“Conflict is a necessary ingredient in the process of being known and building intimacy”(Terra Mattson, Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace).
As moms, we expect conflict between our children. We expect it between our kiddos and friends they play with. When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, I welcomed disagreements as they provided learning moments I could teach within. As they have gotten older, though, I catch myself uttering the words, “Can you please just get along?” Or, “Please stop disagreeing,” negating the fact that my kids still need to learn how to move through conflict. Conflict allows depth to develop within relationship. Walking through conflict, owning one’s mistakes, and practicing the act of forgiveness are valuable learning moments for kids and adults, alike.
You are probably thinking, “Wait…what did you say?” It seems counter-cultural at first. We are often taught to avoid conflict or to sweep it under the rug to maintain peace. The word itself (conflict), has all sorts of negative connotations associated with it. Healthy conflict is not the enemy. What’s important is HOW WE ENGAGE in the conflict. As James 1:19-20 shares, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” When we enter conflict with a heart that allows us to listen and be slow to anger, it will foster an atmosphere of deeper understanding and pave the road to forgiveness.
Here’s a real-life example from a recent discussion we had in our house. My elementary-aged daughter and I were talking about a presentation that happened in our town called “Save the Kids.” Collin Kartchner came from Utah to speak to parents, teachers, and community members about technology and youth. I told my daughter that Collin is on a crusade to help parents and tweens/teens understand the devastation happening in our nation with kids owning smart phones and engaging in unsupervised use of social media. I also shared that Collin told parents in attendance that they needed to assess their own phone usage before asking their child to make any changes.
The next day, after my daughter processed this information, she wanted to talk with me about my phone and computer usage. She requested Collin’s contact information to have him come to our house to help me understand that I need to get a flip phone and part ways with my smart phone.
I was flabbergasted and hurt. I believe with all my heart that I am extremely conservative with my phone usage, especially around my children. This wasn’t about MY perception, though. Rather, it was about my daughter’s. As I looked into her youthful, expectant eyes, I knew I could escalate this conflict by defending myself, or I could walk in humility and love, truly listening to the feelings she was communicating.
“Courageous is the woman who is committed through conflict and humble enough to honor her own needs alongside the needs of others” (Terra Mattson, Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace).
I remembered this truth as I took a deep breath, praying that my human desire to respond with justification would not win out. Thankfully, I was able to meet my daughter with empathy. As we processed through this conflict, I acknowledged her desire for greater boundaries with my phone usage and a longing to spend more time with me. As a mom that strives to pour into her kids and regulate phone usage, this was a really humbling conversation. It took every ounce of grace to not list off all the ways I spend time with her and love her. However, her perception needed to be honored.
Did I still feel disappointed, angry, frustrated, and hurt that my 8-year-old daughter perceived that my phone/computer usage needed to be curbed? ABSOLUTELY! It was also a wake up call, though. Even when I think I am doing a “good job” of managing my phone and only responding “quickly” to necessary texts throughout the day, my daughter’s feelings were valid. My phone use was an unwelcome distraction in our family life and needed some adjustments. By acknowledging my need for continued growth and asking for her to forgive me, healing took root where resentment once lived. Terra Mattson is right when she says, “Conflict is a necessary ingredient in the process of being known and building intimacy.”
Listening, empathizing, acknowledging mistakes, and asking for forgiveness are steps outlined in the Bible. Paul reminds the people of Colossae in his letter, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (-14).Mattson also says,“Courageous girls understand that forgiveness is not just a word we flippantly throw around but a transformational process that helps us stay aligned with God and others.”
Paul wraps up his lines with a powerful reminder to live in unity with each other by putting on love. Mamas,may you be encouraged to know that healthy conflict is an act of growth and not a sign of failure. It deepens relationship as you move through it, rather than around it, with the motivation of love. May you courageously lean into healthy conflict knowing you are equipped by your Maker and strengthened by its sword.
Written by: Stephanie West, Courageous Girls Leadership Coach
*Check out the Living Wholehearted Podcast with Jeff & Terra Mattson for more resources on conflict resolution.