Causes of Conflict

with Judy Dabler, Tara Barthel | February 20, 2006

Today on the broadcast, certified Christian conciliators, Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler, talk to Dennis Rainey about the conflict that almost ended their friendship and halted the writing of their book, Peacemaking Women.

Today on the broadcast, certified Christian conciliators, Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler, talk to Dennis Rainey about the conflict that almost ended their friendship and halted the writing of their book, Peacemaking Women.

Causes of Conflict

With Judy Dabler, Tara Barthel
February 20, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

Tara: James 4:1 – "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  You want something, and you don't get it, and so you kill, and you covet because you cannot have what you want."  And when you don't give me what I want, boy, you're going to pay.  See, that's the heartbeat of conflict.  We say, "I want, I will have, and if you don't give it to me, there is going to be punishment."  Even good desires can be elevated to demand.  It's not necessarily the thing you want, it's that we want it too much.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 20th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If you're in the midst of conflict that needs to be resolved, it's going to require looking seriously at your own heart.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, I feel kind of bad about this.  I've been thinking about …

Dennis: Do you really?

Bob: I've been thinking about these programs, and all I keep thinking about – do you remember when you were growing up watching "Roller Derby" on television?  Do you remember that?  Did you ever watch "Roller Derby?

Dennis: Are you comparing FamilyLife Today to "Roller Derby?"

Bob: No, not FamilyLife Today …

Dennis: Some of our listeners have no recollection of "Roller Derby."

Bob: But you remember it, don't you?

Dennis: I do.

Bob: The women are going around in the circle on the roller rink, right?

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And what were you always hoping would happen?

Dennis: They have knee pads on, they have elbow pads, helmets, and …

Bob: … and you're waiting for a fight to break out, aren't you?

Dennis: They each look like gladiators.

Bob: You're waiting for one of those women to reach up and grab another one by the hair and pull her back and …

Dennis: No, no, Bob.

Bob: Oh, yes, you were.  We all were hoping for that.

Dennis: I'm too civilized for such barbaric behavior.

Bob: Well, that's just what keeps rolling over in my mind as I think about what we're going to talk about this week on FamilyLife Today, and I feel a little bad about that, because that's really – I don't want to conjure up "Roller Derby" images in people's heads.

Dennis: You know, you and I have introduced a lot of guests on FamilyLife Today.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: I think this is the first time we have ever offended them by comparing them to …

Bob: [laughing] "Roller Derby" …

Dennis: Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler join us on FamilyLife Today, and, no, ladies, we don't have any helmets for you.

Tara: That's okay, we've learned to work without them.


Dennis: Tara is an attorney by trade.  She also works with Ken Sandy and Peacemaker Ministry, correct?

Tara: Yes.  I used to work full-time but now I've been promoted to be a mama.  I'm home with a little girl.

Dennis: That's a great promotion.  She is a Certified Christian Conciliator with Peacemaker Ministries as is Judy.  Judy lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and is seminary trained, and you have actually a center where you work with people and counsel with them, helping arbitrate situations, both men and women, and applying biblical principles to their conflicts, right?

Judy: Yes, that's right.  I'm the executive director of the Center for Biblical Counseling and Education in St. Louis, and we do conciliation as well as counseling.

Dennis: Well, in your book, "Peacemaking Women," you say that women have a need of resolving conflicts.  Is there a unique need that women have that men don't have?  I wouldn't think there is any corner on conflict by women, but since you two are women and understand women a little better than either Bob or I do …

Judy: Well, conflict is rampant everywhere, but women tend to feel it more deeply and take things very personally, and so this book is written to help women personally look at how they can respond to conflict in ways that the Bible commands.

Bob: We've talked many times about the fact that women tend to focus on relationships, so if there is disharmony in relationships, obviously, for a woman that’s a huge deal.  A guy may be able to take that and put it in the compartment on the shelf for a while, but if it's going on with you ladies, it's going on all day, all night, wherever you are, is that right?

Tara: That's correct, and we often say, "all sinners are incompatible," which is true, but women have a vast array of relationships.  Not just in the home but sometimes in the workplace, in the church.  I'm sure that it's only my church that has conflict among the women.  I've heard there are other conflicts in other women.

Dennis: You know, one of the first things I heard about your book – now, you guys are not going to like this – one of the first things I heard about this book and maybe how it was introduced to me is that you all had a conflict, Judy.

Judy: That's right.

