I really don’t want the secondary point of this post to turn into its primary point. The primary point is to provide some helpful ideas for resolving conflict and disagreements in relationships – whether that be between husband and wife, friends, adult siblings, etc.
My husband and I are biblical, Christian “egalitarians” in our marriage relationship. My husband is not in authority over me. He is not “in charge.” (Nor am I !) – We are partners…we are “one flesh”…and mutually submit to one another in love.
Sometimes those with other views on this issue see this as a problem: “Someone [the husband] must be in charge…if someone is not in charge, how will conflict be resolved? Someone must lead and take authority!”
It saddens me that some women have been turned off of Christianity because of attitudes and teachings such as this. Our Lord Jesus treated women with respect and dignity, and in a way that was counter-cultural for the time.
As Gilbert Bilezikian emphasizes, a marriage relationship is not an army platoon, business corporation, or branch of the government. It does not need a commanding officer, boss, or ruler. The husband and wife together make up a body or “one flesh.” It is a partnership where decisions are made by mutual consent.
Should a Christian even be focused on authority, power, and who is in charge? The disciples seemed focused on this frequently, and the Lord Jesus had to remind them that Christianity is not about power and control, but about humility, service, and coming under others…not coming over them. We are to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ.
But a valid question is – what about when 2 people have opposite opinions and there is a deadlock? How can they resolve it, without someone taking charge?
Gilbert Bilezikian in his book “Beyond Sex Roles” , offers helpful ideas for deadlock resolution, and I think these ideas can apply to a variety of adult relationships and not only the husband/wife relationship. Here are his thoughts, followed by a summation of 10 ideas he offers:
“…Consistently placing the final word on the husband is the least God-honoring method for resolving deadlocks. This puts an unrealistic burden on the husband always to make the right decision. It also promotes a cop-out mentality for the wife, who then resigns herself to the status of permanent loser or of devious manipulator of the power-wielding male. The following are some alternatives for settling split decisions honorably and peaceably” :
- Defer to each other, give the other person the advantage, strive to please the other person…This is the meaning of servant-hood and mutual subjection (Phil. 2:3-4). Some couples may need to learn deference by taking turns giving in to the other’s preference. Deliberate stalemates cannot persist between two spouses who are bound together in a shared desire to please each other…to be servants to each other. If the commands to submit (Eph. 5:21) and to be servants of one another (Gal. 5:13) do not apply primarily to your own subjection to the person closest to you, wife or husband, to whom should they apply? Like charity, submission begins at home.
- Exercise spiritual gifts for the outcome of problematic decisions (Romans 12:3-6; I Cor. 12:4-7). Divide responsibilities for decision making on the basis of competencies, experience, and expertise….
- Compromise. Seeking a middle ground is a biblically sound procedure (Luke 14: 31-32; Acts 6:1-6; 15:37-40). Couples may need training in successful negotiation and conflict resolution. Taking a course together in methods of conflict management can help many couples transform tensions into positive gains and save their marriage.
- Define the biblical principles involved in the debated issue (if needed, with a paper and pencil drill of the pros and cons) and make decisions based on the basis of such evaluations.
- Pray together for guidance and then wait for it. Postpone the decision to gain the perspective of time. God uses both prayer and time to resolve differences and conflicts.
- Allow God to provide guidance through circumstances. History has a way of reducing alternative options to one obvious course of action that a knock-down, drag out contest of the wills cannot achieve.
- Whenever a decision affects one spouse more than the other, the spouse who has more at stake in the decision should have more say in it. This is the meaning of partnership. For example, a husband wants to have more children because he likes babies, but the wife knows she is teetering on the verge of nervous collapse under the burden of her present household. She should have the dominant voice in the decision – unless, of course, the husband is willing to stay home and raise the children.
- Initiate joint research on the debated issue. Read, attend conferences, or take courses to develop a basis for sound judgment (Eph. 5:17; James 1:5-6)….Rather than acting on emotional impulses or relying on past socialization, the couple can reach a consensus by researching both sides of an issue.
- Decide to refer the matter to a trusted and objective third party, after agreeing to abide by his or her determination (I Cor. 6:5).
- Engage in parts reversals. Both spouses can take turns articulating their respective positions as clearly as possible. Then they can assume the position of the other spouse for a period of time to identify with his or her thinking process. The empathy generated by this exchange will generally break a deadlock.
(Hope I did not over-share and violate copyright.) Again, the point of this post was not to create controversy on the complementarian/egalitarian issue. Although I did share some thoughts on it, I simply found these 10 ideas very helpful. I hope you might as well. I think these 10 ideas can apply to conflict resolution in a variety of relationships in life.