They may go under the surface for a while, but they resurface at another time. Sometimes all the little problems start adding up, and so when one more little problem is added to the pile, it all blows up and seems to be about one little thing, when it might have been months of little things.
If we dealt with the little thing - the first little thing - in a healthy, God honoring way, it would save us and others a whole lot of heartache.
When I am in conflict with someone, you wouldn't be able to tell it. I typically have only nice things to say about them, it's all internal. I seek God's forgiveness if I have sinned in my thoughts/attitudes/heart and then let it go. Until something else happens.
I have had an occasion, when I was much younger, where I spoke up about something that I didn't think was right, got slammed, and was quiet the rest of the night. We continued on in the project, my ideas ignored, and my concerns pushed aside.
I never pushed the issue after first bringing it up. We went through our class presentation. When we were done, we were verbally critiqued. Many of the things brought up as our weaknesses as a group were things that I had thought of. Some of them were the things I had tried to bring up, others were ones that I had ignored cause I didn't want to get slammed again.
I never said a word to my teacher. I never said a word to the students I had worked with. It just "went away."
When an opportunity comes up now, after going through some training and reading a book called "Making Peace" by Jim Van Yperen, I know I am going to have to handle it much differently.
Let's put this another way. God is challenging me to handle conflict in a whole new way for me. A way of redemption and reconciliation.
That makes me afraid. Afraid that I will be pushed aside. Afraid that I will react/respond in a manner that will be less than edifying. Afraid to "confront" someone when I feel something is not going well, or when there have been miscommunications, or anything.
I don't want to confront anyone. I know the Bible says to go to that person you have a conflict with (whether they know it or not) and to go quickly and privately, individually to that person and make things right. Don't go to someone else first. Don't delay. Don't let lots of little things pile up. NO EXCUSES. Just go.
That the Bible tells us what to do in conflict is wonderful. However, it isn't easy.
It requires trust that God will make it right. Whether it immediately seems to come out right or not, God will work it all together for the good of all those involved.
One of the things I am most guilty of is listening to gossip. Someone's having a problem with someone else. I sympathize, they talk and get some relief from the tension they have been feeling, and no one gets helped. Jim Van Yperen calls this triangulation.
The other problem is, I tend to do the same. I don't want to talk to the other person, and risk "conflict" in our relationship (not realizing it's already there, unacknowledged)... so I go to someone else, someone I trust, and seek their advice.
Jim says in his book,
"Triangulation is an affront to the Cross because it robs a fellow believer of the opportunity for understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation. If I go to a friend to talk about you instead of going to you, I have sinned against you in two ways. First I have kept you from knowing there is a problem and robbed you of the opportunity to ask forgiveness. Second, I have sinned against you by talking about you behind your back."
Only recently, after a leadership seminar at my church did I realize how wrong this was. I immediately put a cap on my conversations with others. I watched what I said, and asked God to show me when and where I was essentially slandering others behind their back. I never did it intentionally before. Never. I felt completely innocent of that. I honestly had been seeking advice in how to handle issues and situations.
But maybe the people I had talked to weren't mature enough to handle the information, my opinions correctly. I don't know. And they sure never referred me to talk to the original person I had a problem with. OK... not totally true. One person did, and that was my counselor. :) I guess that counts, and it may or may not have been slander, because she was counseling me through a situation..... that's another issue entirely! :)
The point is, there has been one person in my life right now I have been able to talk to. She has already read this book on "Making Peace" and already been applying the principles laid out in it, in her life.
As I have felt so insecure about dealing with conflict with others, I have asked her advice, and asked her if it was ok to talk to her with specifics, so that I could get help to talk to others, so I would have an idea of how to handle myself. She has been very consistent about pointing me to going to the other person and talking to them, rather than allowing me to vent to her, and not deal with the conflict.
It's a blessing, but it's scary.
Facing conflict head on, and dealing with it in a healthy, God-honoring way is a good thing. It's incredibly hard.
It's something that God has commanded us to do.
That means He expects us to do it. To obey.
That means it takes trust to step out and do as He has commanded.
Another step into the unknown. Yet He goes with us. He goes with me. It's another area of anxiety for me, but I want to do what is right.
Lord, help me to see Your face light up with joy as I attempt to take those first few wobbly steps closer to you. Just as my face lights up to see my babies take their first real steps towards my open arms. Just as my face lights up when they try new, scary things for them, at my urging... trusting me that I won't lead them into harm. Help me to trust that you won't lead me into harm, even if it does seem a really long way to the water below this diving board I am on. I just want to see the joy on Your face for me as I make the attempt. Help me to bask in the warmth of that glow, and having been filled to overflowing with Your love and joy, take the step off the edge in obedience to your commands. Amen.