Dennis: As you were writing it.

Judy: That's right.  Yes, we actually speak about that in the final chapter, but we wrote most of the book without speaking to one another.

Bob: Now, let's go back to how you start writing a book and then where the conflict came in.  How did the two of you put your heads together and say, "Hey, let's write a book on conflict among women?"

Tara: It's a great question.  I have been looking forward to writing a book for women on peacemaking, and I approached Judy and asked her if she'd be interested in co-authoring because, honestly, of all the people in my life who have impacted me for the Lord, Judy has been one of the most profound friends.  She has just been a taste of heaven, a little glimmer of heaven in this world for me.  I haven't had a lot of strong relationships with women.  I had to learn how to have those.

 But, anyway, I asked Judy – she said, "Let's pray about it.  It sounds great," and we began to frame out the book and what that would look like.  That was in the summer.  We began to set some schedules and began to work on the book together.  But, as you said, it's true, and one little miscommunication here, a miscommunication there, our sin, idols that rule our hearts and, before you know it, our relationship began to break down while we are writing a book on peacemaking women.

Bob: Do you remember when you first were aware that "we've got a problem here?"

Judy: I do.  I had flown to Billings to spend a week working with Tara.  This was about five months into our writing schedule, and Tara had a friend, who was a nurse, come over to take my pulse and my blood pressure.  I was having tremendous chest pain, and we had miscommunicated on a few things, had worked it out, and I left after the week.  We had gotten quite a bit done, and I went back home and ended up in the emergency room, and they couldn't find anything wrong, and after a week or so was back in the emergency room, and finally the emergency room doctor comes out and says, "Mrs. Dabler, we have checked you over.  You're having a panic attack," and I said, "No, no, you don't understand.  I'm a licensed professional counselor, and I deal with people with panic, and, no, I wouldn't be having that because I'm against that," and it turns out I was having tremendous anxiety, and over the course of a couple of months, my life actually fell apart.  And during that time, I shut down and decided I could not speak with Tara, and we went about eight or nine months without speaking, and we wrote entirely through e-mail.

Dennis: You're writing a book about peacemaking, and in the midst of it, you shut down the relationship because you have a conflict?

Judy: It was a conflict, and it was a heartbreaking reality.

Dennis: You know, honestly, now, this is how I take this.  This sounds like this is something that men do.  Men have pride and – hold it – the engineer, Keith Lynch, is looking at me like maybe I've said something inappropriate.  Keith, you don't think men have pride, Keith?

Keith: Some – yes.


Dennis: I mean, seriously, I could picture a couple of men doing what you're describing.

Tara: But, you know, what we often, even now, will talk about as well is the difference between confessional theology and practical theology.  So often we know from the Scriptures what we ought to do; what we are called to do as believers, but in the trenches of life, when their heart is broken, when life is hard, and you can't even – I mean – Judy talked about going to the ER.  Thankfully, I did not have to go to the emergency room during this horrible season in both of our lives, but I was pregnant with our first child.  We had been married eight-and-a-half years, never being able to conceive, and the Lord gave us this precious pregnancy.  We were just thanking God.

 Well, it got to the point where our relationship was so broken and so painful – you understand, this is a woman who has ministered Christ to me – but the relationship was so broken that I could not read her e-mails.  My husband had to screen them because the flush of adrenaline and just the anxiety, the angst of reading them, they were so stressful, we were concerned for the safety of the baby.

Bob: In the middle of that, doesn't something go off in the back of your head as you're writing chapters on resolving conflict, and then you're pressing "Send," and going, "I'm not speaking to that person.  She makes me so mad."  I mean …

Dennis: Judy's nodding her head, Bob.

Bob: I wrote a book on a husband's role in a marriage, and I came home most days feeling like a hypocrite because I'd just written better than I act, you know?

Dennis: I thought you were going to say you came home most days feeling perfect.

Bob: No, but it's one thing to be doing that and another thing to be pushing the button and saying, "Here!  Read this and see what you think about this unresolved conflict!"

Tara: But, you know, if you went and read those e-mails, Bob, you wouldn't see – we, even in our pain and even in our broken relationship, we loved one another dearly, and that is so often case in conflict.  Think about the marriage conflicts.  I know that you've counseled, and I can only assume how many thousands of hours you've counseled and the marital mediations we've done – the pain is so great because you love one another so dearly, and even while things were – we weren't sending flaming e-mails, it was the pain of the broken relationship.

