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Christian Counseling - Source of Conflicts

Wouldn't it be great if we could have a simple answer to the question, What is the source of human conflicts? There are seemingly so many reasons for them - misunderstandings, assumptions, insensitivity, not caring, etc. But, what if they could all be summarized in a single statement? Well, here it is.

James 4:1-3 says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." And a second and third problem is mentioned - "You do not have because you do not ask" and "you ask with wrong motives."

Many times the things we want are good things, such as: fighting for a better relationship to get the other to see the truth about who we really are; seeking a promotion, but ending up in fierce competition; disciplining children for the 100th time about the same issue, but doing it in angry; or attempting to love someone, but becoming jealous or hurt when we expect them to reciprocate. We may start out with good motives, but we can override them and the relationship to get what we want.

These verses do not condemn good desires or the effort to secure them, but challenges people to look more closely at the underlying motives, which can lead to inappropriate arguments. These verses are not chastising people for wanting or securing pleasure. In and of itself, pleasure is not wrong, but when it leads to undue conflict because of pure self-centered pleasure and no regard for the other person, then it is wrong.

To help manage conflict, be self-aware. Generally, when troubled feelings reach a five on a ten-point scale, it is time to discuss whether or not the conversation should continue at that time. The exception to this general guideline regards the expression of strong emotions over another's serious offence. Here, fair and decent fighting is appropriate, meaning avoiding things like, name calling, punishing withdrawal, or being controlling or passive-aggressive, to name a few behaviors. Instead, always start a conflictual conversation with a positive statement about the relationship, then discuss the problem, and end with another positive or loving statement. This is the Sandwich approach - two slices of bread (positives, first and last), while the middle contains the meat of the issue.

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