All relationships have conflict. How you conflict determines whether or not your relationships will grow healthier, or deteriorate.
Last week, when reading through Acts and 1 & 2 Thessalonians as part of our Erickson Covenant Community Bible Experience, I was struck by how thankful Paul was for these Jesus followers in the ancient city of Thessalonica. All through both letters, he expresses how thankful he is for them, at least four times.
Does that mean he had nothing difficult to say? No area that needed to be addressed or practices to be corrected? Not at all. There were things going on this community that Paul was concerned about, but they were not the dominant tone of his letter–thanksgiving was.
So here’s the challenge that emerged for me: when I have to address something difficult, or when going into a tricky conversation, I need to remember why I am thankful for this person. When we are deep into conflict, this might feel counter-intuitive, signalling its importance even more! If I will take a few moments to remember what I appreciate about this friend or this co-worker, about my wife or my child, then my posture, my tone and my speech will be influenced by that thankfulness (it might even change what I choose to say!). And, let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to have a difficult conversation with someone you know is really, truly thankful for you.
If you’re going to have conflict (and you will), then why not do it with a posture of thankfulness? It could make all the difference–the difference between health or death.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NIV)