Judy: It was more what was not said – the kindness, the warmth was absent.  It was functional and work-oriented.  But a lot of the writing stopped.  In fact, one of the great idols of my heart was perfectionism, and I could not write during much of this time, and I was unable to meet my deadlines.  I missed every deadline.  For the first time in my life I could not do the work.

Tara: That didn't cause any conflict, though, because, you know, I'm the JDMVA driver.  That was a part of it.  I really wanted that book done before the baby came.  I didn't want to have the book still hanging on after the birth of my first child and, actually, the book was not done before the baby came.  We didn't even have our mediation to work through our conflicts until Sophia was a good six months old.

Dennis: I'm reading the byline on the book – "Biblical hope for resolving conflict."  Where did the hope come from for resolving this conflict, Judy?

Judy: Well, I guess I'd have to back up and say a little bit about what the Lord was doing in my life.  Would that be all right?

Bob: Yes.

Judy: First of all, I began to experience this anxiety, but so many things happened at once to really put me flat on my back spiritually, and I had never realized that in all of life I had never allowed myself to need or trust God in a very deep way. 

Several things hit all at once.  My ministry had just bought a new building, and I'd lost two key employees.  Two directors of two major divisions of the ministry left – one to Chicago for a church plant, and the other to California.  In the midst of that my husband had a terrible accident and was in the hospital for eight days, I was in the middle of working with a significant church split conflict of a very large church that was on the verge of a split, and my mother was having a hip replacement.  The order was my mother's hip replacement first; the next day the church pleaded and begged for help in the conflict; and the day after that my husband was in the hospital having run over his foot with the lawnmower.  So in the midst of that, within two more days my father-in-law began his final days on earth dying of lung cancer. 

So the combination of many things collided and, in the midst of all of that, the relationship with Tara, I had distanced myself, I wouldn't respond, I wasn't writing, and everything shut down.  It was a very, very difficult time, and so through the course of that, I began to learn some things.  Where did the hope come from?  The hope first came from me by being entirely hopeless, and I reached a place where it was the darkest time of my entire life.  I couldn't work, the perfectionist, highly driven person shut down.

Dennis: I heard Tara describe you as the most effective conciliator she's ever seen in helping other people resolve conflict.

Judy: It would have been nice if somebody had been able to help me, but at that point I would not allow myself to need another human being.  That came three months later.

Bob: You know, I've had this happen before – I'll be describing something that's frustrating in my own life, and my wife will say, "Well, if you were counseling somebody who expressed to you what you've just been expressing, how would you advise them?"  I hate when she does that, because when she does that, I can think of how I would advise that person, but I often don't want to take my own advice.  I hear your story, Judy, and I think, well, all of the stress points – I mean – you know, on that stress point scale thing that they've got?  You're up at the bubbling point.

Judy: Well, then my father died and a complaint was filed against me for very significant ministry mediation I had done several months prior, and I had to defend myself in a very serious complaint.  But no one knew what I was going through.

Bob: So that – if we're looking at what's the root of this conflict, part of the root of this conflict, and I'm not saying it's all here, because conflict is multi-faceted, but part of this is you were not letting people into your life.

Judy: That's right.

Tara: During the mediation, one of the things that broke my heart the most was I didn't know, and I hadn't been there for her as a friend.  And that's – I really wept, and even probably recently have wept over that.  You know, even just to send a card, to send flowers, to give a call, to drop an e-mail, just to be saying – but at that point the relationship was so broken, I wasn't a safe person for her.  I could not encourage her in that way.  And how sad that made me, and what a privilege now to be sitting with you, looking across the table at my friend knowing that I can drop her a card any day of the week, and it's going to be received with trust, because this is a miracle.  Broken relationships can be restored, that's the Gospel – our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  It is possible for relationships that seem irreparable; there is no hope in this life.  There is hope.  That is the ministry of the Gospel.

Bob: Not only can they be restored, but unlike – and I think you use this example – unlike a broken bone that can be reset but will always have some weakness, depending on the break.  In the case of relationships, when the relationship is reset, it heals stronger than it was before, doesn't it?

Judy: I remember the old commercial about Super Glue, and the break was stronger than any other part of the item that was repaired, and forgiveness is like that Super Glue – true forgiveness and reconciliation strengthens relationship beyond what you could ever have had previously.  And so our relationship can bear things now it never could before.

