As I was brushing my kindergartner’s hair before school yesterday, we got to a tough tangle, which we regularly do. It is usually a scene of her tears and me asking her to hold her head still and sprays of detangler until the brush finally slides freely to the ends of her hair. But this day, as I prepared for the small battle before me, she said, “Will you please just cut the knot out???” What!? Cut her hair out? I explained that if I did that, she would have a gap in her hair, and I promised that it would be worth it to work through the tangles. She was insistent that it would be fine. She wouldn’t care. I couldn’t believe she would actually want that…or could I?
Because y’all, we all have “knots” in the day-to-day of life. The day has been smooth sailing and boom! You run into a problem, a conflict, a “tangle” that stops you in your tracks. Maybe it was of your own doing, maybe not, but you can’t get around it without a struggle, so what do you choose to do?
Do you try to “cut it out” to avoid the struggle, no matter the consequences of the action? “Brush it under the rug” and ignore it completely? Procrastinate and leave it, hoping it will go away on its’ own? Or do you face it head on, gathering your tools and a dose of patience for the mess that you know awaits?
If you’re like me, you just might have tried the first few options. I must admit that I have been known to avoid conflict once or twice. I hate awkward situations, hurting people’s feelings, and am just about as non-confrontational as they come. It makes my heart race, hands wring, and forehead perspire when I even think about it, especially when I’m the one who created the problem. Can you identify?
Tips for Handling Conflicts
There are numerous people in the Bible who can: Jonah, David, Jacob, and more. But what I’ve learned from these men and my own experiences is that avoiding conflict usually causes a bigger problem than facing it in the first place. The Lord teaches us that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). In our own strength, we are weak, but with Him, we can face whatever comes our way (Phil.4:13).
So, here are 5 things to help us work through the “knots” of life when we run into them:
- Pray. Always pray. I know this seems like a given, but many times, I jump right into a problem without going to the Lord first. And y’all, without the Lord’s guidance and wisdom and words, the chances of it going well are slim. Go to a quiet place. Call on His name as you praise Him for what He’s already done and all He’s going to do through this hard thing. Lay out the details, pour out your heart, and ask for His hands to guide you on the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Don’t be afraid to bare it all…because He already knows…but He needs to hear it from you. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT
- Listen before speaking. This is a hard one. So many of us rush into a conflict armed and ready…with our words. We want to explain, justify, “give our two cents,” and defend the right to our actions. This world has created a “don’t let anyone tell you what to do” society where it is seen as weak to bow to the needs of another before meeting your own. Where to be heard you must be hurried in your explanations. But y’all, that attitude is not a reflection of Jesus. Humble yourself, introduce the issue, and then ask the other person to tell you where they are on it. Listen intently. Not just hearing but mulling over every word and its significance to the problem. Then ask the Lord to give you the response, not the reaction that will help bring healing and resolution. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 NLT
- Allow adequate time to work through the issue. In the fast-paced world we live in, this can be difficult. But not many conflicts are resolved in the heart over a ten-minute beak period where other people, noises, and distractions abound. When you have a conflict, the other person needs to know you are giving them your full attention to resolve a wrong…that they matter to you. So give them that gift. Set aside uninterrupted time to listen and have purposeful conversation, even if it is hard to bear…even when it feels like work. The issue may not be resolved, even if this happens. But it will be a step in the right direction toward healing. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone…” Colossians 3:13 NIV
- Be patient as you await forgiveness and resolution in God’s timing. Wouldn’t it be nice if every hardship, every conflict, was resolved in a matter of minutes? If everyone forgave automatically and picked up as if no wrong had been committed? But that’s not real life, y’all. Even if you have prayed, listened intently, and allowed time to work through hard things, you may be left waiting indefinitely for resolution. You may have to repeat the first few steps multiple times as God leads. And so, if you have done all you can to bring peace…you wait. Patiently. For the Lord’s timing. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” Psalm 37:7
- Do your best to live in peace with everyone. Life on Earth is full of rocky roads, slippery slopes, and potholes Satan uses to catch us off guard and make us fall into making bad choices. There are times we will fail and hurt others. And there are times that others will fail and hurt us. But we have been given the gift of free will. We can choose our thoughts and actions. And as followers of Jesus, we must choose to do our best to live in peace with everyone. So if you’ve fallen and you’ve tried to right your wrong, today’s a new day, with new hours and minutes to strive for peace. Thank Jesus for this opportunity and take it wholeheartedly. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
Y’all, I can’t promise you that doing these things will solve all of your problems and make every day full of sunshine. But I can promise you that going to the Lord and following His word will make it better than it was. As much as I hope for knot-free days in my daughter’s hair, I pray for the Lord to use the “knots” in my own life for His glory even more. There isn’t one moment that is wasted if you are drawing closer to Him through them sweet friends.
Maggie Meadows Cooper
Maggie Meadows Cooper is a wife, mother, educator, and blogger with a longing for women to grow a heart for Jesus and others. She is the author of the children’s book Bumper, helping others to see that the heart is what counts most. She blogs at The Little Moments and contributes to IBelieve Truth: A Devotional for Women, Devotional Diva, and the Connecting Ministries Blog. ! She lives with her husband, three children, and two rambunctious dogs in Opelika, Alabama.