The Core of Conflict and The Respect Dare

I’m working with a married couple in crisis right now.

If I were to share with you the nitty gritty details of their issues, you’d think, “There’s no way this will get better.”  What’s so exciting to me is that the core of their problems isn’t any different than the core of Adam and Eve’s issues in the Garden…and it’s something you and I struggle with, too:  Personal Responsibility. The lack of this principle in their lives shows up in the blaming, judgmental, critical words they use to attempt to bridge the chasm between them, and even before that, the unhealthy habits of thinking they’ve developed over the years. Proverbs 23:7 As a man (or woman) thinketh, so is he.

I have become a firm believer that to the extent that I take responsibility for my own responses to another human being (which is a good thing, by the way), and to the extent that I try to be responsible for them and their responses (which is an unhealthy thing), well, that determines the level of peace and joy I have in that relationship.  If I have responsibility for myself, and I respect myself as a temple of the Holy Spirit and an ambassador of Jesus Christ, then I can actively choose to receive and freely give love, and whether or not it is received is up to the other person.  I can display the fruits of the Spirit without expectation – because I’m not responsible for another person’s action. 

If I’m unhappy in my marriage, I can take action to change that, and be responsible for my sense of well being in this relationship.  Why would I want to control, manipulate, dominate OR be on the receiving end of those things?   That goes against the very nature of Christ and is therefore hypocritical.  If you don’t believe me, try to make someone else stop sinning.  Good luck. 

Ever not known what to do in a conflict?  Ever think, “I don’t like this, but I don’t know what to do?” Ever respond in unhealthy ways?  Most people are lousy at this and become either 1) steamrollers or 2) doormats.  Most people are completely unaware of the miriad of healthy options available to us that represent Christ, who is Love and worthy of respect and honor.

I believe we, as Christians, married or not, need to get REALLY good at engaging in conflict.  Choosing to talk spiritual stuff with someone because you want them to follow Christ is actually choosing to engage in a conflict around a core belief – and if we’re not living this in our own lives, if we’re not daily demonstrating healthy communication behaviors, we are either doormats or steamrollers.  Neither demonstrate personal responsibility, nor are they worthy of respect.  Neither of them win souls, nor do they help us walk through conflict in healthy ways.

This article in the link below makes me laugh – it’s not completely related, but the church abdicated themselves of any responsibility.  What would have been so wrong with accepting the responsibility for what they did?  Why couldn’t their statement have been, “We prayed. We accept responsibility for our prayers for God’s will, however, God is not Santa Clause, and He has responsibility for His actions and choices, which could have been a positive or negative response for us OR the bar.  Please take your complaint to God Himself, as it was His choice to strike your establishment with lightening.  We are incapable of creating lightening and are therefore not responsible for the current condition of your establishment.  If you would like to discuss with us why we believe in God, we are interested in fully engaging in that dialogue.” Here’s the link to the story: http://m.clarkecountydemocrat.com/news/2009-10-29/Editorial/Texas_beer_joint_sues_church.html

Unhealthy thinking that doesn’t take personal responsibility (because all we can really impact is our own choices in how to respond – we cannot control another person’s behavior) leaves us blaming (which is a form of judgment) the other person:  He made me sad…he hurt my feelings…his drinking makes me angry…her shopping makes me frustrated…his overeating disappoints me… I feel bad about myself because my husband thinks I’m fat…

So, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden, her blaming the serpent and him blaming her, we naturally don’t like to take personal responsibility, but we need to.  Call it what it is to do otherwise:  SIN.  Personal responsiblity (which engages us in a healthy sense of self) helps us deal with conflict and turn our marriages into something that glorifies God.  It gives Him the space He needs to do His thing in a person’s heart without our interference.  Let’s stop blaming others for the way we feel.  If we do this, we can impact our world for Christ in ways we’ve never dreamed!  This is a simple thing, but not an easy thing.  Maybe I’ll write about that tomorrow…

At any rate, I don’t know a single soul that’s been saved because the gospel was shoved down their throat.  I do know a whole bunch of people (like myself) who have been wooed by Him, however.  In the same ways, marriages are similar. I don’t know a single husband or wife who have had their hearts changed by their spouse being a doormat or a steamroller – but I do know those who have seen Christ’s patient love in their spouse…and I’ve seen a ton of wives turn their marriages around because of The Respect Dare, which helps us learn personal responsibility, choose how to respond to our husbands, and get out of God’s way while He does His thing with the man.

Therein lies True freedom in Christ.  And, perhaps, the reason our marriages are an allegory for Christ and the church.

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