Next week I’ll be with another camp staff, thinking with them about ‘Conflict Resolution’. There’s a fairly straightforward way to approach this topic, especially when one has Scripture available: if there is conflict, you go to the person (i.e. the source or cause of said conflict) directly and try to fix things via confrontation. If that doesn’t work, go with someone else. If that doesn’t work, amass a larger group and then if all else fails, separate from the conflicter. So reads Matthew 18, at least according to those who want to find in that text a recipe for dealing with strife in the community.
But a little life experience teaches that the path so described is not quite so level. As I’m pondering this topic, and thinking of why conflict exists, I realize that sometimes what looks like trouble is actually an opportunity. Sometimes, conflict can expose a part of my life that needs attention (I’m too sensitive; I’m easily irritated; I’ve communicated badly and actually caused trouble I never intended). Or, I might need to learn how to speak more clearly, love more dearly, stand and look someone in the face more than run for the hills or drag out the gatling guns. Conflict could be a tool for helping me grow, a way of acquiring some vital and life-enhancing skills.
Then there’s the reality that some conflict has its basis in a physiological problem (not enough sleep; too much Red Bull), an emotional issue (certain words and body language can trigger deep-seated memories that set spark to tinder), or a spiritual attack (the enemy routinely stirs up communities so that harmony is threatened). All that points to the value of a good diagnosis; it also undercuts the notion that a single remedy cures every ill. Resolving conflict takes a bigger bag of tricks.
I thought this presentation at camp was going to be easy. Looks like it might be interesting instead.