By Jana Fraley
I was enjoying a beautiful Wyoming morning with its clear blue sky and sunshine, soaking in the contentment of a perfect summer day when my brother called.
Suddenly the peace and solitude I’d felt was gone.
My brother and I are close; most of the time, we get along great. We love, encourage, and genuinely enjoy being around each other.
But I’m the older sister, and he’s the middle child.
Sometimes I am bossy—sometimes he is hard-headed—and we rub each other the wrong way.
Unfortunately, this is the perfect recipe for a contentious conversation.
I can’t even tell you what the disagreement was about—probably something silly and insignificant that ended in anger and misunderstanding.
Words were spoken that couldn’t be unspoken.
Old hurts, thought to be healed and forgotten, resurfaced when we ripped off the scabs covering them.
I was crying when I got off the phone; he later told me he was sick to his stomach after our conversation.
How to Respond like Christ in Contentious Conversations
“Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.” -Psalm 34:14 HCSB
God tells us that we are to seek peace, not contention.
Peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict, and it isn’t a passive act.
We have to pursue it with an active and committed determination, searching for ways to maintain peace with others.
Conversely, contention is a knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t take any effort at all.
I’ve never been one to shy away from difficult discussions.
Still, I find myself growing discouraged from the ongoing animosity and disrespect I see happening in conversations all around me.
These heated discourses happen both in-person and online, and they all leave me feeling unsettled in my spirit.
Every time I participate in a contentious conversation, I question my motives and wonder if I represent Christ in my words and attitudes.
It’s not that difficult discussions should be avoided. Still, God has shown me that having conversations with people I disagree with needs to be about more than just sharing my own viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs.
I want to choose a better way because I want to share Christ, especially when engaging in a contentious conversation.
Here are five biblical truths I’ve found to be essential in conversations that reflect Christ.Here are five biblical truths I’ve found to be essential in conversations that reflect Christ.
5 Christ-like Responses to Contentious Conversations
1. Pray before engaging in contentious conversations.
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6 (HCSB)
When we cover conversations in prayer first, God gives us His peace, and conversations become less contentious.
Praying puts the discussion in His control and not ours.
Before engaging in a conversation that is likely to become contentious, pray for:
- Ears to be open and hearts softened
- Humility, respect, and pure motivations
- That the words spoken will be God-honoring
- Wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent
- Christ to be reflected in words and actions
2. Keep your involvement in contentious conversations off public platforms.
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” – Matthew 18:15 HCSB
Disagreements with a loved one’s point of view should be discussed in private if possible.
It’s tempting to react immediately to someone we disagree with, especially in an online environment.
Angry words on hot button topics discussed online can lead to all kinds of mishaps, misunderstandings, misinterpretations.
Christ isn’t reflected in words spoken (or typed out) in anger.
When we take a minute to examine the motives behind our desire to enter the conversation, we are more likely to respond with grace and humility.
If we take the conversation to a private message, text, or email (or better yet, in person!), we can see a person’s heart and better understand their perspective.Christ isn’t reflected in words spoken (or typed out) in anger.
3. Don’t assume you have all the facts when you enter a contentious conversation.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 HCSB
It’s a wise practice to enter a contentious conversation assuming that we don’t know all the facts.
No matter how much information we have, we won’t always know the heart and attitudes of the other person. We are also likely missing crucial contextual information.
Our insight is limited, but God’s is limitless.
He sees into the heart and motivations of the one we’re speaking to while we only see outward appearances and attitudes.
1 Samuel 16:7 HCSB says, “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”
If we keep an open mind and softened heart, the discussion becomes less heated.If we keep an open mind and softened heart, the discussion becomes less heated.
4. Prioritize listening and question-asking in contentious conversations.
“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” – James 1:19 HCSB
Much information is missed when we’re more concerned about being heard than we are about hearing the other person’s perspective.
We’re often anxious to speak our thoughts and opinions.
If we find ourselves coming up with a response while the other person is speaking, we probably aren’t truly listening to them.
If we’re speaking just to be heard, there will likely be no resolution.
We may walk away more assured of our stance but have little insight into the other person’s position.
Minds and hearts are changed more by the way we listen than by the eloquent or knowledgeable words we say.
Asking questions gives us a better understanding of the other person and allows them to process what they believe about a complex topic.
Even if we disagree, taking the time to be gracious listeners reflects Christ’s character and ministers to hurting souls.Asking questions gives us a better understanding of the other person and allows them to process what they believe about a complex topic.
5. Watch your tongue and guard your heart in contentious conversations.
“There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18 HCSB
I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t take back words spoken in anger.
Although the wounds may eventually heal, permanent scars will always remain.
Our human nature makes it easy to react to something that hits a nerve, and it takes the Holy Spirit to help us control our tongues.
Our words have the power to heal or hurt, build up or tear down, encourage or discourage.
If we genuinely want to navigate contentious conversations with wisdom, taking a moment to stop and think before responding gives us a holy pause that keeps us from reacting in a harsh and unloving manner.
With the Holy Spirit’s leading, we can respond with kindness, love, and mercy that reflects Christ in our conversations and leads to peace, reconciliation, and mutual respect.
Jana Fraley is a ranch wife, mom, and Christian writer. She is a contributing writer of the 90-day-devotional book, Tapestry of Grace, and a Christian blogger. Jana’s blog, Rustic and Redeemed, encourages women to pursue an active and enduring faith in Jesus by seeking for God’s truth through His Word, developing a Biblical Worldview, and finding contentment through their hope in Christ. She does all of this with her family’s Wyoming ranch as the backdrop, where she and her husband, Mike, have made a life together, raising cattle and kids. Connect with Jana on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.