Was it upsetting, what I said the other day?
Perhaps you read my words and thought, “What does staying relational have to do with anything?! That doesn’t solve this crises!”
I think it’s the only answer.
I’m not here to talk politics.
And yet, it is more applicable than ever to discuss the way that we handle our hearts and our emotions in the midst of conflict. (SUDDENLY we all have ample opportunities to practice.)
How are you going to conduct yourself during trauma and conflict?
Listen up, folks, it’s on you. Right? It’s on me. Will I succumb to the behaviors that I consider to be childish and vulgar and disgusting? Am I going to rant and rave and name call? Pushed to the edge, am I going to lose it? What am I going to choose?
The cost of failing to love is terrible; it’s a price I urge no one to pay.
That leaves us with the obvious question...how do we engage in conversations when we’re angry, afraid, shocked, insulted, degraded?
The advice on the podcast has been fantastic. Among many things, Nayomi spoke of the power of gratitude in her life, of the necessity of apologizing, of walking in humility, of having a Word View. Kerri talked about practicing a lifestyle of quieting and drawing near to God; she shared with us how she does it and what it looks like.
Clearly SKILLS are of the utmost importance. (Relational, self-care, self-awareness, listening to God, knowing the Word, processing and quieting your emotions, understanding boundaries, knowing your capacity, growing your maturity, etc.)
So how do you learn these skills?
Classes, books, podcasts, counselors, psychologists, friends, community. Ask for help! There are enough resources and people out there who want to help for you to be able to get it.
So here’s my point: by practicing these skills we learn how to stay relational in the midst of conflict.
And it is our relationship with God that provides the motivation, grace, strength, patience, and LOVE to continue to even to want to practice these skills.
Jesus. He is where it begins and ends.
He had more joy then all of his companions. (Hebrew 1:9) We're talking about the fount of living waters, the well that never runs dry, love incarnate, a man who could always be relational, who had God's perspective, who loved perfectly.
I spent a lot of my life handling conflict as best as I could. My best wasn’t very good. Through pain and failure I learned to do the unthinkable and actually step away from the problem and connect to the Lord.
His way is always better then my way.
He came to this earth to bring redemption and restoration. As Believers, we live in the tension of "right now" and "not yet" with those things. But what He offers to us, in our relationship with Him, is right now and always available.
He offers himself.
It’s taken me years, but now, when I fail to love, or if I’m about to fail to love, it’s Jesus I run to. The solution is my relationship with God. He’s the only thing that can change my heart. He is the source of life. He is love.
When I fail to love I know that the first thing that is required is humility.
Ultimately, I don’t struggle with humility because I think I’m right. I’ve struggled with humility because it feels like I'm abdicating the power to protect myself. It feels unsafe. “If I don’t stand up for myself, who will?” has powered much of the pain that’s come when I am in conflict with someone.
In our current political climate, a lot of people are terrified for this exact same reason: if I don’t stand up for myself, who will?
But friends, I want to point out that there is a difference between standing for what you believe and the way in which you do it.
To me, humility is surrender. It’s saying to Jesus, “My way sucks. I need help.” When I could finally crawl to Him and let Him wrap His arms around me, that was the beginning of receiving the wisdom that I’d paid such a high price for.
He’s walked with me through my failures to love. (He never does it how I think he’s going to do it.) He validates my pain. He validates what I can’t control, the behavioral and neurological elements.
He has compassion on what I can control, the words I knew I shouldn’t say. He’s gentle with my heart. He’s the first to say, “Kristianna, that was unkind.” He’s also the first to say, “Let’s talk about this.”
So how do we stay relational?
There are many ways to go about this. Right now I'm going to share with you a few of my favorites.
I really like practical things that address both the spiritual and the physical; it’s part of why I love the Life Model Works (LMW) ministry so much.
I’m going to make a few simple suggestions while also pointing you towards more information.
If we can work at the skill of STEPPING AWAY during conflict when we RECOGNIZE that our relational brain is shutting down, for the PURPOSE of connecting to the Lord and hearing what He has to say about the situation, the way that we handle ourselves in the midst of conflict is absolutely going to change.
