Our response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.
Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”
This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.
When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.
Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:
1. I don’t trust you.
When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.
2. I don’t truly value this relationship.
Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.
3. I love myself more than you.
When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I want to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”
4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.
I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.
5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.
We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.
Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.
Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers
Only God can turn a marriage that is rapidly imploding into a clear example of God’s power and grace. For all those who are struggling in their marriage, or really any relationship, this Christmas season, maybe Kelly’s story give you hope.
A Mountain of Hope by Kelly Klepfer
Though my upcoming co-written novel, Out of the Frying Pan, is full of humor and quirky characters, and I’m someone who loves to laugh and find joy in the moment, I’ve had my share of sorrow and seasons steeped in darkness.
I was “saved” as a young child. Billy Graham scared me straight at age six. I didn’t want to go to hell so I said a prayer. Years later, I was still saying those prayers. Often. Throughout high school I managed to juggle being a good Baptist with hating myself for my inability to be a good Baptist.
My high school sweetheart and I married when we were just 19 and 20. He’d dabbled with pot and we’d both spent far too much time drinking. All grown up we continued to drink, had a child, and he began drinking other places. When I was pregnant with our second child, seven years into our marriage, he began to drink heavily and with a group of friends I didn’t know. A month before I gave birth he finally admitted he didn’t love me anymore.
Devastated, I asked him to leave and began building a life without him while he moved into a home with a barely functioning alcoholic. He insisted on being with me when our baby was born but when my water broke a month early I couldn’t reach him. His roommate said he wasn’t there.
My father took over trying to find him once they had taken me to the hospital. I was prepped for the C-section when he finally arrived. I’ll never forget the loneliness in the following few minutes. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. I was strapped down and unable to communicate. The spinal anesthesia numbed a vertebra higher than my previous C-Section so I couldn’t feel my lungs moving.
I began to panic that I wasn’t breathing. So I tried to communicate with my half-drunk stranger of a husband with my eyes. The anesthesiologist had buried himself in a Stephen King novel. My husband finally said something. The doctor leaned over. “She’s hyperventilating.” My world had grown gritty gray and white by this point, and finally he placed a breather mask over my face, and I was able to resurface.
A few months later, on Christmas Eve, my husband had a nostalgic come to Jesus moment. He did love me after all, and wanted back into our home. My heart had hardened, grown bitter. I looked at the options I had and decided if he was willing and would treat me better I’d be open to it. As long as the good outweighed the bad I’d let him stay. We both sought “Christian” counseling. My counselor tried out things like primal screaming. His told my husband he didn’t really have problems with addiction. There was nothing Biblical in our counseling sessions that I recall. (Bonus takeaway: Be warned: Find Biblical counselors not “Christian.”)
My husband began to slowly increase in drinking again though he kept it at home. I continued to grow in bitterness and my mantra that as long as the good outweighed the bad he could remain.
Five years later he got scared and cold turkey stopped drinking. Within months there was something weird going on with him. He admitted to me that he felt restless and that he wanted to do dangerous, risky things. I asked him to talk to different males and to please let me know should he really find himself wanting to cave in.
A couple months later, on our anniversary, while I was getting ready to go out on a date with him, the phone rang. My aunt had just arrived to pick up the kids for an overnight and I gave them quick hugs and kisses and sent them out the door before saying hello. That hello changed my life in so many ways. It was the other woman who revealed not only the affair she’d been having with my husband but also that she was pregnant.
Dark, dark, dark days followed. We entered counseling again. He voluntarily went through the alcohol addiction program that is court ordered for those receiving DUIs. We began to attend church again for the first time in years. Somehow, in spite of very close friends and relatives telling me to leave, accusing me of having battered wife syndrome, being foolish, I stood firm. My reason–I wasn’t going to give up if he was done being an addict just to see someone else benefit from my pain. I wanted to see it through to the end just in case he might actually be able to beat this thing.
