Proverbs has a lot of sage gems about how we deal with conflict, such as 26:17. Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. Yet, in my experience, we are far more likely to err on the other side of that equation. That is, we are often tempted to pull other people into our conflicts. It’s easier to talk about people than to people when challenges arise. It’s tempting to talk around the issues, without addressing the issues.
Sometimes it can be healthy to solicit the help of another in our conflict. Perhaps we need sound advice as to how we address a concern, and we know someone with more experience or helpful insight that can aid us. Perhaps we need assistance or an advocate, as the situation calls for legal counsel or HR representation or simply a trusted witness.
But there are plenty of times when pulling others into our conflict is unhealthy and detrimental to us, the other, the relationship, and the outcome like when…
- We start spreading gossip or slander
- Used in a way to “amass an army” to join in our fight
- It becomes a substitute for ever dealing with the real issues
- It creates unhealthy patterns like triangling
In Matthew 18, Jesus indicates that there can eventually be a time to bring others into a discussion to possibly help mediate or arbitrate, but that’s usually a later step. Healthy relationships and environments foster the habits of talking to people with which we are in conflict, not about them. We treat others with respect. We talk to them in love. We do so in private rather than call them out in public. In other words, we address our concerns rather than ignore them, but we do so in a way that honors the golden rule. Even in conflict, even when we must confront someone about a concern, we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.