Did you ever have conflict resolution training in elementary school? I vaguely remember learning about it, but it isn’t something that we learn only once—we need to practice it on almost a daily basis in order to have healthy relationships.
One of the trickiest situations to navigate within a relationship is how to be a peacemaker as opposed to a peacekeeper.
The way I see a peacemaker versus a peacekeeper is illustrated in Proverbs 27:6.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
I have had many experiences, where I just wanted to “smooth things over,” and not “rock the boat” so I could avoid the drama. But some of those experiences warranted drama because that “drama” was for the good of the other person.
Sometimes we need to make waves in order to help someone instead of enabling them. However, it can be a fine balance between recognizing that someone needs to hear a difficult truth, or if they simply need encouragement, space to vent, or help.
So the question is, “How do we walk that ‘tightrope’ and know how to respond to someone in the right way?”
First of all, we need to ask for wisdom from God.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Secondly, we need to make sure we are doing what’s right and live the best way we can.
After all, in Matthew 7:3, Jesus said to take the “log” out of our own eye before we can remove the “speck” from our brother's eye.
We check ourselves first so that we can be in fellowship with God. Then and only then do we have the clarity to understand what the other person is going through. From there, we can have empathy for that person and respect for that person.
Only with all of that in place first, is it possible for us to then be able to speak into someone else’s life, being able to graciously and lovingly encourage the other person.
Lastly, we need to have a good understanding of what that person is going through. We can’t make assumptions or prejudgments based on what we see or what we have experienced.
On the one hand, this understanding doesn’t only include what situation they’re going through but also includes what their potential needs might be. But on the other hand, if you are willing to get in the trenches with them in the first place, be willing to stay there patiently with them, and help to provide for their needs if you are able to.
Job had his fair share of undeserved suffering. After he lost all of his children, and his cattle, and developed horrific boils all over his body, all he had left were his friends and his wife. His wife told him to just curse God and die. Job's friends were able to sit with him in silence for about a week but then resorted back to judgment. His friends were bound and determined to find a reason for Job’s suffering.
The following examples below are nowhere near exhaustive but can help us identify what can be potentially enabling or potentially judgmental.
Here are some examples where a person needs a difficult truth, instead of getting what they want at the time. But remember, understanding and empathy need to come first.
Someone who has an addiction and keeps asking you for money. Every time they get the money, they spend it on drugs.
Your good friend is in a verbally abusive relationship, she tells you that she loves the person, and wants you to be accepting of his or her relationship.
Your friend has a gambling habit, and You try to talk to them about the destructive nature of gambling, and they get really upset.
But here are some examples when a person needs love, prayer, and encouragement instead of judgment, and being told what to do.
Your friend is really struggling to get out of bed, eat, and is sad all of the time. Instead of telling that friend that he needs to just snap out of it and get more motivated to serve God, this person would benefit from a mental health evaluation due to evidence of depression.
Your sister just sustained a traumatic car accident. She is now afraid to drive and asks you for a ride wherever she needs to go. A peacekeeper would give her a ride for as long as she wants. A judgmental person would tell her she just needs to suck it up and start driving. However, in this incidence, it would be best to help out initially and encourage her to seek therapeutic help in order to gradually start back to driving again.
Relationships are very difficult to navigate.
Fortunately, God gives us wisdom and grace as we make mistakes and work through those difficult situations. Our relationships are a great refining tool to draw us closer to God and to reinforce and develop our character.
One of the best things that I have learned about relationships is the beauty and peace that comes with reconciliation, and that there’s always something that can be learned, even in the worst and seemingly unresolvable circumstances.
Although it’s a lot easier to take the easy way out and go along as a peacekeeper, being a peacemaker is what God wants us to be.
Being a peacemaker is better for us, and better for others, and will help our relationships flourish.