|True Stories: Where Will Mom Live
Guiding People Through Conflict
A succinct summary and application of biblical conflict resolution principles for those trying to assist other people who are struggling with conflict.
I was asked to help seven adult brothers and sisters settle a guardianship dispute over whether they should keep their elderly mother in her home or place her in a retirement center. Five of the siblings were doing all they could to escape from the situation, either by pretending that a conflict did not exist or by refusing to meet with the others to talk about it. The other two attacked each other intensely and frequently, slandering one another to family and friends and fighting in court to obtain control through legal guardianship.The first step in resolving the dispute was to help the parties change the way they had been responding to the situation. The five siblings who had been trying to escape from the problem quickly saw the benefits of mediation and agreed to meet together. The other two sisters grudgingly consented to mediation, but they continued to attack each other during our meetings, accusing each other of improper motives and demanding opposing solutions. Our investment of time and energy was producing no results, and relationships were suffering further damage.
I finally asked to talk with the two sisters in private to help them discuss the personal offenses that were obviously fueling their quarrel. Putting the guardianship issue aside for a moment, I helped them to examine their attitudes and behavior toward each other.
As we studied a few relevant Bible passages, the Lord began to work in their hearts. After about thirty minutes, the real cause of the conflict finally came to the surface. Almost twenty years earlier, one of the women had said something that deeply hurt the other one. The offended sister had tried to pretend that she was not hurt, but she could not help brooding over the insult, and their relationship was steadily poisoned. Consequently, they opposed each other in everything, even if it involved their mother’s care.
As we continued to talk about their relationship, they began to deal honestly with their feelings and actions. They saw how they had been dishonoring God and hurting other people. As God opened their hearts, they confessed their sins and forgave each other. With tears in their eyes, they embraced each other for the first time in twenty years!
They soon joined their brothers and sister and explained what had happened. Within five minutes, all seven children agreed that their mother would be happier in her own home, and in another fifteen minutes they negotiated a schedule for her care. As you can imagine, when they told her the news that evening, the reconciliation of her children brought her even more joy than the decision about her living arrangement.