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Are you taking conflict too seriously?

| by Margaret Marcuson

Many of the pastors I coach and consult hate conflict at church. They sigh and wish it would just be over. Or they spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what to do. Believe it or not, it’s possible to take conflict too seriously. Surprisingly, this can get in the way of moving through the conflict. Seriousness is a sign of anxiety, and makes it harder for us to think creatively.

Here are seven signs you might be taking it too seriously:

1. You feel like you have failed because there is conflict. In fact, if no one is upset about something, you might not be moving forward strongly enough.

2. You take personal attacks personally. It’s not about you (even if they frame it that way). You won’t find it easy to take when people blame you for everything. Yet it can be a little easier if you remember it’s not really personal. It’s about your position as leader.

3. You feel like it’s your responsibility to fix it. Remember that you can only take responsibility for yourself. You can manage yourself (a full-time job always, and especially in intense conflict). Others have to manage themselves. And the future of the congregation is not up to you but up to them.

4. You think you have no options. There are always choices, and the more you can see, the freer you will be. Sometimes resignation is a positive choice. Sometimes staying on and toughing it out is a positive choice. You can learn either way.

5. You blame one individual. It always takes more than one to make the conflict dance work. Blame is a serious stance. See if you can step back and watch the dance. And find out about past conflicts. You may see similarities which can help you lighten up. There might be an opening for a bully in your church which someone always seems to fill.

6. You allow the conflict to absorb all your time and energy. In intense conflict, it’s hard not to be completely distracted. However, if you can keep at least some focus on your own goals and your own spiritual support, you’ll give the conflict less weight, which will be better for you and the church.

7. You see the conflict and its potential negative outcome as ultimate. As important as any local church is, God’s purposes go far beyond the outcome of any given situation. See the bigger picture, and remember that God loves you (and your antagonists) no matter what.

Keep as light as you can, and do what you can to relax. Remember: focus on yourself and your own functioning and goals.  That’s the biggest contribution you can make to your church in the midst of conflict.

Photo source: istock

Margaret Marcuson

Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources. Margaret is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and MoneyandYour Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. She served as a pastor for 15 years.

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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