Conflict: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Conflict: the good, bad, and ugly (how to handle it)

This session was presented to Titus 2 Community on their Talk Live Tuesday show. You can find the session here. While the title might be catchy, the real subject is about How to Get a Handle on Conflict. Below are the notes for this lesson.


I feel so miserable without’s almost like having you here.  - Stephen Bishop.

What is conflict?

Conflict is a serious disagreement or argument that is often protracted. 

Harmony is desirable but abnormal, conflict is undesirable but normal.


A. Causes of conflict


1.   First cause is transgression and sin.

 Ultimately all conflict is a spiritual matter. The root cause is our broken relationship 

      with God (sin).

      a.   It began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  They sought to do without God in 

            all respects.  They wanted autonomy, to interpret the world without reference to God.

            By replacing God as the object of our affections and worship, we substitute idols. 

      Conflict often comes about because of idolatry – worshipping ourselves, our things, our 

            agendas, our world more than our God.  

 This rift between people and God, deeply affects the conflict we have with others.

Cain had a problem with God, but he took it out on his brother.  - H. B. London

      b.   Sin can and does have an impact on people so as to cause mental disorders.  Certain 

            disorders love drama, foster anger (wrath), narcissistic personality, etc.

Proverbs 15:18  A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.


c.   So, conflict is primarily due to a violation of loving God and loving others as myself.

            A Canadian study on conflict reported:

“The most common causes of conflict are warring egos and personality clashes (86%),  

lack of honesty (67%), stress (64%), and clashing values (59%).”


d.   At the core of conflict is our sinful condition of sinful pride. It causes misunderstanding, lack of judgment, or all-out war.

                  James 4:1 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, 

                        that your passions are at warwithin you?”

                              Not getting what you want.

                  Prov. 17:19  “Whoever loves transgressions loves strife…”


2.   Second cause is disconnection.

      Disconnection comes when differences divide.


      a.   Different perspectives

Two people can interpret the same social interaction in very different ways, based on their own personal knowledge and experiences. - Dr. Asch (1952)

                  You and your spouse are unique and different, so it should not surprise you that you 

                   disagree or even disconnect.

            Disconnection happens when you hear a word or see an action you interpret as wrong 

            or offensive and you decided to react in a negative or sinful way.

                  You can choose to take offense

                  Or you can choose to reconcile when you are sinfully offended.


b.   Different agendas


c.   Different intensities 

There are different intensities of disconnection, from miscommunication to separation.

Disconnection is disruptive and can cause social and emotional pain, depending on the individual’s perspective. It is especially hurtful between a married couple because it is tearing the fabric of  their bond together.

Often times, conflict is believed to be bad because it feels bad. Conflicts in relationships cause emotional discomfort in most people.  That level of emotional discomfort is painful and pain is considered a bad thing.

By the way, the brain has one pain center.  Physical pain and emotional pain are                                      registered in the same pain center, so yes, emotions can be painful.


One author wrote, “While asking the participants in my workshop to think of a conflict they faced in the past and to come up with a list with emotions, attitudes, actions, or metaphors they associate with the experience of that particular conflict. Generally they mention anxiety, stressfear, insecurity, anger, frustration, violence, etc.  Recently, a client told me that he felt like being lost in a labyrinth, like carrying a heavy rock on his shoulder.”


B. Levels of Conflict


The Good

1.   Sometimes genuine disagreements, if not handled rightly, can escalate into conflict.

a. Examples: 

* The conflict between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark and a philosophy of ministry.

* Acts 15:1-5 – apostle Paul versus James and Peter over doctrinal issues

* Phil. 4:2-9 - because of personal matters

b.   Not all conflict is wicked or evil under such circumstances. Sometimes conflict provides an opportunity toglorify God, to grow like Christ, and to serve others better.  


2.   Good conflict is when you have a disagreement that produces a good outcome.

Dr. Civico in another study, wrote, 

“Conflict doesn't destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results. Contrary to popular belief, the most successful teams are not the ones in which team members always agree with one another. Instead, they are often characterized by healthy debate - and at times, heated arguments. What distinguishes strong teams from dysfunctional ones is that debate doesn't cause them to fragment. Instead of becoming more isolated during tough times, these teams actually gain strength and develop cohesion… These sorts of emotions are common when we are confronted by a conflict or a problem. We should also recognize that these emotions put us in a state of mind that disempowers us.” 

Do not assume because you have a conflict that everything is bad and your relationship is over.


The Bad

1.   “Bad” conflict depends upon the extent of the disconnection.

            One person might not see an issue as a problem while the other person does.

            There is a disconnect in perspective.

                  An example?  The stereotypical toilet seat.


2.   Bad conflict is when there is jammed communication.

Interference - Not listening to each other.  Talking past each other.  Stuck - Repeating the same things over and over again.


3.   Bad conflict is when there is a lack of resolution

Both people see the problem as a big challenge and there does not seem to be any resolution.

a.   Remember, 70% of marital conflicts are never resolved. What is resolved is how the                               couple accept that and each other and still work toward a mutually beneficial relationship.

b.   Unresolved conflict, is almost always an issue of attitude not of the problem itself.


4.   Bad conflict is bad when there is condemnation.

Distrust, rising tempers, blame shifting and staking one’s claim (digging in).


The Ugly

1.   Conflict becomes ugly when the disconnect becomes more severe and the couple begins to attack each other.  

Proverbs 17:14  Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.  The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

2.   The Bible pegs it:

a.   James in chapter 4 calls this war.

b.   Galatians 5:19-21 identifies this as contention, which is a work of the flesh.

Note:  Contention is listed with other vices such as“adultery, fornication (sexual immorality), uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries - - and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

c.   Other terms for ugly conflict: contention, quarreling, strife, belligerence

3.   It is ugly when all-out war happens.  This is evil.

Psalm 140:1-2 Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.


What to do about conflict?

The details will have to be the subject of the next talk but allow me to give you five things to help:

We cannot avoid conflict: it’s just a natural component of our human condition, but what is in our power, is to decide to experience it as an opportunity for growth and for change or not.


1.   Consider your core.

Matthew 7:1  - look in your own heart first.  (What is it you want that you can’t have? What  buttons are being pushed?


2.   Calm down to communicate.


3.   Communicate to comprehend. 

You need to understand each other.


4.   Comprehend to connect. 

It is more important to receive what is said than to be right about what you want.


5.   Connect to cooperate.

“Conflict resolution is the process of trying to find a solution to a conflict.  Ideally, conflict resolution is collaborative problem-solving, a cooperative talking-together process that leads to choosing a plan of action that both of you can feel good about.” – Dr. Susan Heitler

Are you engaged in a conflict that appears to have no end or no resolution? Don’t hesitate to make contact today to see how we might be able to help you.