Exposing the Powerful Truth about Women and Conflict

What is it about women and conflict that destroys relationships? Through a massive perspective shift on relationships, I've found a new freedom in my life.

What is it about women and conflict that so easily destroys a friendship or builds division within a church or group? It’s taken a lot of spiritual growth for me to see conflict and women with a fresh perspective. Through this shift in my heart and attitude, I’ve found a new freedom in my daily life.

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I really long to be understood,  known, respected, and treasured by the women in my life. Having at least a handful close friends who really “get me” is really important.

While my feelings are valid, without a strong foundation in my identity in Christ, I was vulnerable to conflict in ways that were destroying my tender heart. Feeding into those conflicts by carrying hurt feelings, holding grudges, or even just allowing rejection to keep me from serving Christ is not how Christ implored us to behave.

John 17:21 (ESV) 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Learning how to live in this kind of unity is hard, but I felt compelled to find a way to better handle the difficulties of conflicts between women, especially within the Church.

Because we can’t live in a perfect bubble in which all the women in our lives perfectly honor God in every interaction.

What is it about women and conflict that destroys relationships? Through a massive perspective shift on relationships, I've found a new freedom in my life.

One powerful truth about women and conflict is that we don’t always handle it well.

Women are relational beings. We seek harmony and closeness which makes us amazing mothers and friends, but the strong emotions that help us build relationships can run away with us and cloud our judgment if we don’t stay grounded in truth.

Often, we react from hurt, anger, or fears before we respond from a place of peace, especially if we feel criticized or hurt.

Don't react to conflict from hurt, respond from peace knowing your identity in Christ. Click To Tweet

Don’t react from hurt, respond from peace.

I had to start recognizing myself as a sinner, saved by God’s grace, adopted as a co-heir with Christ. In those truths, I’m reminded to demonstrate humility in my relationships because we are all lost sinners without Him. And I have a firm foundation in His great love for me, which sent His son to earth and kept Christ on the cross – for my sins.

Poor communication and a lack of grace can turn tiny slights into relationship destroying mountains when we don’t see each other person with the proper perspective. We assume we know what she thinks, or we give what she thinks too much weight.

Additionally, we don’t control our own thoughts.

Because, you’re probably wrong about what she thinks.

When we assume someone’s thoughts, we’re presuming we understand so much about them. People process everything through past experiences, emotions, personalities, and even their mood or inner dialogue at the moment.

Making correct assumptions that take into account all those things is nearly impossible in the closest of relationships – ask my husband.

And we’ll use really crumby evidence, like an irritated facial expression or poor wording in a message, to support our negative thoughts which are often based in our own insecurities.

What is it about women and conflict that destroys relationships? Through a massive perspective shift on relationships, I've found a new freedom in my life.

A few weeks ago at Bible study, I spent the evening with a group of women talking about how as sisters in Christ, we often feel judged and criticized within the Body.

We began to talk about how we felt in specific situations within our study. And the more open we were, the more we realized that what we were feeling wasn’t even close to what the other people had been thinking.

For example, a couple of years ago, I would worry my house wasn’t nice enough when people came over but never complimented my decor. Joanna Gaines, I am not. Then a friend told me that my spotless house made her feel like she could never invite me over. She looked around my house and felt totally inadequate.

When I did go to her house, I was shamed by her willingness to be less than perfect, her bravery to be honest with her mess.

Lies we assumed the other person was thinking had held us both captive and divided our budding friendship.

We learned that messy, real brokenness built more bridges than any pretense of perfection. 

This is what we do to ourselves and each other when we try to guess what someone else is thinking.

Honestly, what she thinks of you is none of your business. 

What she thinks is her responsibility. I have to do the best I can to represent who I am in Christ and let the rest go. I can’t control how people perceive my behavior. A tiny look could be completely misinterpreted. I can’t live my life afraid to make a face! I’d need a truckload of Botox! 

I am responsible for the condition of my own heart.

That is the powerful, freeing truth about women and conflict that finally let me stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.

I can only control myself. I can only take responsibility for myself and my actual actions.

Trying to control what everyone thinks will often backfire completely. A lot of my close family and friends are in different places with their beliefs than I am. I want nothing more than to be a witness to them for Christ.

However, trying to control every interaction and perception made me frantic. I was so tense that I unintentionally pushed away the very people I was doing my best to love.

I finally gave up and said this is the best me I have today, with the spiritual maturity I have at this moment. I should try to be kind and loving, but only God’s opinion matters at the end of the day.

If someone misinterprets who you are, keep reaching out, keep being genuine. Give opportunities to her so she’ll want to reevaluate who she thinks you are, but don’t let it get to you.

What is it about women and conflict that destroys relationships? Through a massive perspective shift on relationships, I've found a new freedom in my life.

