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April 20, 2012

Restoring Harmony

What should you do when there's real conflict between group members?


Our most recent digizine, Troubleshooting, includes a helpful article from Les Parrott on what to do when we learn two of our group members are at odds. If you're in small-group ministry long enough, you're bound to run into this scenario, and it's difficult to know how to walk with the group members through the situation. Les offers some great tips, including understanding why conflict occurs, deciding whether it's something that should be worked out during a group meeting or outside the group context, and rebuilding respect. He also tells group leaders to focus on forgiveness. Here's what he has to say:

When someone slights you, offends you, or deeply hurts you, the urge to respond in kind is natural: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The problem with this urge is that we don't know when to step. If we lose an eye, we want more than an eye in return. We don't want to balance the scales; we want them tipped in our favor. And once we feel the compensation is satisfactory, the other person takes his turn at punishing us again. The cycle repeats itself over and over.

Forgiveness puts an end to all that. Our primal urge for "balancing the score" comes to a screeching halt when we set our pride aside and begin to forgive. It's for our own advantage, too. Because getting even takes its toll on the one seeking revenge. When Jesus tells us to "turn the other cheek" or "go the extra mile," he is not telling us to give our enemy some advantage over us. He is not telling us to be cowards. Cheek-turning is for your own protection. Once you free yourself from a desire to hurt back, you put an end to your vindictive spirit and save yourself from further harm.

But let's get real. How do we help this happen when two group members are at odds? How do we help them forgive? It begins by gently asking if either one is willing to set their pride aside and try their best to see the situation from the other person's perspective. If neither party is willing to take this crucial step, press the pause button. They need more time to cool down. The problems that plague relationships are rarely 100 percent one person's fault. In time, one of them is likely to set their foolish pride aside. And that's when an apology and genuine forgiveness can occur.

This is critical because, in truth, the proverbial scales can never be balanced. "Do not repay anyone evil for evil," says the apostle Paul, instead "live at peace." That's the result of forgiveness: peace. And it sets the tone for the next step in repairing the relationship.

When have you experienced true forgiveness? When have you helped group members forgive one another? Share with us below.

For the rest of the article, check it out in our Troubleshooting digizine.

posted by Amy Jackson on April 20, 2012 9:16 AM

Related Tags: Conflict, Digizine, Digizine excerpt, Forgiveness, Les Parrott

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