Monday, April 16, 2018

Conflict Resolution

Recently, I found myself entangled in a drawn-out battle with a local place of business, where I was working directly with one man to address a problem that I had encountered, and this man ensured me that he was on my side and that we were working together toward the same goal.

Let's just say it didn't quite turn out that way. 

What should have taken a couple of days, perhaps a full week depending on how it went, turned into a two-month, six-encounter, tense situation in which not only was the problem not being taken care of, but the two of us who had shared a number of light-hearted, laughter-filled conversations and good-natured back-and-forths were coming to dread the moment that either one of us called the other - him knowing that I was going to push again for resolution and me knowing that he was not making any actual progress on the issue at hand. 

And I documented some of my frustration with the process on Facebook, although I was careful not to make it personal. Nearly everyone who knew what was going on was sharing the frustration that I was feeling (I think), and a number of possible solutions continued to come up. 

A number of persons, for example, said that I needed to get local news crews involved. Rat this place of business out to the media and let the negative publicity handle my dilemma for me. They even knew which local news crew I should call, exactly which one, and even told me how a specific person on that news crew would be my best ally in all this. And that's a popular way these days for the world to handle their conflicts, but it was not the most God-honoring way to do it. For two reasons, actually.

First, it's a power play. It's an attempt to use muscle and force and worst of all, shame, to get someone else to do what we want them to do or what we think we deserve for them to do (which, by the way, is entitlement, as though this world owes us anything at all), and our God is a God of humility. To engage in the power play is to act in direct contradiction to the quiet, calm, and humble spirit that God has called us to have even when we are being wronged. Love your enemies, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

Second, when you try to tell someone else's story - in this case, the business's - you also tell a part of your own. If I were to go to the local news crews, it wouldn't be the place of business that centered in the story; it would be me. And what would I be saying about my God? That He permits me to feel entitled? That He permits me to drag others through the mud? That He permits me to whine and complain and take to the public forum to settle my dealings in the world? That's not what God asks of us, nor does He permit it, and I knew that if I went public, there would be those who would not see a Christian trying to honestly settle a legitimate dispute, but another entitled, whining, perhaps even "holier-than-thou" woman claiming God but not living Him. Because, friends, even though the world says sometimes it's necessary to "out" someone as loudly as you can, it's always ugly. God doesn't do ugly.

Then there were those who recommended lawyers. What I needed was a good lawyer who could go after this business for me and, if not fix the problem, at least get me every penny of my money back, money that I had invested in trying to acquire the service that I thought would solve my initial problem but had now only created more. Or if not a lawyer, then at least business-overseeing organizations. Yes, I should file formal complaints! Let the powers that be do my fighting for me. After all, this was a business dealing, and business dealings must be dealt with as business transactions. 

For the record, I briefly considered it. It makes all the sense in the world that when dealing with a business that doesn't seem to be doing its legitimate duty by you, you need an ally who speaks business. You have to make it transactional. Of course it makes all the sense in the world. 

But I don't belong to this world. 

At the heart of the whole thing, for me, it wasn't transactional; it was relational. Yes, I was dealing with a business, but I was interacting with a human being - a very real human being with a very real human life and a very real human spirit and very real human failings. It was a human being I had had interactions with in the past, at the very same business, and had not had problems with. The problem we now faced was an anomaly, given the other situations we had successfully navigated together. I trusted the guy, and I even liked the guy (still do). 

And when you're dealing with human beings, it's even more important to get the Christian spirit right. It's even more important to get the love of God right. It's even more important to get humility right. Because human relationships are never transactional. Never. 

They're always sacred. 

Even when they're difficult. 

(Stay tuned.)

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