One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is if someone doesn’t want to be close with me, let them go.

Another powerful truth is . . . sometimes, it’s not me.

The other person’s perspective on who you are is based on her biases and experiences.

Sometimes you have to leave someone’s heart up to God. The most genuine kindness is can be misinterpreted by someone without spiritual maturity whose heart isn’t right with God. And we can’t take responsibility for that. 

Right now, there is a woman I see often who seemingly goes out of her way to avoid saying hello or even making eye contact. But I’ve never had more than a ten minute conversation with her. Any perspective she has on me is superficial and likely faulty. 

And I honestly have no idea what she feels about me. She might think I don’t like her. She may feel I’ve judged her somehow. What I’ve had to do is really lay it at God’s feet. Instead of feeling hurt and rejected, I have begun to pray for her and for opportunities to love her.

Because what is my responsibility, is what I think of her.

My responsibility is not what she thinks of me, but what I think of her. Do I think judgmental, hurt feelings at her? Or do I give her the grace and benefit of the doubt I would want from her? 

My responsibility in conflict isn't what she thinks of me but what I allow myself to think of her. Click To Tweet

I can choose to control my thoughts about her. When I have a negative thought or feel rejected, I pray for her and our relationship.

Three things to think about her:

First, she is beloved of God, and He is chasing after her heart just as much as he ever chased after mine.

Secondly, God calls me to love her more than I love myself. Instead of focusing on how her behavior affects me, I choose to demonstrate love for her in every interaction.

Lastly, God knows the deepest most secret places of her heart. In those places, God knows who she will be, not just who she is, not just her facial expressions or what she even says. I cannot know that identity. I can’t even get close unless I’m close to her heart. So, I need to treat her based solely on my relationship with Christ.

Because, that is how Christian women deal with conflict.

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Skipping the Scale

Skipping the Scale - Heaven Not Harvard. A year without a scale because a set of numbers doesn't set my value.

Has your news feed been filled with friends making New Year’s Resolutions? Ads for diet pills and gym membership seeming to overtake every commercial break? I feel a bit bombarded. I can’t remember a time I didn’t start the new year wanting to lose weight. I might have been twelve. Some years, it’s been a few pounds. Other years, January first has started a desperate attempt to drop half of a normal human being. This is one of those years. Skipping the Scale - Heaven Not Harvard. A year without a scale because a set of numbers doesn't set my value. I may not be normal; it’s hard to tell from inside my own head, but being overweight makes me feel like less of a person, not just less valuable, but sincerely, valueless, exacerbating my reclusive tendencies. I have actually had the thought that I should stay home from this event or that trip or even church because no one should have to look at me, or How can I be an example of a Godly woman and be overweight? At times, I really embrace the work God is doing in my heart and life, knowing He gave me every bone, joint, hair, and tiny strand of DNA for a purpose, for His purpose. This thorn in my side may be how the Lord is keeping me humble (2 Corinthians 12:7), keeping my eyes focused on Him, or it may just be part of being human and imperfect. Living each day focused on His purpose is healing, but still I have struggled with facing the scale. The past two years, health issues and physical setbacks have conspired with genetics to make my weight a singular issue in my life, but I’ve probably been weighing myself daily for 15 years. Following New Years, I considered skipping the scale. I actually had the thought, ‘but how will I know how to feel about myself?’ That was when I realized how dependent I had become on the scale for my daily self-esteem, and I had to say enough. Weight is not a measurement of my worth. I wouldn’t judge anyone else that way, and God certainly doesn’t. And I cannot continue to define myself based on three red numbers on a digital display.

1 Samuel 16:7b ESV “.  .  . For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

I’ve reached a point in which I have to decide how I want to live. Spending each day depressed because I’m not a certain size is BUNK. I’m done letting the scale dictate how I feel about myself. The only numbers I should let define me are the verses of God’s promises and provisions.

1 John 3:20 ESV “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

What will happen if I don’t weigh myself every day? What will happen if I don’t weigh myself at all? Can I learn to live without focusing on my weight? What if I just make food choices without looking at the instant results on the scale the next morning. Can I really spend a year skipping the scale? And what will I learn in the process? I know all the healthy answers, but nothing, short of the strictest diets, works for me. One cheat day will erase a month of hard work. I dieted insanely strictly for five months and lost 15 lbs. One week of normal meals and a few desserts, and I gained 10 lbs. back. I wanted to cry. But do I let this one area of my life define the sum of me? I am enough the way I am today. I was a good wife and mother today. I gracefully juggled all the parts of my life as a woman, wife, mother, friend, employee, writer, and daughter. I was loving and kind. I balanced being fun mom with building blocks of discipline with a strong-willed four-year old. I was able to end a busy day in a better mood than when I started, with enough energy and patience for bedtime (major mommy victory there)! I look at the work God has done in me that made today possible, not just possible, but the norm. And I remind myself that this new quietness and gentleness and joy have made me so much more beautiful than dieting ever did. I’m starting to look more like Him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

