A while back, I heard a disagreement between two friends. I knew these two were having difficulty getting along, and now I was hearing it in real time. But what could I do? Their disagreement had nothing to do with me.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been outside a fight, looking in. I see church dynamics where this person is upset with that person, or this family has a bone to pick with those two other families — but I’m somehow unaffected. I’ve had coworkers who are at odds. I have friends who no longer get along with other friends. But again, it doesn’t really concern me.
It can be hard to understand how to approach conflict when we aren’t directly involved. Sometimes you can ignore it, sometimes you can’t — at least, not without seeming out of touch with what your friends are working through.
That’s the key word, isn’t it? Through. How can we help our friends work through their disagreements and return to being friends? How can we help everyone get off the hamster wheel of conflict?
Pray. Don’t skip this. I know I’m much quicker to worry, complain, or try to problem-solve my way out of something than I am to pray about it. But when I think of prayer as a last resort, I’m shortchanging myself of my strongest weapon. “Our prayers can go where we cannot,” Brother Andrew wrote. “There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” He was talking about countries with governments that are hostile to the gospel, but the same principle holds true for people (as Solomon wrote, an offended brother can be like an unyielding city).
Be careful not to add to the drama. Sometimes there may be no way to avoid taking a position, but try to keep your own emotions or frustration from stoking your friends’ disagreement. Reframe the conversation when it comes up with others. If others ask you about the feud, say something along the lines of: “Amy and Jana are working through some differences, and I’m praying that God guides them through the process.” Also, be clear to both friends that you’re not interested in gossiping about your other friend. If you’re open to talking about their own feelings in the situation, tell them so, but first assess if you can do that without harming your relationship with the other party.
Consider your own role in resolution. Maybe it’s too much of a ticking time bomb to mention one friend to the other, but if you can, tell them you’re praying for resolution. And if the time and situation is right, be open to telling them your honest thoughts, especially if you believe they are seriously in the wrong.
This is the part I’m not good at. Hard, honest conversations. Unfortunately, in the situations I’ve experienced, I don’t think I’ve really been super helpful in bringing about resolution. However, I did my best to avoid making things worse and to treat both individuals respectfully.
Hope for feuding friends
There’s hope for our relationships, especially if everyone involved is a follower of Christ. The Bible says Jesus came to bring peace, not just between people and God, but also between people and other people.
And there’s hope for our role in our friends’ disagreements, too. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach,” the apostle James wrote, “and it will be given him.” Few areas show our lack of wisdom like the area of relationships. But our God knows all hearts — including ours and our friends’ — and He promises to lead us step by step as we ask.
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