Our lives were changed in so many icky ways. The betrayal and the hardness of my heart toward him was just ugly. But I trudged through. Early after finding out about the affair I was out of town with unbelievers who loved a good party. They decided that I needed to get all dressed up and get drunk and find myself a little payback.
God delivered me.
I went to the hotel bar by myself to get drinks for the three of us while my friends were doing their hair and makeup. While there my eyes connected to those of a man at the bar. Looking into his eyes was like looking into his soul. I saw such emptiness there, such hurt, such loneliness that it called to me on a very primitive level. I wanted to connect with that. Scared, I hurried back to the hotel room with my drinks and told my friends about the guy. They insisted I go back, but I was afraid. On our way out to go bar hopping we stopped there to see if he was there. He was gone.
At the bars I drank more than I ever had before. Drink after drink after drink. Nothing touched me or loosed my inhibitions. All I could think about was how miserable I was and how much I just wanted to go back to the hotel room and cry myself to sleep. God kept me sober, I’m convinced, because payback would’ve ripped my soul to shreds. And been the nail in the coffin of my marriage. I threw up all night long. But was saved from a very ugly thing.
Five years after the affair we we’re finally able to see his daughter. They lived four hours away. We’d travel at least once a month. It was a very hard time, and I kept a very long list of what my husband was doing and not doing to make up to me for putting me and my kids through the torture.
We’d fight all the way home while I’d critique him and his performance. One night it was so bad. I’m so grateful none of the kids were with us, I remember him screaming. “I hear your words but I don’t understand what you want. It’s like you are speaking Chinese.”
It broke me. I sobbed the final hour of the silent trip. How could he not understand? How could I live with this one second longer? I was tired of paying for his sins. His working extra three weekends a month so he could take one weekend off. That night I screamed out to God that He needed to change my husband. I couldn’t do this anymore. And I was so, so angry that my marriage was going to end over this when it had survived alcohol, a husband who didn’t love me and an affair. So angry. When I was through screaming, God asked me a simple question, right into my heart. “Why do you think you are right?”
I couldn’t answer that question. Exhausted and silenced. I gave up, and I told Him I couldn’t but that I was going to find out what my role and responsibility were in marriage and obey Him. It just so happened that an intense marriage inductive Bible study was starting the next week at my church. I signed up to go solo. And my life began changing immediately. As I learned I changed and let go and healed and grew. I began studying other aspects and absorbing and consuming God’s word. I didn’t care as much about my marriage as I did about my right relationship with Jesus.
The trials didn’t end. But I chose to die to myself. Slowly, my husband became jealous over my relationship with Jesus. He wanted that, and he wanted to share it with me. Through this whole period of time we were involved in a church, leaders to some extent, and there was so much death in us. We began to be resurrected in Christ and we truly died.
At age nine, our youngest daughter, his from another mother, moved in permanently. While we navigated life with God at the steering wheel we were able to overcome even more obstacles. And the strangest thing happened. Our older two kids began to see faith really walked out, not just talked about in church, but the parents they saw in church were the parents they went home with.
Our youngest struggled with obvious challenges. At age 17 she told us where to put our rules, and she stepped out to live a life of her own choosing. More dark days followed. But God’s faithful answers to prayers uttered with groans and tears and His grace and mercy kept doors cracked open. Today our, MY, youngest daughter is married with a baby of her own and her own stepson. She speaks to us daily and seeks out our earned-the-hard-way wisdom. A restored relationship with her is a gift beyond words.
What about our other two children? The ones who lived through the drama and the affair’s aftermath, my bitterness and self-righteousness, the alcoholism, how are they? Did they survive the ugly childhood we provided?
They are a delight and a joy. Both living fully for the Lord and His plans for them. Our middle daughter chose to follow Christ into opening her life to foster care. She took in four little siblings and has now adopted three and prays and longs for the baby who is currently with the biological mom. As a single mom of three she is a shining light for Jesus and is making a profound difference in the lives of these amazing children. Our son teaches at a local high school. He and his wife have opened their hearts and home to so many people I can’t even keep track of those they have blessed. Generosity is who they are. And they breathe Christ in and out in their interactions.
