“I’m going to keep walking.”
With that statement, I strode away, leaving my husband and two children to return to our house.
Our pleasant family walk had been interrupted by a challenging parenting moment, which then disintegrated into conflict. My husband and I had different perspectives on the situation, as we often do.
One of my husband’s strengths is consistency. When we set an expectation for our kids, his priority is that we need to follow through with it.
One of my strengths is empathy. I can usually see more factors at play in what’s driving our kids’ behavior, and I want to take those into consideration when we address it.
We’ve had enough experience to know that we need one another’s strengths to balance each other. Without his consistency, I often find a reason to excuse our children from the consequence of poor choices. Without my empathy, he can easily miss some of the emotions that need to be addressed in the moment to maintain heart connection.
However, we can only find that balance when we choose to work at understanding each other. If we choose to be right instead, then it gets messy . . . which is exactly what had just happened.
I stormed down the road, replaying the strong words we had exchanged and building a case in my head. All the reasons my husband was wrong. The fact that he was being unreasonable. My frustration that he wasn’t listening to me. Why was he so stubborn? Clearly, the man I loved and normally praised as a father and husband had some huge issues.
As my mind heedlessly plunged down this track, my body walked on furiously, taking new routes and venturing further than I had explored before into a new subdivision. Eventually I registered that I was getting tired and hungry, and was surprised to see a main highway ahead of me through the trees. Uh oh. I wasn’t entirely sure where I was or how to get home.
After a moment of standing there, wondering what to do, the humor of my situation struck me. I had walked on, so convinced of how right I was, that I had foolishly walked myself into a situation I didn’t want to be in. Whoops. Then it hit me—if I had missed the signs that I was getting lost, could I have also missed seeing some important things in this particular conflict?
It didn’t take long for me to see that the answer, of course, was yes. I had missed seeing my own heart posture.
Just that morning, I had read Galatians 5:
As you yield freely and fully to the dynamic life and power of the Holy Spirit, you will abandon the cravings of your self-life. For your self-life craves the things that offend the Holy Spirit and hinder him from living free within you . . . So then, the two incompatible and conflicting forces within you are your self-life of the flesh and the new creation life of the Spirit . . . The cravings of the self-life are obvious . . . temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions.” (Galatians 5:16-20 TPT)
The real issue at stake in a conflict with another person is what we choose to do about this inner conflict between the self-life and the Spirit. At any moment, regardless of what anyone else may do, we choose to empower one of these forces. The outcome of this inner conflict determines the outcome in our conflicts with people.
If we choose to empower the self-life, then it will lead our thoughts, emotions, and behavioral responses down the path of self-protection, justification, blaming, and punishment. This is why one of the classic signs that we are empowering the self-life is that we become blind to our choices in a conflict and focus entirely on the behavior and choices of another person. The flesh wants to control others and make them serve us. This ultimately damages and destroys relationships.
If we empower the Spirit, however, it will lead us toward humility, understanding, love, and connection. We know we are in the Spirit if we can remain clear-eyed, conscious, and powerful about how we are choosing to respond no matter what the other person does. The Spirit leads us to control ourselves and serve others, which builds and strengthens relationships.
As I turned around and began to find my way home, I chose to shift my focus from who had been right or wrong in our argument, and on to myself. What had I chosen to empower in that moment? How was it on display in the fruit of what had come out of me when under pressure? How had it impacted my relationship? Was I actually right if I behaved in a way that destroyed connection?
Asking these questions revealed exactly where I needed to repent. I repented for choosing to empower the self-life and all the behavior that came with that choice. I surrendered again to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As I recognized my own sin and selfishness that had contributed to the disconnection, I became able to see some of the wisdom in my husband’s point of view. Accurate perspective and gratitude for him returned.
When I got home, I went straight to my husband and sincerely apologized.
“I’m sorry, too,” he responded. “That wasn’t okay.”
“Let’s try that conversation again,” I suggested.
As we laughed together at the mess we had made, I was so grateful for the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the way He convicts, humbles, and restores. He is the great champion of connection!
P.S- If you would like to learn more about creating a culture that encourages people to live powerfully, join us as we read through Carla’s book, The Pathway To Powerful! Find more information HERE!