How to deal with conflict


Before my husband was a pastor, I had my ideas about pastors' wives. I figured they were more spiritual than the average person. That they were better at dealing with conflict. That they had some sort of secret, Holy Spirit infused wisdom that gave them the ability to know what to say, and when and how to say it.

Then my husband stepped foot in the pulpit on his very first Sunday.

I sat there in my designated spot on the front row, knowing without a doubt that I was no more wise, or spiritual or in tune with God's people than I had been the week before. Yet, there I sat, "The Pastor's Wife", and I knew there was a room full of people sitting right behind me who had their own sets of expectations and hopes and plans for me. It was terrifying. I almost felt like someone should revoke my pastor's wife card. I wanted to tell someone, You don't understand. I can't cook. I'm always late. Chances are my kids are wearing mismatched socks.

Becoming a pastor's wife is nothing if not humbling.

But, there was one area where I felt fairly confident. I had honestly almost never in my adult life had an interpersonal conflict with someone. I was so sure that in this incredible church filled with some of the most selfless, caring people I've ever met, I would at least be able to get along at all times with all people.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next.

Yep. The first conflict arose just a couple of months into our ministry. It was a misunderstanding, nothing more, but it was a biggie. I found myself getting discouraged. In the midst of all of the amazing things God was doing in our church, I felt like a failure. I felt that I, of all people, the pastor's wife, should have been able to avoid this. I should have been able to fix it.

God is good and merciful. The conflict was eventually resolved and the relationship restored. I learned a lot about myself and this interesting role that I am called to fill in the church.

  • Conflict is Going to Arise. It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when. The church is made up of a whole messy little group of messed up people with weird quirks and unique sensitivities. It can actually sometimes be impossible for a minister's wife to avoid all conflict, especially since we are as imperfect and quirky as everyone else. The church is a family. The truth is that if there is no conflict within our family, that probably means we aren't living in real community with each other, but are just saying our hellos and how-are-yas. Getting past the small talk is risky, but it's well worth the benefits of really knowing each other.
  • Conflicts Provide Opportunities to Love Like Christ. It is so hard to show love to people who are angry with you or critical of you. But, when Christians, and maybe especially ministers' wives, are in the midst of a personality conflict with someone, I see it as God giving us the chance to allow Him to shine. In our flesh, our first reaction is to avoid the person, to write her off. But, when God is moving and working in us, He can give us a supernatural ability to forgive, to sincerely love, and to sympathize.

God can mend relationships and soothe wounded hearts. If He does those things through us, dear ministers' wives, then we should count it a privilege to be living our real, imperfect lives among His people, mismatched socks and all.

Melissa Edgington is a pastor's wife and mother of three. When she and her husband Chad aren't trying to figure out fifth grade math homework, they love to ride roller coasters and count the days until Christmas. Melissa blogs about the Christian life and motherhood at www.yourmomhasablog.com.

Related articles: Advent / Christmastime / Do you have Christmas expectations?