Eliminate the Strife for a Better Life
by Dan Langerock
Have you ever been in an environment of constant bickering and strife, perhaps at work or home? It can take the form of constant complaining, fault-finding, bickering, gossip, negativity, etc. However strife manifests itself, it taxes your emotions and energy to do a good job or be the best you can. Whether you are the perpetrator of this or someone just trying to survive each day in this type of situation, it needs to be stopped. Here are a few suggestions to help you:
Set a good example of the environment you want to be where you are. You are not going to eliminate strife if you are one of the ones doing it. The Bible tells us that whatever we give out in life, we will receive back pressed down and shaken together. Do you want an abundance of whatever you are giving out to come back to you? I hope not! You can't expect a peaceful place if you are gossiping or doing things that negate the state of peace.
If this problem is at work, seek to have a quiet nature as you do your job. I call this being "quietly competent". Whatever you do, try to do it the best you can without bragging about it. This, in itself will be an example to your coworkers.
Listen for two things: the felt need of the person talking--complaining, judgmental, etc., but also listen for clues to the root of their problem. Just as the weeds in your yard have roots, so do your problems. If you respond to just the surface comment or action, you will not find relief. But if you seek out the root of the problem causing the words or behavior you will be more likely to help yourself and that other person. Something caused this person to speak or act as they did. If you can discern the root, you will be able to address it in a far better way than just reacting to what is being said or done. We often do the wrong things when we depend on our knee-jerk reactions to respond to problems.
Ask God for wisdom to see the real issues beneath what is going on. What a person speaks or does is a product of what they are thinking and feeling. For instance, a person who is always complaining probably has done this all of their lives, not just recently. Listen for clues to what began this behavior so you can help the person see the need to stop doing this. You can also use positive statements around a complainer instead of emulating their behavior. If you are positive and they are negative it will stand out and show them what they are doing eventually.
Try to avoid associating with those who are causing problems as much as possible. The longer you are around them, the more likely you will become someone like them. You can be pleasant and friendly, but you don't have to go out of your way to associate with them after work or whatever. You have to work with them but you don't have to overdo the exposure to their attitude.
Train yourself to be a good listener. The more you listen, the more clues you will get how to fix what is wrong with the situation you are in. If it is your marriage, listen to your spouse with all your attention, looking for clues to why they are exhibiting the words and behavior that bother you. Don't tune people out with the TV set or anything else. Take the time to listen to them or the situation will get much worse. Remember, there are times when you also need to be listened to, so keep this in mind when you are trying to communicate. What attitude do you want others to have toward you when you are trying to express yourself?
Think about the consequences of your words and actions before you say or do them. Don't just rattle on and on, make it important when you speak. People are more apt to listen if you are thoughtful instead of always talking. Try not to be too tired when you are attempting communication, because you can say the wrong things very easily in this state of mind. If this is the case, set a time when you can be more attentive to the situation.
Just as in anything you want to accomplish, it takes concerted effort to eliminate strife from our lives. The main thing is to be a good example before we can expect others to change. Whatever you do or say, try to do it in an atmosphere of caring about the person rather then being judgmental etc. Your goal will not happen overnight, most likely, but it will happen if you follow these and other suggestions. If you are a praying person, put this situation on your list. Praying for someone often changes our perspective for the better. Also remember that God loves both you and the people exhibiting the strife in whatever form. Use wisdom, keep praying, and don't give up.
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