Conflict. There seems to be so much of it right now. Living in state of perpetual conflict can be so exhausting. But is all conflict unhealthy? No.
Not all criticism is necessarily bad. Criticism becomes toxic only when it’s unfair and is continual. A cantankerous spirit may be annoying, but it’s not necessarily toxic.
Conflict can be healthy. But how can you know the difference between conflict that’s healthy or toxic? First, as my mom used to say, “consider the source”.
Sam Ranier says that though toxicity may take many forms, it ultimately derives from one of two places: foolishness or maliciousness. The foolish person does not intend harm but causes it through unwise choices. The malicious person intends to harm and uses it as leverage.
Ask yourself some questions before coming to a conclusion about the toxicity of conflict.
1. What’s the motivation?
Start with your own motives. Do you desire good or harm? If spite is a driver, then you’re acting in a toxic way. Do not assume what the motives of others are. If you don’t know, ask. In the midst of conflict the temptation is to assume the worst. Often these assumptions are inaccurate.
2. Are you talking to people or about them?
Gossip is a tell-tale sign of toxicity. Rather than talking about someone to others, go to the person directly and talk with them.
3. Are you communicating with questions or exclamations?
Stop talking over people. Ask more questions. Understanding comes through listening, not yelling.
4. Are you able to hang out afterward?
One of the best tests of healthy conflict is the ability to hang out after a tense conversation. Toxicity sets in when people cannot be around each other. Healthy conflict helps people see differences without them disregarding each other.
Conflict is a part of healthy, maturing relationships. Toxic conflict is manipulative, self-absorbed, foolish, and malicious, but healthy conflict seeks to understand.
How do you normally deal with conflict? Do you do so in a Christ-honoring way?