so that together, we can disparage the one who crossed me.
Jesus, again, said that this is not how it is to work. If I need to address the issue, I am to grow up and be direct about it. If I am unwilling to do so, then it is my job to let it go.
I have found this idea, that I need to address an issue or let it go, to be very helpful in my own spirit life. If I want to be free of conflict in my mind, I need to figure out how to let go of the conflict. I have found that when I address the offending individual, I often find out how I have been at fault as well. I usually find that my one-sided version of reality is not so accurate.
As in all things, if I want to grow God’s spirit life in me, I need to continually abandon my need to be right. My self-focus is poison to my spirit life. I cannot follow God and me.