Part II: Conflict Management, The Pursuit of Congruence
Traveling Down “Come Together” Avenue!
(This blog takes about 4 minutes to read)
Congruence! The word takes me back to my 10th grade geometry class where I was much more interested in getting Sue to accept my plea to a Saturday night movie (she didn’t!) than any command of the Pythagorean Theory . . . or proving that two triangles were mathematically congruent.
In the math classroom, the challenge was to prove that a second triangle—despite its crooked and confusing orientation—was congruent to the first. To accomplish that, we had to prove that triangle #2 had exactly the same interior angles and length of sides as the first. Otherwise, we had to declare it “incongruent”—it didn’t match up to the standard.
Congruence in conflict management is also measured to a proven standard. The Latin root word of congruent means to come together . . . to correspond with. Webster defines congruence as the “quality of agreeing or coinciding.” Synonyms for that inconvenient word include agreement, harmony, compatibility, consistency and conformity. I suspect you see where this is going; lots of easy words to apply to a conflict situation . . . but not so easy behaviors to solve it.
When we’re embroiled in conflict, asking God to help get us back on level ground is a wise decision. He’s got the answers for how the discussion should go . . . and the gold standard to measure our congruence—or incongruence, as the case may be. I’ve also learned that when we default to our own standard of congruence, we can be certain that the conflict won’t get resolved. More likely, the warring factions will retreat deeper into their foxholes. Here’s some great biblical counsel to counter that:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish all arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God—and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
In my last blog I mentioned that in a conflict situation, many of us “wade into the fray with a thimble full of grace and a bushel basket of hyped up emotions.” Contrast that to the 2 Corinthians verses!
Yesterday evening I walked the golf cart pathways in my neighborhood in order to contemplate next steps in my own conflict arena. I reflected that I should be an agent of grace, love, civility, kindness and understanding—and then immediately recognized that my attitude reflected none of those attributes.
So, I took another lap around the lake and pulled James 3:14-18 from my deck of prayer cards. James (Jesus’ half-brother), says this; “But the wisdom that comes from heaven [i.e., God’s standard] is pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial and sincere. For peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
After reading that, I realized I had zero capacity on my own to practice what James preached. How do we overcome that deficit? For me, only through the power and rescue of the Holy Spirit . . . the “Counselor” that Jesus gifted us before his trip back home. Absent that Divine Power, I’m an incongruent dead duck.
Not surprisingly, after ratcheting down my emotions during my walk, more good advice bubbled to the surface in my mind. It is distilled from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5). It can be very useful when you’re seeking congruence mode.
§ Bring forgiveness to the conflict table.
§ Recognize that the issue you’re working to resolve probably doesn’t represent your opponent’s entire identity. Think the best, not the worst of your rival.
§ Resist your penchant to defeat your foe. Rather, work to win their respect and understanding.
§ Contribute to a story that will eventually end well.
§ To the extent the solution depends on you . . . do it! After that, you may have to let it go . . . but it will be in good conscience.
Conflict management (and resolution!) can be a long and winding road to travel. Be sure you’re traveling down Come Together Highway.
“But to you who are listening I [Jesus] say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:27).