This week we're talking about how to "Love Completely." One way to love completely is to get in the boxing ring and stay there.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. It's going to happen. When it does, the relationship might feel like a boxing ring. Two fighters going at it.
But that's actually OK. As long as you stay with it. And as long as you fight fair.
Kerry and Chris Shook say that in the boxing ring of relational conflict, there are five primary styles of fighting:
- The "rope-a-dope" fighter: This person stays on the ropes and avoids conflict.
- The knockout artist: This person comes out fighting, and fights until the other person goes down.
- The take-the-fall fighter: This person throws in the towel early, gives in too quickly.
- The one-two puncher: "I'll give in sometimes; you give in sometimes."
The first three are unhealthy and unfair ways to fight. The last one is better. But Kerry and Chris say that the best style is what they call the sparring partner:
Sparring partners stay in the ring and off the ropes. Regardless of how unpleasant it becomes, they stay at it until they come to a mutual decision that they feel is best for both. Sparring partners realize that the relationship is more important than anything they could argue about, and they understand that the process is more vital than the outcome (One Month to Live, page 89).
Sparring partners are not boxers trying to hurt each other. They are teammates trying to make each other better.
Stay in the ring. And fight fair. It's best if you agree on some ground rules before you need them:
- Put in a mouthguard: Watch what you say. Profanity and abusive language are off-limits. So is the "d" word for married couples (divorce).
- Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements: A statement beginning with the word "you" (e.g. "You make me mad") is an attack that puts the other person on the defensive. Instead, own your feelings ("I'm upset") and say what you need ("I need some help").
- Don't use "always" or "never": Those sweeping statements are not accurate, and they take the focus off the issue at hand.
- Don't bring up the past: Don't glue people to their mistakes.
Look again at today's Scripture. It speaks of the value of making peace--not avoiding conflict, but going into it with a merciful, considerate, servant-hearted attitude.
The boxing ring can be a very good thing--if we stay in it, and fight fair.
Think about how you handle conflict. Which kind of fighter are you? What would it take for you to learn how to stay in the ring and fight fair?
If you're married or engaged, talk to your partner and agree on some ground rules for a fair fight. If you're not married or engaged, read through the ground rules above and commit to use them the next time you're in a conflict with a friend or co-worker.