In an ongoing conflict with my daughter, I would get hurt feelings and imply she didn’t love me. I was so blinded by my own feelings, I didn’t see how much my implication worsened things. When I finally got my eyes off her faults long enough to see my own, I suddenly had some leverage to change things.
So often in conflict we become consumed with the faults of the other person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being honest when we’re mistreated, but we have to be careful with faultfinding. Each and every time we rehearse another’s faults in a conflict, we potentially reinforce our sense of self-righteousness—something quite toxic to our human nature. The more righteous we feel, the less inclined we are to identify our own contribution. As a general rule of perception, as other’s sins grow, ours shrink.
Prayer reverses this. As I come into the presence of One I can trust, One I know loves me, and only points out my sins for my own good, I can allow Him to shine a light on my part in a conflict, even if it’s smaller or less obvious then the other person’s. The psalmist asked God to search him and to “see if there be any wicked way in me.” That “wicked way” is a mysterious Hebrew word meaning something like “way of pain and idolatry.” Out sinful conflicts with each other are essentially our idols at war. As God leads me to repentance for my idol, I find the strength and wisdom to take my idol out of the fight. And once my idol is out, the other person’s idol has nothing to fight with.
Conflicts with others can be perplexing and difficult, robbing us of peace and joy. Imagine your current conflicts as idols at war. Now imagine God untangling your idol and placing it in front of you. What is that idol like? Very likely it is just as selfish, even if smaller than the other person’s. What forms does your selfishness take? Imagine yourself laying that idol on the altar before God, asking Him to take it away.
Dear Searcher of hearts, thank You for helping us see our individual contribution to conflict, even though it is so very hard to see. Help us to move our focus from the sins of others to our own. Deepen our repentance. Lead us on to a better way forward, to being our best selves, and living our best life. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the only One who can make these things possible. Amen.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:3-4