God has been consistently for me. Allowing me to come to the end of myself, allowing me to fail miserably so that I ran to Him.
When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s?
But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.
Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.
Kelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite a while ago, but alas…she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles, and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life-lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer, where you always get more than you bargained for.
Early in our marriage, it seemed Steve and I spent more time fighting than talking, and with every argument, our hearts grew a little harder and the distance between us widened. More than that, we developed a pattern of behavior and a completely skewed perception of one another.
It’s amazing how quickly negative behavior patterns can take hold, and how quickly those patterns can affect our thoughts. The two are always interconnected. The more we fight with our spouse, the greater the tendency we have to see them as our enemy, and the more they become our enemy, the more negatively we view them.
The latter is the kicker, and it creates a quickly spiraling hotbed of negative thinking.
Years ago, when Steve and I were just beginning to follow God’s way of loving one another, we went to a marriage retreat. While there, one of the speakers provided a visual that’s stuck with me. He held a quarter out at arm’s length, then talked about how he barely noticed the quarter. It was but a blip in his vision. But then he began to bring the quarter closer and closer to one eye. As he did, the quarter grew bigger, more dominant in his view, and everything in his peripheral blurred.
Now, imagine that quarter is one of your spouse’s behaviors. First of all, I’m not talking about abusive or destructive behaviors like addiction. I’m talking about stuff like leaving dirty laundry on the floor, the garage door open, or perhaps even saying something callus on occasion–it happens, folks. None of us are Jesus.
Back to the quarter/behavior. The more we focus on it, thinking about it, nagging our spouse about it, the bigger that thing becomes until it dominates our view. But if we pull back and consider that behavior as but one of many other quite positive behaviors, that thing shrinks … and our tenderness grows.
This is a powerful conflict defuser, at least for the one practicing it, and when one participant in the conflict softens, the other has a much greater likelihood of doing the same.
So, step one is consciously, deliberately think of your spouse’s good.
Here’s how it plays out in my home. Conflict often arises when both of us are tired or aren’t feeling well, because, well, honestly, that’s when we begin to self-preserve, but that’s a topic for another post. Looking around at all the things left undone that I have no energy to do, I can easily get irritated at my husband for “not helping.” (Largely because I’m quick to focus on how I’m feeling but slow to recognize when he’s feeling the same.)
BUT when I pause to remember all the times he’s gone grocery shopping for me, washed our cars, mowed the lawn, washed dirty dishes … you get the idea, I’m reminded he’s really a good guy at heart. And he truly does love me. He’s just having an off day. (We all have those, right?)
Step two: walk away.
This can be crazy hard because our pride will convince us we need the last word, or will make us view the argument as competition or a challenge, as if winning the fight has any positive value at all. (Most often, to the contrary. We can win the fight and lose our marriage. It happens all the time. Almost happened to Steve and I.)
But don’t just walk away; walk away to pray–for your marriage and that God would align your heart with His. Because chances are, without God’s help, all we’ll do is stew. And become more angry, more hurt, and more committed to digging in our heels in this fight against our spouse, and we’ve already established how helpful that is. (Read sarcasm into that last phrase.) Granted, praying in the middle of a conflict is incredibly hard, but it’s also incredibly powerful. Marriage transforming powerful.
Step three: Return calm, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and with one goal in mind–unity.
If your goal is anything else, return to step one.
Obviously, following these steps won’t resolve every issue you and your spouse will face, but man will it put you on the best footing for that to occur.
And if you try all those steps (really try, and recognize you might need to cycle through them more than once, especially when dealing with more difficult issues) and you and your spouse are still at opposing ends, get help. Seek out a Christ-centered, wise, unbiased individual who can walk beside you. Because the marriage God intended is within your grasp, and it’s beautiful. Beautiful enough to work for.
Even if it means setting that ugly, prideful, selfish, wounded self aside. (Speaking to myself here, because when I get to the heart of things, it’s usually my self-centeredness that’s causing a chunk of our issues.)
