Dane Skelton

    Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
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    • I am a pragmatic guy who likes internal combustion engines. My wife is an artist who wouldn’t know a piston from a wrist pin. But she is great with flowers and has an eye for color and style. We had a dogwood tree at our house in Georgia, a beautiful tree that had a branch growing right out into the driveway. It swiped the car every time I parked.

      Someone gave me a used chain saw. I got it running and was cutting up some old trees in the backyard. Gas remained in the tank when I finished. You can guess what happened next.

      My wife came running out of the house, “Why are you killing the dogwood tree!”

      “I’m not killing it! I’m just taking off this branch!”

      “But why?”

      “There was still some gas in the chainsaw!”

      You can imagine where the conversation went next. Krista and I were still learning conflict resolution skills back then. We’ve learned what works, not only in marriage but in all walks of life. Here are three steps everyone can use.

      1st Slowdown

      Fast is slow, and slow is fast. Misunderstanding creates most conflict, and speed aggravates it. I didn’t know how important that one branch with flowers on it was to Krista. She didn’t know how much it bothered me when it scratched the car. For all she knew, I was going to cut the whole tree down. So she was urgent to stop me. And I was impressed! It takes a brave woman to yell at a man with a chainsaw buzzing in his hands. But I was also insulted. Why is she yelling at me? Can’t she see that the branch is in the driveway?

      Too many assumptions happen too fast when we rush into a conflict. Slow the communication process down; proceed with extra respect, especially if others are present. Bonus thought: never attempt conflict resolution via text or email. Assumptions multiply when we can’t hear the tone of voice or read body-language.

      2nd Calm down

      Get control of yourself before working through conflict. Keep your voice down. Be the NAP, the Non-Anxious Presence. When a crisis is looming, or you are already in a dispute, be the one who has self-control. If you can’t, don’t engage in discussion until you can figure out why. Take a break and, without blaming others for how you feel, take responsibility for your emotions.

      For Christians, self-control is a gift of the Spirit. If you feel your temper rising, excuse yourself for a while, agree to take a breather, and tell the Spirit of God, “Lord, you say that in Christ I am not a slave. I feel enslaved to anger right now. I confess that as sin and ask you to be within me the peaceful presence that I do not have the power to be right now.” He will help.

      3rd Reason instead of ranting

      Ranting is popular entertainment in America, taking the place of serious discussion. But it is incredibly destructive and has no home in Christian life.

      James, the brother of Jesus, said it this way.

       

               But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

       

               And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [1]

      Reason is pure, peaceable, and gentle. Reason is full of mercy. You can go a long way toward achieving this by removing two phrases from your vocabulary: “You never …” and “You always …” When we say those things, we are saying that, even though we said we forgave some insult, we never really did; even though we promised we would agree to something, internally we never did.

      Ranting raises walls. Reasonableness builds bridges.

      “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” said Walt Kelly’s Pogo. We are our own worst adversaries in conflict resolution. We usually rush into it, raise our voices, and rant about the issue. Slow down, calm down, reason instead of ranting, and you will eat the fruit of peace in all your relationships.



      [1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Jas 3:13–18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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