“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
How do we abandon the quarrel after it breaks out? This is something we must really learn. The root of the terrible domestic violence we are witnessing today, in part, is because of unresolved conflict. It’s a tension that builds and builds, similar to pressure cookers. If the flame isn’t removed at the right time, what happens? An explosion. Destruction. That’s why these extremes of murder or suicide keep surfacing. Murder is outward aggression, and suicide is inward aggression. Both are often born out of desire for revenge or escape. If we can learn skills in managing conflict and tensions, then things don’t have to reach these destructive levels.
Learning these skills will require commitment on our parts because this is not head knowledge, but truth that we will have to embrace in our lifestyles. There are proven steps of obedience laid out for the believer that will always usher in God’s blessings. As our faithful Teacher, He will help us walk in these life-giving ways as we make a commitment to obey Him in humility and openness.
How we respond to quarrels and conflicts will determine their size. A loving attitude can make a simple tension merely a bump in the road; or an arguing heart can turn the same problem into a howling cyclone. Mother Teresa said, “If we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. Forgive and ask to be forgiven; excuse rather than accuse. Reconciliation begins first, not with others but with ourselves.” Here’s what to do after the quarrel breaks out.
The 5 R’s of Reconciliation
Tension takes two. A rope cannot have tension unless it is held on both ends. This is especially true where arguments are concerned. It’s always a two-way deal. Stop and take note of where you are wrong. Don’t focus on the other person, just let the Lord help you to see any attitudes or actions which you have done wrong. In this way you are taking responsibility for your own choices. “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible…” (Ephesians 5:13)
You should say things like:
- “I realize I was wrong and selfish when I got angry.”
- “I realize I was disrespectful when I talked back.”
- “I realize I have been stubborn and impatient.”
That means saying, “Sorry.” Apologize for how your choices affected someone else. That doesn’t let anyone else off the hook for their own sin. Realizing and repenting for your own sin does not cancel the other persons wrong choices, but it does acknowledge any hurt your wrong responses may have created. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leave no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
You should say things like:
- “I am sorry for hurting your feelings.”
- “I am sorry for ________ (acknowledge your wrong).”
- “I am sorry for not being very understanding.”
Depending on what you’ve done wrong, restitution may be required. This is embracing the consequences of our sin. For instance, if we broke something in a moment of anger we may need to say, “I will be glad to pay for the repair.” If we’ve created a big disturbance in the family, it might be a good idea to bring a gift (especially where husbands and wives are concerned). A husband who brings flowers with his apology or a wife who prepares her husband’s favorite meal are small acts of kindness that go a long way in demonstrating a sincere heart.
You need to request forgiveness from God and from the person or persons you have hurt. If you’ve already repented this may not be necessary, as often humility draws an automatic, “I forgive you” response. Don’t forget to ask God to forgive you, since all sin is ultimately against Him. “You are forgiving and good, O Lord abounding in love to all who call to you.” (Psalm 86:5)
Take time to rethink things and ask the Lord how you can behave differently when the next conflict arises. When you sin by making a wrong choice, you need to learn to make different choices in the future. In this way you are keeping Christ’s word: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) If your responses have become a habit, then changing them will take some time. God can change your heart and give you strength to respond in life giving ways.
You can say things like:
- “With God’s help, next time I will … instead of…”
One bible teacher asks this question, “How long can a relationship last?” Then he says, “As long as there is forgiveness.” Exercising this virtue in our families is the key to lasting and happy households. There is no other way. When you extend forgiveness you are making a promise not to hold that person’s sins against them; and for the believer this is forgiving others, as God has forgiven you.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” -James 1:19-20
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” -2 Corinthians 5:18,19
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1