I suffer from the proverbial foot it mouth disease. I cannot recount how many times I have intentionally or unintentionally caused conflict based on what I did or didn't say to someone. It is because of this habit of eating my own feet that I have gained a lot of experience with regards to the benefits of working through relational tension.
This is a fact: Every human relationship will experience conflict, strain and stress over time. How we choose to handle these moments of conflict will determine whether or not a connection is strengthened or severed. Here are two ideas on how you can grow through relational tension.
1. Humility. There is nothing quite like a reminder that you're not perfect to help foster humility in one's character. Learning to apologize, accept responsibility for your actions, and the consequences associated with disappointment and pain provide the best catalyst for character growth and development. It's in times of tension where your true character is revealed. Attempting to deflect or mask responsibility in conflict does nothing but harm any sort of future relational bond that may be built. Relationships that stand the test of time are built on honesty, respect, forgiveness and unconditional love.
The next time you find yourself dealing with relational tensions ask yourself this question: "What do I need to learn from this situation?" instead of giving into the temptation to distance yourself from this learning opportunity.
2. Fox-hole syndrome. My first role in ministry was in a church that faced a lot of different kinds of conflict. Learning to navigate through the seasons of great tension, strain and hurt helped me to understand that conflict can act as a communal catalyst for strengthening relational bonds.
One of my favorite mini-series is Band of Brothers. The 10 part series tells the story of a division of soldiers as they walk through the Second World War. As the television series continues to unfold, we discover that the bond between these men is enhanced by shared conflict.
There are times when we may be invited to dig a figurative foxhole alongside of others in opposition to conflict. Instead of viewing these seasons of strain as hindrances to future development, discover the richness of the opportunity to create relational growth that conflict can bring. It's true that unresolved conflict does severe a relational connection, but when you are mature enough to fight through the conflict, the relationship you long for will grow.
The next time you find yourself suffering from indigestion due to your attempts of eating your own feet, remember that relational conflict is unavoidable and it may just be an invitation to deepen the connection that you have with another person.