Let’s talk about this! What are some things you’ve found to be helpful in defusing a conflict? Have you tried any of the steps listed above, and if so, what were the results? Share your thoughts and experiences with us, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!
Oh, and before you go, I invite you to join my alter ego, Jen Pheobus, at her new blog! You can do so HERE. You can also read Jen’s first post on Christian Reads, a piece on the importance of guarding our words when life squeezes us, HERE. And make sure to like her Facebook page HERE to stay up to date on her writing journey. 🙂
Their love is fierce, in the passionate moments and in the conflict, and though I know they’d rather skip the fighting all together, they’ve learned how to hold on. Tight.
Love isn’t always flowers, date nights, and long, intimate conversations. Even the best of marriages have teeth-gritting, foot-stomping moments. Those moments can absolutely shatter your marriage, or you can find a way to push through.
Today I’m honored and tickled to have my sweet brother and sister-in-law on my blog.
Warm Cups of Tea by HaYoung Jung Febus
I woke up this morning to a very awake husband whispering(ish), “Jakkiya, do you want some tea?… Jakkiya, do you want some tea? … Jakkiya, I already boiled the water. Jakkiya, do you want some tea?”
Now, for those of you that hear about our marriage off-Facebook, know that my husband and I can be fiercely affectionate to each other…and equally fierce in our fights, as well. Like, really fierce. I think this is what makes these whisper(ish)’s and teas all the more special for me.
We have both felt “defeated” as we repeat certain conversations over and over and over. And over. A wise friend once told me of the importance of “persevering in repeated conversations” in marriage. Yet there have been times we both literally felt like we had depleted every ounce of perseverance juice in our souls—every ounce.
However, through these warm cups of tea, the Holy Spirit is very much alive in our household, and I experience the Spirit’s love through my husband. I know my husband doesn’t make me tea in horrendous hours of the morning just because I am so great to him. I know that he’s seen the ugliest side of me—he will see more—and the miracle is that he still chooses to serve and love, because the Spirit is very much alive in him.
Even after this wonderful cup of tea, we will still fight. We will still have deadlock areas that seem impossible to figure out. We have baggage that will take a lifetime to unpack. And it still hurts that my husband doesn’t think I’m funny, because let’s be real people, I’m hilarious. But as long as we have these milk tea-moments in our marriage going on, I know we will only learn to love better. I know we have already learned to love better and praise God for that every day. Well…almost every day.
Conclusion: Husbands, thou shalt make caffeinated beverages for thee wives every morning. Thank you, husband.
Let’s talk about this: HaYoung shared a bit about her marriage and the fighting–and how the Holy Spirit uses simple peace offerings from her husband to show His love and keep hers and Raymond’s strong. Do you see “milk-tea moments” in your own marriage? How do you intentionally reconnect after a conflict or during times of stress?
For those following me online, here’s where I’ve been this past week:
Tuesday, I was busy! I dropped in at Seriously Write and spoke about how authors can get their books into libraries and stores. Join the conversation HERE. I also went over to Seekerville to share my observations about those who have a winning mindset. Join the fun HERE.
On Saturday, I had the joy of visiting Edie Melson on The Write Conversation. I spoke about narrowing the scope of your blogging. Join the conversation HERE.
And finally, last Friday, I shared how reaching the end of myself led to freedom on Elaine Stock’s site. Read the story HERE and join in the conversation.
For those who live in or near the Omaha Metro, join me on April 9th at Barnes and Noble near the Oakview mall between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of my latest novel, Breaking Free (and maybe all my other novels as well. I’ll find out). Come in, say hi, grab a latte or mocha at the cafe’, grab an autographed copy of my novel for you or a loved one, and let’s chat! And help me spread the word by inviting your friends! You can do so by sending an email through the B&N link then click on “email” in the bottom right. Click HERE.
