June 5, 2017 – Rick Boxx Over the years, I have the privilege – and challenge – of mediating in several disputes between business partners. In most cases, seeking to resolve them is not pretty nor easy, but very necessary. When someone begins to feel slighted by their partner in some way, the relationship can turn ugly quickly.
These disputes can result from many factors, but commonly they are spawned by breakdowns in communication. As accusations of “he said,” “she said, “they said” escalate, the threat of lawsuits can begin to soar. Partnerships formed with the best of intentions and greatest of expectations can be destroyed because of a single event – and often, unnecessarily.
This is why addressing and working through the problem with care is essential. In the mediation process, proving your position was right should not be the ultimate goal; instead, we need consider how to most effectively work toward a reasonable resolution, one that could be a “win-win” for everyone involved.
Speaking to His followers, Jesus made specific observations about interpersonal conflict and how it should be resolved. For instance, He admonished, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge…” (Matthew 5:25).
There are two key principles cited here. First, recognize areas of conflict and resolve them before small problems escalate and turn into major causes of strife. Today we call this “making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Jesus’ second point was to avoid, whenever possible, having to take a dispute to a judge and a courtroom to be settled. Reasons for this are many:
- Legal disputes can be costly;
- Decisions made by judges can seem arbitrary;
- Courtroom outcomes usually fail to resolve the relational and emotional issues involved;
- The great resources of God’s wisdom and healing power can be excluded from the process.
Admittedly, sometimes taking a matter to court is unavoidable. One or more parties may be unwilling to turn to a mediator, or an arbitrator, to allow them to work toward acceptable resolutions. However, that is unfortunate because while it may result in a legal judgment, the likelihood of injured feelings and inability to sustain once-enjoyable business relationships is extremely high. If you’re in a conflict with a partner, secure a wise and rational third party, whom you both trust, to help you settle the matter quickly.
The apostle Paul, writing to a group of contentious Christians in the ancient city of Corinth, urged, “If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?…” (1 Corinthians 6:1-5).
Copyright 2017, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His new book, Unconventional Business, provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”
- Were you ever involved in a conflict or dispute that could not be resolved simply by the persons involved talking through the issue? What were the factors that made successful resolution difficult in that scenario?
- Have you experienced circumstances in which parties were willing to turn to a meditator to resolve their conflict? If so, what was the outcome?
- Do you agree that, whenever possible, it is always preferable to settle disputes before they have to go before a judge or a courtroom, possibly involving a jury? Why or why not?
- Why do you think many people are unwilling to consider or accept mediation as an alternative for settling conflict, and instead insist on taking legal action to settle matters?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Matthew 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:12-14