One of the hardest things I have had to deal with in ministry was not a conflict, but instead the talk after the conflict was over. I’m not minimizing that conflict itself is hard, because it is. However when you are in conflict with another person there is a lot you can do. You can pray that God would convict their heart… and your own. You can forgive what needs to be forgiven, and repent when you need to repent and seek forgiveness. You can work to rebuild the relationship, you learn from your mistakes, there is growth.
There are occasions where others were present for the conflict directly, or brought into it indirectly… and it is very hard to reign in the talk that can come from it. Even when we have done our best to keep people out of the conflict, those who can sense the tension may make assumptions to fill in the gaps… and they don’t always keep those assumptions to themselves.
Several years ago there was a large conflict that I was a part of. It took time, but we all came to terms with what happened. There was forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a beautiful thing to see relationships being repaired and restored. Two years later, after all the dust had settled, someone came to me because there was gossip being spread about me. First, I want to say that I appreciate the fact the person told me… but even more so that when the person began to gossip in front of her she shut it down quickly. She made sure the person and those who were listening understood that she didn’t know all of the fact, had no business speaking about it with anyone.
THESE KINDS OF FRIENDS ARE GIFTS FROM GOD!
She came to me, because she felt that I should know that this issue was still being discussed by people… what was said about me specifically… and how she handled it.
I was far more hurt by those who were spreading rumors with incomplete information than I ever was by the actual conflict itself. In part, I believe, because this person was tarnishing my reputation with others who had no knowledge of the conflict in the first place. Not to mention I had considered this person as a friend, and couldn’t believe she was being so careless.
Yes, I was angry. Yes, I wanted to confront her. Yes, I wanted to talk to everyone she spread this gossip to and set the story straight. Before acting, I took it to the cross.
In order to clear up her misinformation, I would have had to throw others under the bus. I’ve always agreed with the quote: “What you say about others says more about you than those you are gossiping about”. There was no way to improve my standing without casting a negative shadow on others, and I refused to do that. Instead I had to take the high road. Yes, I can confront the gossiper directly. As for the rest, I had to make a decision to let my character speak for itself.
I would continue to walk out my faith, live my life, in accordance to my character and integrity. If she continued to speak ill of me, eventually she would feel conviction. If others chose to believe her, as they get to know me they too will feel conviction. If they choose to not bother to get to know me, that’s more on them than it is on me.
Sometimes, in our flesh, we want to repay evil for evil… hurt for hurt. But, that is not what God would have us do…
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
When we respond this way, we let our character and integrity speak for us vs. trying to be defensive. When we respond this way, we are walking in the Spirit and not in our flesh. When we respond this way, we are separating ourselves from the way the world does things and instead showing how Kingdom dwellers do things.