Have you ever considered conflict as a road to greater friendship and intimacy?
Oh, I know that may seem counter-intuitive. We usually think of nurturing intimacy by avoiding conflict, steering around the bumps and ignoring the elephantine issues that lurk in the corners of our lives.
But it’s not true. Avoidance of issues debilitates honest relationships. True intimacy can be nurtured through conflict. (Well, through good conflict, anyway.)
A little background: A few weeks ago, Tennille and I went to a pastor and spouse retreat in Banff with the Canadian Covenant churches. Neil and Sharol Josephson from Family Life Canada (and Covenant pastors themselves) challenged us on our relational life together, particularly in marriage. Tennille and I talked for hours about their sage advice.
The idea of nurturing conflict for the sake of intimacy was raised. We were encouraged to deal with the stuff that comes up in our marriages, sooner than later. When concerns pile up, they get harder to address, for sure. But more than that, it’s only as we have those fierce conversations that we come to a greater understanding of each other and move into deeper levels of trust. Dealing with little piles of hurt or unsaid irritations or glaring misses will help us grow as a couples.
This is so true in our marriages. And it’s true in our friendships. Dare I say it’s also true in our life together as the church? We are told by Jesus to seek reconciliation whenever there’s been a breach in relationship (for example, in Matthew 5:23-24). We are told by Paul to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and called to restore people who have messed up in some way (Galatians 6:1). Could it be that our intimacy as brothers and sisters in Christ is directly affected by our willingness to nurture good conflict? Is it possible that, until we wade in and talk about the issues that concern us, we will never be able to know each other or love each other the way Christ has called us to?
The road to greater friendship and intimacy winds through the twisting hills of conflict. Let’s stay the course and take that road, for the sake of love.
~ Tom Greentree