Christian Living

Dealing with Conflict Wisely as a Christian

Every relationship known to mankind has the potential for conflict. Thank Adam and Eve for that. Granted, some conflicts can be minor, but sadly, some also can be major. The pressing issue in relationships is not if there is conflict, but rather how to deal with it so that only minor conflicts remain.

picture of nuclear bomb symbolizing conflict

Whether we are helping a friend, helping ourselves, or teaching a small group at church—we need to know how to deal with conflict and help others through it. Scripture gives important instruction on dealing with conflict, and there are a variety of applications from the text.

For example, one of the best verses on dealing with conflict is Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Speaking with kindness is essential to avoid escalating conflict. There are so many high-powered conflicts that could have been avoiding if both parties would have simply spoken kindly to one another (cf. Col 4:6).

Although speaking kindly is important, there is also an entire mindset that must be present in dealing with conflict. This mindset focuses on self, not on others. Not self-focused in a selfish way, but rather a humble focus on what you individually can do to minimize conflict.

With that in mind, here are 3 simple (and biblical) principles to practice in order to minimize your conflicts. By following these principles, escalated conflict can often be avoided.

1. Always look to be wrong first.

This comes from a mindset of love and humility (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-7; Phil 2:3-4). It is easy to see the faults of others, but much harder to be shown your own faults. It takes a truly humble individual to be non-defensive and to examine his or her own life. Often conflicts can be resolved quickly when we take the initiative to confess our own sin and admit where we have been wrong. It is always more difficult to admit fault the longer a conflict goes on. So make it a habit to examine your life by Scripture once conflict arises.

2. Respond humbly in every instance.

The Bible commands humility in many places, but especially notable is Paul’s command in Ephesians 4:2-3: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How easy it is to speak quickly in your own defense. But Peter also reminds us of Jesus’s example. He is the one who, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Whether we are the main causes of the conflict doesn’t matter. Whether we are the cause or undeserving recipient of conflict, a humble attitude is required of us. That must be foundational.

3. Sit and think before responding.

Often the first instinct is not the correct one (cf. Prov 29:20). Because we are given to impulsive emotions, it is often wise to take time before responding. Sometimes this is a luxury that cannot be enjoyed, but other times it will save relationships. Whenever possible, allow yourself time to think instead of responding in the heat of the moment.

There have been times where I have written emails, letters, or posted on social media, and regretted it not long after. Much better is the habit of writing something and holding on to it for a few days before sending them. Having a delay in communication often brings new information to mind and helps us see things differently. This will often spare us embarrassing words and needless insults. There are many times I wish I would have taken more time to think before I said something, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

This principle applies to marriage as well. Some of the best marriage advice I have heard my pastors give is to not fight when you’re tired. When you’re tired it is too easy for things to escalate. One of my pastors said that there are appropriate times to put a conflict on pause. For example, a conflict late at night is often not a good time to try to work it out (especially when an early wake-up time looms). In these instances, my pastor would recommend the couple affirming their love for one another and working through it the next day.

Because we live in a post-Fall world, we all deal with conflict in relationships. The key to dealing with conflict is to practice humility. By practicing these three principles in conflict, many conflicts will be dealt with before they escalate, and some conflicts may be avoided entirely.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.


  • Collin Duckworth


    Thanks for the wisdom in regards to how we conduct ourselves in conflict! We are currently doing a survey of various topics in Proverbs and one of our recent sermons was on speech. Scripture talks much on how we conduct ourselves and many (especially myself) fall short and forget how we are to conduct ourselves, but I’m thankful for these articles and those sermons that help and grow us in santification!

    Collin Duckworth

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