A bridge to love – conflict

By Dave Henning / February 16, 2023

“Our bodies might be telling us to flee, but conflict can be a bridge to love. . . .  I’m talking about the normal and often emotionally charged disagreements we have.  And there are many, because to be human is to experience conflict. . . .  Conflict is not a sign of unhealth.  It’s unhealthy to never have conflict.”- Rich Villodas (emphasis author’s)

In Chapter 7 (“A Bridge, Not a Barrier: Healthy Conflict in Pursuit of Wholeness”) of Good and Beautiful and Kind, Rich Villodas notes that every day, conflict awaits.  However, Pastor Villodas stresses, conflict potentially serves as a bridge to love.  In addition, the author counsels:

“Don’t forget that dealing with conflict is not a sign of immaturity, it’s a reflection of the depth of our maturity in Christ. . . .  Conflict, for many people, is a sign that something is wrong.  What’s wrong is expecting it to be otherwise.”

As a result, Rich offers a helpful, three-stage synopsis of relationships:

1.  The Heavenly Stage.  This necessary and unavoidable, pseudo and surface stage focuses on the ideal.  Hence, we exhibit our best behavior.  Also, we see the good — or refuse to see the bad — of others.  But here the issue centers on how one addresses any conflict, not the conflict itself.  So, as things shift, we hit the second stage.

2.  The Hellish Stage.  Here the letdown occurs.  As our ideal image loses its luster, we fee; disheartened, disillusioned, and despairing.  Thus, we see more flaws than beauty.  Often, people leave a relationship or community in search of the elusive, heavenly stage.  Seeking something that doesn’t exist.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured it this way in Life Together:

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”

3.  The Holding-the-Tensions Stage.  In this third stage, we do the work of growing up.  Therefore, we resist the ideal and pursue intimacy.  An intimacy formed by grace, love and forgiveness.  Thus, we forgo illusion to love as God loves us.

Today’s question: Do you see conflict as a bridge to love?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Insulated from conflict?”

About the author

Dave Henning

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