Ugh, conflict. It’s not fun, but it is a normal part of life. When sinners interact with sinners, sometimes sparks will fly. How we handle the conflict can be a test of our spiritual maturity.
When our tweens experience riffs with friends, siblings, classmates or other peers, we don’t need to panic. Instead, let’s see these situations as opportunities to teach our children biblical behavior.
Here are five steps to resolving conflict in a way that honors God.
1. Accept the other person for who they are—or in other words, for who God made them to be. God created us all with different personalities, opinions and preferences. The first step is to remember different does not necessarily mean wrong. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the conflict from their point of view.
2. Pray about the conflict and for the people involved. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In this case, “love” doesn’t mean hugs and adoration; it means making the choice to respect your enemies and show kindness where it may be undeserved. Why? Because that’s what Christ does for us.
3. Go directly to the offender before you get other people involved. Follow the principles outlined in Matthew 18:15–17 (MSG): “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” If possible, talk it out. Express why you’re upset and give the other person the chance to do the same. Be “quick to listen” and “slow to become angry” (James 1:19). If the conflict continues, then you should ask a trusted adult to step in and help mediate the squabble, such as a parent, teacher or youth group leader.
4. Don’t respond to sin with sin. Never focus on getting back at someone for hurting you. God’s Word says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” and “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” We are to leave the justice up to God (Romans 12:17–19). Our energy is far better spent praying about the conflict, rather than dreaming up ways to retaliate.
5. Forgive. Finally, God expects us to forgive people who hurt us. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
In some cases, forgiveness leads to restoration. That means once the conflict is resolved, you can go back to being friends. In other, more severe cases, however, such as repeated abuse or concerns for your safety, you might need to break ties from the person who hurt you. However, you are still called to forgive them in your heart. It may not be easy, but that’s why Jesus tells us to give our hurt over to Him again and again. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21–22).
Be sure to remind your tween that she can talk to you about any relationship struggles she’s experiencing. If she knows you’re a safe place, then together you can face any conflict that comes along—for God’s glory.