Conflict is not all bad. Despite our tendency to run the other direction whenever conflict is in the air, there are benefits to be realized from engaging it well.
(Of course, much of many persons’ experience with conflict is painful and frightening. When it is not engaged well, conflict can be very destructive and hurtful.) Here, in no particular order, are some of the benefits of conflict:
1. It clears the air. There is little that is more uncomfortable than conflict simmering below the surface. Waiting almost never makes it go away. In fact, avoiding conflict can increase the pressure until there is an explosion of anger and distrust.
2. It helps us know others better. One of the important skills to engaging conflict well is the ability to set aside our own feelings and listen deeply to the other. Whenever we able to do that, we almost always learn something new.
3. It helps us know ourselves better. Addressing conflict productively requires us to examine our own heart, our own thinking, and our own feelings. All good.
4. IIt deepens relationships. See numbers two and three above. The more we know one another and ourselves, the stronger the relationship.
5. It encourages creativity. Working through conflict requires groups to consider all the options. Often the best solution is one that nobody thought of before.
6. It develops clarity. Conflict leads to confusion, and confusion leads to conflict. Engaging the conflict clarifies our thinking, both personally and corporately.
7. It fosters humility. Sometimes we have to admit we are wrong. Good practice.
8. It invites forgiveness. True forgiveness is a precious commodity in our world. Working through conflict well gives us opportunity to give and receive forgiveness.
9. It frees energy. A great deal of emotional energy is consumed by keeping the lid on conflict. When it is addressed, energy is freed for more important things.
10. It is holy work. God is the author of peace. Whenever we participate well in addressing conflict, we become the peacemakers whom Jesus blessed and called the children of God.
The Rev. Evelyn Fisher is director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.