“Remember who the real enemy is.”
It’s one of the most haunting lines from the second Hunger Games movie. Probably because the truth in that line hits us so profoundly. It bothers us how quickly and completely we can forget and allow our perception to become skewed the minute conflict strikes.
Your spouse does something inconsiderate, but it’s not the first time. You’re hurt but you don’t want to say, “That hurt my feelings.” Instead, you speak harshly, emotionally withdraw, or both. The conflict escalates until the peacemaker in the relationship offers a repair attempt and then you’re back to normal.
Like wheels that fall into ruts on a well-worn dirt path, your relationship probably has ruts that you naturally slide into when a conflict rises.
The other day, Bonnie and I had a small “disruption,” and I chose the emotional withdrawal approach. As soon as we get into bed, I turn my back to her and offer a disingenuous “good night.” I then start to think about all the comforting reasons why truth was on my side.
Bonnie then puts her hand on my shoulder, pulls me over to face her, and starts to kiss my arm without saying a word. In this instance, I was the one who should have made a repair attempt, not her. I was the one who overreacted, she didn’t even have anything to apologize for. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t going to allow pride to get in the way of love.
Our greatest enemy in conflict isn’t the other person, it’s our own pride. That is a wall that we must be ruthless to recognize and to tear down.
Pride insidiously masquerades as truth.
Pride, not truth, is what escalates and perpetuates conflicts.
God’s love however, is not self-seeking and it doesn’t insist on it’s own way.
It doesn’t wait for the offending party to make everything right before it’s offered again.
The problem is that we seldom recognize our own pride.
Are You Struggling With Pride?
Here’s a quick litmus test:
- Are you quick to repent?
- Do you forgive those who sin against you?
- Do those who know you best occasionally confront you with your sin and in response, you acknowledge it, repent, and strive to strengthen the relationship?
- Are most of your relationships healthy or, when you look behind you, are there a lot of broken relationships left in your wake?
If you’re slow to repent, struggle to forgive people, and live with a lot of broken relationships, truth is not on your side. Jesus elevates reconciliation higher than worship (Matthew 5) and Paul reminds us that, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
In the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), one of the clearest distinguishing factors between wisdom and foolishness is how we respond to correction.
If our posture isn’t humble and we don’t practice regular repentance, there’s a good chance that our view of God is just a glorified version of ourselves.
Tear down your pride before your pride tears down another relationship!
That night, Bonnie loved me by first setting aside her pride. I didn’t say it at the time, but it made me want to love her the same way the next time we’re in a conflict. It’s a thousand reasons like this that the apostle Paul writes that such love, “does not fail.”