My friend Brad, an attorney, specializes in mediation and conflict resolution. Factors that contribute to conflict are complex and diverse, but in many cases he has found a singular, common cause – people don’t get what they want.
Think about it: Marriages descend into turmoil because one or both spouses insist on getting their own way and become furious when they don’t. Close friends part ways because expectations aren’t met. They willingly risk destroying loving and long-term relationships because they don’t get what they want.
Churches split because quarreling factions arise, one side set on a certain course and another side insisting on a different way. Professional athletes angrily accuse owners or management of “disrespecting” them because their demands aren’t met. In both scenarios the complaint is much the same: “We’re not getting what we want.”
When we think “conflict,” many of us turn our thoughts almost immediately to Washington, D.C., where Democrats and Republicans choose to take positions of arrogance and stubbornness over compromise and mutual understanding. Leaders of both parties engage in bitter conflict – to the detriment of the American people – all because of convictions they’re not getting what they want.
Of course this is nothing new. Throughout the history of mankind, conflicts of all magnitudes have spawned battles and wars because people didn’t get what they wanted. Look at any major war and you’ll find an element of this to some degree.
Fame and fortune offer no antidotes for conflict. Celebrated comic duos like Abbott and Costello, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, all experienced intense conflicts, even if not as highly publicized as such clashes are in today’s media. The same has been the case through the years with many of the great musical groups, including the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel. So-called “perfect Hollywood couples” announce separations due to “irreconcilable differences.” Translation: “We’re not getting what we want.”
We even find this reality represented over and over in the Bible, which doesn’t sugarcoat such strife. “I want what I want” conflicts started with Cain and Abel. They continued with Abraham and his nephew, Lot; Joseph and his jealous brothers; Samson and Delilah; David and Saul; Barnabas and Paul. And let’s not forget the classic example: Judas Iscariot.
James 4:1-2 tells us, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
So what’s the solution? Like conflicts themselves, resolving them usually isn’t easy or simple. But the passage above points out an important principle. When we don’t get what we want, we should appeal to God for it rather than trying to get it through our own feeble and faulty efforts.
And if He says no, if our prayers aren’t answered – at least not in the way we want – we should be willing to accept that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that His plans are better than ours.
After all, as 1 Timothy 6:6 states, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” This might seem unrealistic in our “it’s all about me” culture, which seems to dismiss contentment as foolish, impractical, even weak. But it’s God’s way; and His way is always better.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.