Reflections by Dr. Teston
A Fellowship Christian School Blog
Dear Fellowship Family,
I am excited to share this next installment of "Not On Our Watch": Conflict - how to navigate it with love. Many of you may not be aware that my beloved and I have mentored couples throughout our marriage. We count this opportunity as an honor and a privilege. Mike and I believe strongly in the sanctity of marriage and appreciate the gift that it is - given to us to demonstrate God's love to the world and symbolize the union of Christ and the Church. During our sessions, we cover many topics. Two that I find to be critically important are learning to engage in healthy conflict and understanding how to seek resolution. When two people join together, each bringing their unique backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives, it's understandable that conflict is bound to occur. So, learning to manage it with grace and love is critical, and it's never too early to start practicing.
Conflict is the disagreement or struggle resulting from needs, drives, wishes, or demands that are in opposition or incompatible. It can be major or minor and typically creates tension. But what we need to teach our children is that it is NORMAL. If you are in the presence of or talking to another human being, there will most likely be conflict at some point. The question then is how to navigate it well.
Whether it be parent/child or peer conflict, our children will experience that tension. Perhaps they don't feel heard or are engaged in a power struggle. They may have had a different experience or possess information others do not. Whatever the cause of the conflict, we can help them distance themselves from the emotions that are triggered by explaining that their response is actually physiological.
When we perceive a threat (like conflict), the amygdala releases adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones. In other words, our fight, flight, or freeze response is what's triggered. At this point, we unintentionally cling to our opinions and judgments as if they are our only hope of survival. To battle this physiological response, we must learn to acknowledge it is happening. We can temper it by naming our emotions, calming our physical reaction, and, if necessary, taking a moment to collect ourselves before re-engaging.
Additionally, we must remember what God requires of us: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). As John Eldredge so beautifully and succinctly stated in Resilient, "We honor our emotions by acknowledging them. We bridle our emotions by keeping them subject to truth." It's important to remind our children and ourselves that in conflict, we must remember Truth and what it requires of us. We should maintain our grounding in Truth and integrity, value relationships over being right, and seek to understand rather than be understood. After all, no one typically holds fast to a view they know is incorrect.
Once conflict occurs, the next step is asking for forgiveness as we seek resolution or reconciliation. As you walk your children through this, there are four components to cover:
- Be accountable by identifying what you did and why it was wrong.
- Consider what you think it "cost" the person on the other side of the conflict.
- Ask the other person what the exchange "cost" them.
- Ask for forgiveness.
If we are modeling an apology for our children or walking them through one step-by-step, it may sound like this: "I am sorry for the way I spoke to you earlier. I understand that I may have embarrassed you in front of your friends. How did it make you feel? Will you please forgive me?"
Even though Mike and I haven't always navigated conflict well, we understand how important it is to master this skill for the health of personal and professional relationships. Therefore, we continue to work toward engaging with respect, grace, and love with the ultimate goal of resolution. I pray that as you and your children encounter conflict, you will breathe deeply, invite God into the middle of it, remember His call to live at peace, and proclaim, "Not on our watch will we allow conflict to separate us from each other and God."
Dr. Kathryn M. Teston
Click to see more blog posts from Dr. Teston.
Dr. Kathryn M. Teston