I’m really committed to spending this year skipping the scale. I moved the scale out of my bathroom and put it away. I think learning to rest my heart in who God says I am is going to be a journey of letting go of worldly values, focusing on choosing to be Godly and healthy and let the numbers be what they are. While weight may be my personal issue, many of us struggle with the world’s definitions of beauty or womanhood or friendship or motherhood that invade our hearts and minds. We fight a desperate war of attrition, but gradually, we are sanded away, ground down from squares into ‘proper’ pegs. But that isn’t who God says His children are. I find it helps to get into the Bible and find confidence in being God’s.

Proverbs 3:26 ESV “For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”

So I’m gonna skip the scale this year as much as possible, and put my confidence in things that really matter. I’m gonna eat ice cream, but walk more. I’m going to order pizzas, but chase my daughter around the yard, ride bikes, and play. I’m going to live at this weight not wait to live.

Previewing

Today isn’t going to be super deep, just celebrating getting something right and seeing the fruits of my preparation blossom, and I wanted to share this skill because I know I’ve seen how this improves our lives time and time again.

Something I have seen as a teacher is the importance of previewing activities. As a teacher, we preview to help students understand the objectives in a new lesson, to tie in previous learning to the new skills, and to clarify the purpose and procedure of the activity. Previewing is literally the best tool in my parenting toolbox because it prevents issues. Rather than be reactive to a crisis, previewing allows me to be proactive.

As a mom, I’ve learned that children really need to understand what to expect prior to a new activity. Kids naturally have concerns about anything unknown. The more we can preview upcoming events, the more smoothly things tend to go.

Yesterday was the perfect example of how my previewing new experiences helps my daughter cope. Yesterday, she had her very first dentist visit. She should have started going much earlier, but I became a walking medical emergency for the past two years, and finding a new dentist just got set aside for the more crucial crises, like spending months immobilized in a hip brace.

Around the age of two, I started previewing her trip to the dentist. I bought books about teeth and a trip to the dentist. We’ve read the book casually over the past two years. If I were planning for a more immediate event, I would read the book every week or everyday depending on how soon the new activity would be.

Every time Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or Sesame Street talked about the dentist, I would talk to her about going, explain what the dentist does. The day of the dentist, we watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting about taking all the smaller children to the dentist.

Then we got to the dentist. I had my visit first, so she could see that having my teeth cleaned was easy. She held my hand and asked me if it hurt or felt good. I smiled, told her it felt fine, that I wasn’t scared or nervous.

Then it was her turn. She was so excited, but a little nervous. She folded her little fingers in that big chair and prayed. “Dear God, please let me be brave and not be scared. Amen.”IMG_4500.JPG

And she was all smiles. After the initial check of her teeth, she yelled, “It worked. My prayer worked! I’m not scared!” She continued to sit quietly (which was a feat in and of itself) and still during the teeth “sparkling.” Her teeth were perfect, and so was her behavior.

The visit was a success. She was so excited. She told everyone all day about going to the dentist. In fact, she was so overjoyed that I joked she doesn’t need Chuck E. Cheese, we’ll just plan her birthday party at the dentist.

Previewing the trip to the dentist helped her be prepared for what to expect. I did the same thing with her last round of immunizations, and she did great. I held her hand, looked in her eyes, and she almost cried, but we smiled together. She laughed and smiled while we put on the band-aids. She was so proud that she got four shots and didn’t cry. The nurses even let her choose two prizes from the treasure chest.

I always preview with a cheery, hopeful tone. I always talk about the importance of what we’re doing and give her confidence in her ability to go through whatever the situation is. We’re already previewing school and riding the bus with how to act and what the experience will be.

Last year, I previewed going to the library for the first time, so she would know how to behave and what to expect. We even previewed going to a friend’s birthday, so she would understand giving her a gift and not helping her blow out the candles.

I may never know how she would have handled the situations without previewing, but I know that she was able to face many new situations with confidence and joy. We were able to enjoy lots of new experiences together.

We all fear the unknown. As a parent, giving my daughter the confidence and knowledge to face new situations will prepare her to face many new things in the years to come.

As a Christian, knowing that my salvation is secure, that I can trust in the future in Heaven, helps me face the unknown here.  My heavenly father previews the life of a Christian, that the world will be harsh and reject us, but that we can know we have eternal life through Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:13 ESV “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Reading the Bible, hearing God’s promises of salvation, forgiveness, and a home in Heaven for our eternity, helps us live with a peacefulness and grace even in the darkest times because we know we are not alone. God has already claimed victory.

Nothing has changed my heart, my life, my parenting than claiming this promise because it changed my entire perspective.