How does Christianity translate into our friendships? Author Cherie Burbach offers the answer in today’s guest blog post. As you read, keep in mind those friendships you want to nurture, and remember the ones you want to begin too.
But first, I want to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Elizabeth Dent, congrats! You won a copy of Darlene Franklin’s latest release, Christmas Mail Order Angels. I’ll be contacting you soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.
For those of you who didn’t win, don’t fret; you have a chance to win an equally awesome novel today!
GIVE-AWAY ALERT! Cheri is giving away one free copy of her latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. A winner will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.
Christian Friendships by author Cherie Burbach
Romans 12:10Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.
One reason I like writing about relationships is because it’s universal. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all share a desire to be liked, to feel cared about, and be respected. We just want to get along. Despite the strife and arguments the world experiences, in the end we really do want peace.
As Christians, it can be difficult to show our best to people. And yet, we must do this.
John 15:12-15“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
A very wise friend of mine once said, “We’re called to love one another. Not like each other.” Loving is harder. It involves rising above pettiness and the exterior of someone’s personality and looking instead at that person the way God would. God doesn’t always agree with our choices but He loves us. We can do the same. We can simply open our hearts and move beyond the things we don’t agree with, leave judgement to God, and show love. Friendship is the first step to that.
About 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends:
The more friends you have, the more you’ll have the right people in your life to give you the support and connection you desire. Having more friends means you’ll consistently connect with new people and also keep the good friends you already have. If your friendships don’t seem to stick, you’ll be making friends and losing them quickly. The key to having more friends is increasing the number of people you meet on a regular basis and holding on to the great pals you already have.
This book contains one hundred suggestions on how to make new friends and also strengthen the friendships you already have. The tips are varied, with suggestions on how to meet new people interspersed with ideas for nurturing your new and existing friendships.
Cherie Burbach has written about relationships for over a decade at places like About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. She’s penned 17 books, her latest of which is 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.
Let’s talk about this. Lately, numerous women have told me they have a difficult time forming friendships and making connections with other women. I think there are numerous reasons for this (and for those who are local, I’ll be talking about this at an upcoming Moms group meeting in January), more than can be addressed in one blog post. But I do think forming and maintaining meaningful connections takes work, and perseverance. And it requires us to embrace risk, because reaching out can be scary.
Do you feel you have meaningful connections, and if so, do you have tips to offer others who may not feel the same? If not, is there something you can do this week to connect with others? Also, look at your relationship history. Do you tend to cycle through friendships or maintain relationships? How do you handle conflict when it arises? What do you do when a friend hurts you? Do you walk away or do the hard work to move past the hurt and deepen the relationships?
Heavy subject, but an important one, I feel. Share your thoughts and experiences in the commends below, because we can all learn from one another!
Have you ever been fuming mad at someone, only to find out you totally misread the conversation? In our world of rapid-fire communication, faulty perceptions, and misunderstandings, it’s easy to get our wires crossed. Sometimes this is funny. Other times it’s downright painful, and has the potential to destroy relationships and lead to bitterness. If not dealt with.
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:10-11)
What do you think of when you hear the word peace? What does it mean to “seek” and “pursue” it? Does this mean avoiding conflict? Holding our tongue? Is peace at all cost truly peace? In our effort to seek peace, are we smiling on the outside while our insides fester? And if so, how long before those bottled-in and swallowed-down emotions blow?
I believe biblical peace runs deeper than a ceasing of war. Biblical peace speaks of wholeness, of restoring things to how they should be.
Biblical peace implies authentic conflict resolution. Honesty, not superficiality. Speaking the truth in love and getting to the root of the issue. When deep hurt has occurred, this may take time. We may even need a third party to help us out.
Other times, we may find that what we thought was an issue wasn’t really an issue after all.
A few days ago, I received an email from someone I had hurt. Twice. I hadn’t intended to hurt them, wasn’t even aware I had … until I read the email. We realized it was a misunderstanding–a misreading between the lines. The person felt silly for sending me the email, but I was so glad she did. Had she not, her hurt would’ve remained, creating disunity. By honestly expressing her feelings, she gave me the opportunity to apologize–and explain.
