In last month’s blog, I introduced the First R in the Seven Biblical Principals to Rising Above Conflict to Make Peace; Rely on God.
The Second R is REFLECTION. Reflect on the desires that battle within you (James 4:1). James is referencing to self-reflection which is to examine one’s own thoughts and actions. We want something but don’t get it. We cannot have what we want so we quarrel and fight with one another. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse or a friend over something you each wanted? Maybe you yelled at each other or they didn’t talk to you for a week or you gave them the cold shoulder. Why do we quarrel and fight or covet and kill one another over something we want or desire and don’t get? Because it’s our natural human tendency. If you truly want to rise above the conflict you encounter in your life, it requires you to change how you’ve been conditioned to react to conflict. Rising above conflict takes the willingness to reflect on your own desires of your heart through introspection. It’s easy to get caught up in the “blame game” when you feel justified in what you want and don’t get it. For example, how do you react when you’re in conflict? What is your reaction when you don’t get what you want? Do you get angry? Do you get defensive? Do you lash out? Do you try to justify what you want? Self-reflection can assist you in assessing what’s causing the conflict within you.
The Why: Getting to the Heart of the Conflict. Self-reflection requires that you be honest with yourself. You have to be truthful and willing to go beyond the surface and get to the issue or the heart of the conflict—to the “why” underneath the desire. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why was I angry or hurt or upset over not getting what I wanted?” “Why did I say or do what I did?” “Why did what the other person say to me or did to me make me feel hurt, upset or angry?” Your willingness to study your own fundamental nature, purpose and essence will allow you to learn from your mistakes and past situations. Through self-reflection, you are able to “know” yourself better. And, understanding “your” why is a structural way to think positively. Next time you feel angry or hurt, ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” Reflect on the “why” and notice how you feel once you’ve discovered what’s underneath the want or desire.
James tells us that we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask God. And, when we do ask, we usually ask with wrong motives (James 4:2-3). It’s a natural human instinct to want something. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something. It’s the motive or the intention behind the “want” or “desire”that you are to assess. It is important to identify the desires or idols in your life. The reason we have the same arguments with our spouse or friend is because we are dealing with our actions and thoughts on a surface level. We have to get to the heart of the conflict the cause of the issue in order to achieve real change. A way to get to the heart of the conflict is through self-reflection. Here are seven key questions for self-reflection.
Seven Key Questions for Self-reflection;
- What do I want or desire? “I want obedient children” or “I desire financial wealth”. Idols start with a desire. Even a good and healthy want or desire can turn into an idol and conflict.
- What are my expectations? “I expect respectful children”. A desire can lead to an expectation which can sometimes be unrealistic and lead to disappointment. I expect you to be perfect.
- What do I demand? “I must have obedient children”. An expectation can turn into a demand. For example, “I need”. I see what I want as essential. I must have this.
- Am I disappointed because I didn’t get what I wanted? Why? “You didn’t give me peace and quiet”. Demands and expectations can lead to disappointment. A lot of our disappointment in relationships isn’t because people have wronged us, but because they did not give us what we want or because we have an expectation they did not meet.
- What are my judgments about this person or circumstance? “You are disrespectful because you didn’t give me peace and quiet”. We become frustrated when we do not receive what we desire or expect. So, we judge, blame, attack, and or reject, those who haven’t given us what we want.
- Am I punishing the other person? Why? “I won’t take you to the park because you didn’t give me peace and quiet”. People become angry and hurt and will usually strike back through angry words, gossip, avoiding the other person, punishment, revenge, etc.
- What do I fear? Why am I afraid? What do I worry about? What do I think will bring me pain or chaos or unhappiness? Fear is usually one of the biggest roadblocks in our lives. Fear of not having enough to eat, no money to pay the bills or not having a place to live. Fear of rejection, inadequacy or of being incompetent. Fear of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, or talented enough. Fear of being too short, tall, fat or skinny. Fear of not being accepted by your peers, not getting the job you want, not receiving the income you want, or not having a big enough house. Fear of a committed relationship or not finding the right partner or getting divorced. Fear of not being able to have children or not being able to raise your children, etc.
It’s important to identify your desires and fears and the motives underneath them that drive you in your life.
How Do I Change the Desires of My Heart? You change the desires of your heart first through forgiveness. Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another (Colo 3:13). Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other (Eph 4:32). Second, reflect the desires that battle within you (James 4:1). Stop dealing with your actions and thoughts on the surface and get to the heart of the conflict— to the “why”. Idols of the heart require self-reflection. And third, turn to God for everything you need and repent so that your sins may be wiped out and the time of refreshing may come (Acts 3:19). Relate to your want or conflict from love, not fear. Ask God what is in your highest good. Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of any kind because testing your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance makes you mature and complete (James 1:2-4).
If trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for personal growth. Ask yourself, “Am I relating to this in anger, blame, fear, resentment or as a victim; or am I relating to this as an opportunity for me to learn and grow?” Celebrate what God’s doing through your trouble. Celebrate what he’s doing for your good purpose. And, rejoice because you’re getting ready to grow. Remember, you grow in the valleys. God’s building you up for the next steps in your journey and preparing you for your good purpose.