Jesus. He's our hope. His way is better then our way.
If you wrestle with the utter injustice of your situation, having perspective helps. Meditate on the mercy of the Lord on the people who crucified Him. Meditate on how, when we were still utterly absorbed in ourselves, He died for us. Ask Him what He thinks about your situation. (He'll probably surprise you.)
Second of all, appreciation keeps us relational. Learning to feel it and extend it resets our brains, so PRACTICE APPRECIATION. (Do it mentally. Do it on paper. Keep listing appreciations until you can feel your mindset and heart attitude shifting, even a little. Sometimes I have to list A LOT of appreciations before I get there.)
Third, PRACTICE MEDITATIVE JOURNALING. (We've mentioned Immanuel Journaling on the podcast.)
LMW acknowledges that we know we are capable of misunderstanding what God might be saying to us, yet the greater danger arises from never attempting or desiring to understand what God might be saying to us to guide us.
Our impression of God's response towards us must come from an understanding of God's character, and that understanding comes from studying the Bible.
We believe that getting to know God and His character (who God says He is) is a crucial part of increasing our ability to recognize God's voice.
God is glad to be with us in all circumstances. He is always initiating the restoration of our relationships with Him and others. He is continuously working on our behalf. Immanuel journaling allows us to be more aware of these truths. (Outline of the Immanuel Journaling process Or buy the book)
Practicing both appreciation and journaling help us to hear God and know it’s Him.
LMW refers to this ability as Godsight.
Godsight is learning to see people, situations, and ourselves like God does. It restores belonging, which is the joy that we create around us; it makes relationships bigger then problems. Godsight helps us to restore peace and appreciation, reactivating our relational circuits. This ALWAYS gives us the perspective to see the relationship as more important than the challenges and problems.
If we confess our failures and malfunctions to Him, He cleanses and restores us to relationship with Him. When we restore relationship to Him, He moves the problem out of the way so that we can enjoy relationship with Him. He always makes relationship more important than our problems, mistakes, and malfunctions.
Take comfort, all you dear ones who are afraid that drawing near to Him means that you’re supposed to back down from standing or fighting for what you believe in.
GODSIGHT DOESN’T IGNORE PROBLEMS. It simply sees the relationship as bigger and more important than the problem.
If we can practice Godsight, we can stay relational in the midst of conflict.
Without Godsight, we make problems bigger than relationships, and overwhelm others with the intensity of our emotions. (The whole world goes apeshit.)
Lastly, let’s get practical with an exercise from the LMW Belonging manual.
Start by identifying a situation where you feel like someone is a problem or someone thinks you have a problem. Then ask yourself, “How will I create belonging in spite of this problem so I can continue to act like my relational self?”
Step 1. I remember the relationship and name it.
Step 2. I quiet myself.
Step 3. I get my relational circuits on. (Practice appreciation. Immanuel Journaling. Practice Shalom for My Body, which seems weird at first, but WORKS.)
Step 4. I remember three ways I value this relationship and am glad to be in it.
Step 5. I look for signs that I need some healing - what emotion won’t quiet? (Anger, fear, shame, disgust, hopeless/despair, sadness.)
Step 6. I get more Godsight by asking God to show me more in this relationship.
Step 7. I create belonging by telling who we are together in this relationship and how we want this to end.
For myself, in times of trouble and conflict, it seems counter-intuitive to spend my time practicing appreciation, doing body exercises, or journaling. I want to ACT or FIGHT! Everything feels helpless and hopeless and out-of-control. I don't want to step away and disengage...I want to charge forward until people SEE the TRUTH!
May I suggest that, in part, this is because we are disconnected from God and our relational brains are offline?
Our ability to clearly see the situation, no matter how dire the circumstances, radically changes when we have God’s perspective.
Friends, the reality of a thing may be bleak and no solution to change it imminent…AND YET…I fully believe that we can walk through conflict as ourselves. I fully believe that in times of sorrow and despair we can experience joy. In times of persecution we can experience peace, and we can do our utmost to treat others with dignity and love, regardless of their actions.
This is what matters. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This is what it means to love well.
We can grow beautiful things in our hearts, no matter how dark our days or how polluted our climate.