Afterward, my daughter, her friend, and I had a lengthy conversation on communication errors, and they shared with me similar stories. Times when someone they cared about hurt them deeply–unintentionally. Only many times, they hadn’t gotten to the truth until weeks or months later–after weeks of hurt, of disunity. We decided it’s best to communicate openly *before* forming our conclusions, giving the “offending” party the benefit of the doubt.
We decided to “seek peace.” The kind of peace that holds tight to relationships, seeking restoration and intimacy.
It is so easy to read between the lines, to assign feelings, judgments, and conclusions to words and actions. But what if our interpretations are wrong?
Let’s talk about this. When have you unwittingly caused someone pain? When have you been hurt by someone else, only to find out you assigned faulty meaning to their words and actions? How can we avoid this communication jumbling?
Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about speaking the truth in love in order to seek biblical peace–a peace that leads to relationship-restoration and increased intimacy.
Also, the Beauty for the Broken campaign continues for two more days. With a few clicks of your computer mouse, you can help me and a friend win $5,500 for two wonderful orphan ministries. You’ll also receive a $10 Mary Kay gift card if you vote then tell us you did so here in the comments. (Vote here.)
This morning I received an email that came across the American Christian Fiction Writers‘ loop asking for help for a particular scene. Basically, information needed to be conveyed, but the author didn’t want to comatose her readers in the process. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. A passage, sometimes even an entire chapter, will be jam-packed with one eye-blurring detail after another without even the hint of conflict. It’s a self-defeating situation, really. The information, as important as the author thought it was, is ignored. If the reader is anything like me, they’ll graze through the monotonous, skimming ahead until they get to the good stuff–the drama.
About a week ago I critiqued a romance story. It was your typical girl meets boy, girl likes boy, boy likes girl plot. It was a lovely Hallmark scenario full of sunshine, flowers, picnics, and plans for romantic dates. And it bored me to tears!
So I put my computer down and escaped to my basement for a run before completing the rest of my to-do list. Which would bore you to tears should I record it here. Unless I shared just a smidgeon of all the inner turmoil that occurred while doing the mundane. Either I am the only emotional wreck out there, or we are all plagued by our inner demons. We live in a sinful world, after all. And life is full of conflict. In that hour alone while I stared at the cement wall, the belt spinning beneath my steadily pounding feet, my mind raged. As I watched the miles slowly increase, I thought about all the things I had to get done. This opened the door for false expectations, both of myself and others. Then of course, there was the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit calling me to surrender, to fight against my anxious, fretting, sinful nature so I could rest in His grace. As you can see, my potentially boring run was filled with emotional conflict.
Think about your typical day. The phone rings. You glance at the caller ID. It’s your best friend. You want to answer it, but you have a long list of things to get done before your husband gets home. Perhaps painful memories surface–of when your husband pushed you aside, or of a time when you’re friend let you down when you needed her most.
Or maybe it’s dinner time. You’ve cooked steak because it’s your husband’s favorite, but as you eat, your eyes drift to your steadily expanding stomach and insecurities surface. As your mind dwells on the ten pounds you’ve gained over the past year, your perception becomes twisted. Is your husband staring at you? Does he think you eat to much? So you react, only your husband wasn’t thinking of you at all. He was deep in his own world of inner demons and insecurities. And viola’! You have conflict.
Everything we do is tainted by the baggage we carry. The same is true for our characters. The next time a boring scene threatens, dig deeper. Remind yourself of your character’s inner demons and insecurities. How would those demons rear their ugly heads in the current situation. That doesn’t necessarily mean your characters will throw a fit. Perhaps they will hide behind a painted smile, but their mind will rage. Because the human mind always does.
And if you don’t know your character’s inner demons and reality-distorting insecurities, then set your computer aside until you do.
Confused? Maybe this article will help: Conflict found on “Learn the Elements of a Novel” website.