Nearly a decade ago, I sat in a Spring Arbor University classroom waiting for my professor to arrive for class. During the wait, I used my computer to watch one of my favorite television shows, “The Office,” which was full of conflict and awkward human interaction. Every episode outlined humorous, yet realistic, situations inside of an office environment.
I’ve wondered what made “The Office” so popular. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter the degree of preposterous situations, the show was relatable to our society and culture. The show began before the work-from-home phenomenon, and most of the country could relate to the daily interoffice conflicts with peers and superiors.
The word “conflict” has a mark of disgrace. When I think of its synonyms, I think of “clash, incompatible, diverge, dispute and quarrel.” However, what if some things that are “bad for you” are actually quite good for you? In the previously mentioned Spring Arbor classroom, I was challenged by the book “Everything Bad Is Good for You” by Steven Johnson. The book offers a radical alternative to endless complaints about television, movies and video games. Johnson shows that mass culture is actually more sophisticated and challenging than ever, but we must focus on what our minds need to do to process the complex, multilayered messages. Rather than dumb us down, our culture can smarten us up.
In his book, “The Ministry Leader: A Guidebook for Developing Your Character, Competence and Calling,” Dr. Rob McKenna of Seattle Pacific University challenges all leaders to intentionally seek internal development. We need to be able to accept the fact that conflict is not “bad.” Children can learn conflict resolution skills simply by playing together. Giving the proper permission to resolve their circumstances is crucial in their development.
The value of play in our lives can’t be overstated. Humans are built and developed through play. When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. When dealing with conflict, people may not take a step back and allow their minds to explore. Play expands our mind in ways that allow us to explore, generate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light.
Read John 17:20-26. The calling is for one heart and mind. Jesus is praying for you (“those who will believe in me”). Read it once more, but substitute your name when you read “them” or “they.”
We live in an unpredictable world. God gives us the unique ability to non-instinctively respond in holy ways to conflictive circumstances. God calls us to respond in ways that honor Him. We have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) to mold and shape us. I like to think I have a buffer. In fact, I pray that God serves as my buffer. My relationship with Jesus keeps conflict from escalating.
Several months ago, I tried to explain the idea of a buffer to my 5-year-old daughter, Ariana. She was struggling with her reactions when things did not seem to go her way. We were driving so I tried to turn the lesson into a playful game: Imagine we needed to get to our destination (8 miles away) without stopping. Almost immediately, Ariana poked holes in my scenario. She said, “Well, that’s nice, but you have to stop sometimes.”
As a 5-year-old, she likes to instruct me on how to drive. As a driver, I can’t accurately predict what might happen around us. I don’t know if another car will suddenly swerve or how long a light will stay green. The only way to keep from crashing is to keep extra space between cars. The space acts as a buffer and gives time to respond to unexpected moves while avoiding friction. Imagine a society in which people exercised a buffer in their lives.
As a parent, I challenge myself to raise children who use their intelligence and social skills to amplify the capabilities of other people around them. My goal is to raise my kids in such a way that when they are adults, they walk into a room, light bulbs go off in people’s heads, ideas flow and problems get solved. These are the types of leaders who will change the trajectory of sin and brokenness in this world, inspire others, stretch themselves and deliver results that surpass any expectation. God is using His children to cultivate new ideas and deliver better methods to activate change in this world and drive innovation. The world needs more people who know how to engage conflict in healthy ways.
- How can your response to conflict make it a beneficial experience?
- What types of leaders do our churches require?
JAY CORDOVA is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.0