Do you consider yourself a conflict-avoider? Or are you someone who’s ready to address conflict head on?
I am squarely in the “avoid conflict at all cost” camp! However, even I know that sometimes we have to address conflict in our lives. If we have any relationships with other people, there’s going to be a disagreement at some point.
Even for those who don’t mind stepping into conflict, there’s usually a better way to handle it than just blindly going at it full force!
In 1 Samuel 25, we see a woman who wisely handles conflict. Even though her husband is the source of the conflict, she steps in and manages the situation well.
You likely know the story. Abigail’s husband, Nabal, has refused to give any supplies to David and his men despite their good treatment and protection of Nabal’s shepherds while they were in David’s area. David tells his men to arm themselves, and they set off to attack Nabal.
In the meantime, one of Nabal’s men goes to Abigail and tells her what’s going on. She immediately goes into action, gathers a large group of supplies, and sends servants ahead of her with the supplies to meet David. She follows.
Then comes the scene of her meeting face-to-face with David. Here’s where I find these three simple truths that can help us when we are involved in a conflict. (Let me say up front that these apply when dealing with typical conflict in an otherwise healthy relationship. If abuse or other harmful behavior is involved, this wouldn’t be the recommended solution.)
Enter the situation with an attitude of humility.
Verses 23 and 24 say, “And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.”
Abigail didn’t march up to David and accuse him of being on the warpath to attack her husband. She didn’t begin with a list of David’s faults and vent about how offended she was by him. No, she approached him in a humble manner.
She also didn’t blame anyone else.
Since I naturally struggle with pride, I need the reminder of Proverbs 13:10. “Only by pride cometh contention…” It’s going to be very hard to resolve a conflict if neither person is willing to set aside their pride. Let’s be the ones willing to humble ourselves and take the first step toward reconciliation.
Think through the best way to approach the situation before you start.
Abigail speaks to David in verses 30-31.
“And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.”
Here Abigail points out to David what this rash act against Nabal could do to his reputation when he becomes king. Rather than allowing herself an emotional outburst, she speaks to him calmly and reasonably. She makes a logical appeal to David.
Sometimes an argument erupts quickly, but often conflict builds up over time. There’s an issue we need to address, but we keep putting it off. When the time is right to bring it up (which we’ll look at next), start by praying about and deciding on the best way to approach it. You likely know the personality and tendencies of the other individual. Use that to your advantage by planning a strategy to help them see
Timing is important.
Abigail went to meet David immediately because he was already on the way to attack Nabal. This was a matter of urgency, so she had to address the conflict
However, when it came to dealing with Nabal, she decided to wait.
“And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.“ (verse 36)
If I need to work through an issue with my husband, the best time is NOT when he first walks in the door after work. I’ll get a much better response if I wait until he’s had a chance to eat supper and wind down a bit from his day. And I think he knows that trying to resolve something with me is not best done at
Here’s where we need the Holy Spirit to help us exercise some self-control. It can be natural to jump into a conversation, thinking that we’ll feel better if we can just get this problem off our chest. But the response will likely be better if we consider the best time to address the issue.
I admire how Abigail handled a conflict that wasn’t even of her own making. I hope that all of us, conflict avoiders or not, can learn from her wisdom!
- What Ruth Teaches Me About Trusting God
- Don’t Be a Fool: 5 Things to Avoid if You Want to Be Wise
- What Hannah Teaches Me About Prayer
I tend to avoid conflict, too, and I certainly needed the reminder to be humble when confronting someone else. Things always seem to do better when done with humility, don’t they? Timing is key, too, as you say. I tend to want to deal with things right now, but sometimes things will resolve themselves if we leave them alone.
I’m exactly that way – wanting to deal with things right away! I’ve mentioned this before, but that’s one of the things I’ve learned (am learning 😉 with my teenagers. I don’t have to address every issue the second it happens. Whatever I need to say will often be better received if I let the emotions of the moment pass, and come back to it a little later. And, as you say, sometimes things will just resolve themselves if I’m patient enough to wait.
I don’t enjoy conflict, either. I am a super sugar-coater; the only time I can come in guns blazing is if it’s to my children. (I acknowledge that is fairly unkind, too.) I absolutely battle pride – BIG TIME – but when it comes to conflict, I do find entering the situation with the deference my natural response. Timing, for me, is harder: I always put things off too long, when I really just need to be a big girl and handle it.
Yes, when it comes to a situation involving someone doing/saying something to my kids, I’m much more likely to be ready to step into a conflict (or at least in my mind – and to my husband – say all the things that need to be said to the other person! 🙂