All of us have a natural desire to have the “upper hand” when conflicts arise. This built-in instinct can work to our good when applied in life threatening situations. However, it tends to create fallout and complicate circumstances when we take this position in working out problems with people. The desire to be right or to be the winner ends up being the driving force in resolving the matter. Typically, such an approach goes like this – we concisely and passionately point out our adversary by exposing his or her wrong motives and actions, while making ourselves look as good a possible. We also see this technique used in our legal system. Each side seeks to win the case by defeating the other side and usually shows no interest in taking steps to restore damaged and broken relationships when possible. Our news media does it this way: When reporting a story about two opposing sides, they focus almost entirely on their differences and say little or nothing about a solution. Acting solely on our basic instinct in working out problems falls far too short of God’s approach!

God’s approach tells us to look at ourselves first of all no matter how little or how much I have contributed to creating or prolonging the conflict. God stresses the importance of the way things are said, for He instructs us to “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Right wording is important, but communicating the words in a compassionate way encourages mutual understanding. God’s approach is one that encourages mutual respect for and from each side. He instructs us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

When we talk about “approach” we mean how we come across to one another. When we are working with people we like and all is going well, it is easy to approach people in a reciprocating way. The Bible tells us it’s easy to love those who love us but goes on to say there is nothing exceptional about that. But when we show love to those who don’t like us or those with whom we are in conflict, we bear the likeness of our Heavenly Father.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

How are you coming across to your co-worker who differs from your moral and ethical views or with whom you have a conflict? What are your tone of voice, your body language, and gestures conveying? Is it frustration, coldness, and dislike, or is it patience, concern, and love? We are told in the Bible that as a person thinks in his or her heart, so they are in real life. (Proverb 23:7) That being true, we need to examine our hearts in order to evaluate how we come across to our coworkers, especially those who are different from us. (PMC)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)