Dennis: Walk us through quickly, because we don't have a lot of time – walk us through quickly just the essence of what took place between you two, Judy.  I mean, you've mentioned forgiveness.  What else happened?

Judy: Understanding.  I had to make a choice, and I had two people actually intervene in my life and, for the first time, I found myself really needing.  But I had to make a choice if I would let Tara know me and understand who I was and what I had gone through.  And I remember I made the choice to do that regardless of the outcome because in peacemaking we are so gripped on the outcome, if the outcome is good, we've done it all right; if the outcome is bad somehow God is punishing us.  And I decided regardless of the outcome, I'd be faithful and obedient to what I knew to be true.

Bob: Why wouldn't you do that?  Why would somebody say, "No, I'm not going to let you get to know me and get to know my life?"  Is that just security, safety, protection, is that's what's going on?

Dennis: Well, I'm going to answer before Judy does, because I can tell you what's true of me.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: I want to be right.  I'm more interested in being right, many times, than understanding the other person.  It's nothing more than selfishness.

Tara: Vindication, we want vindication.

Dennis: I want a right judgment.  You know, I want justice here.  Okay, now, Judy, you can answer it, because you started to before I interrupted you.

Tara: Dennis, can I jump in really quick?  My pastor often says if we live for justice, we will die by justice.  But if we live for mercy, then we will die in the wonderful, merciful arms of the Savior, and that's a great reminder, especially in these conflicts, because if I'm demanding justice, then God have mercy on my soul.

Judy: Well, Dennis, for me it was exactly that, but there was a reason.  I wanted to be right more than anything, but the reason I wanted to be right is because what being wrong meant – to be wrong is to be abandoned, to be rejected, and to be completely lost.  And so there was much at stake – being wrong was death.

Bob: Now, I've got to step in here for just a second, and I know you asked the question of what else was there – forgiveness, and there was understanding that brought this relationship that was the Super Glue that set it back together.  We haven't really gotten to the fact that – and I'm just guessing, I'm just guessing, Tara, that in the midst of this conflict, maybe you were holding a high standard over Judy's head without being sympathetic to what might be going on in her life – maybe picking at her a little bit and nagging and, "Judy, you said you were going to do this, and you didn't do this, and we've got to be" – and you were just kind of holding her feet to the fire?

Tara: Well, you know, the idols that rule our heart – James 4:1 – "What causes fights and quarrels among you?  You want something, and you don't get it, and so you kill and you covet because you cannot have what you want."  And here I am, what do I want?  I want that book written, I want it written well and on time, and before that baby comes, that's right.

 So that is absolutely – and one of the things we talk about in the conclusion when we walk through the steps of the mediation – and this is true of any conflict – is repentance, repentance of our idols.  You know, those desires that we elevate to demands, and when you don't give me what I want, boy, you're going to pay.  See, that's the heartbeat of conflict.  We say, "I want, I will have, and if you don't give it to me, there is going to be punishment."  And it can be – even good desires can be elevated to demand.  It's not necessarily the thing you want, it's that we want it too much.  So, absolutely, Bob, in that conflict I have so much regret, except it's covered, it's bound over by the Lord.  I know that Judy has forgiven me, it's covered by God's grace, but if I could go back in time, how I wish I were the one person in Judy's life during that season that only sought to bless her.  Many times drivers, task-oriented people, we are so busy accomplishing our many, many Christian tasks that we leave hurting people in our wake.

 Judy used this illustration, and it's helped me numerous times, because unlike Judy, I haven't been known for being a loving person.  In fact, I'm sure there are many, many people who will say, "Tara?  Peacemaking?  You've got to be kidding," because I have been so focused on accomplishing the task that I have forgotten – if we accomplish great things, but we have not loved, we have accomplished nothing.

Bob: I imagine that many of our listeners, if they stopped and thought long enough, they can think of someone with whom they have had a conflict, and it's never been reconciled, it's never been resolved, that peace has never been made.  Typically, what happens in a situation like that is you just quit spending time together, you never address it, and it just festers.  And for the sake of your relationship with another person, for the sake of your own emotional and spiritual health, for the sake of the Gospel, this book, "Peacemaking Women" is a book that will help women in our audience, Dennis, work through those relationships and be purposeful about addressing them.

 We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can order a copy by going online at  You go to our website and click where it says "Today's Broadcast," that will take you right to a page where there is more information about resources that are available including this book.  And for moms who want to make sure that they are teaching these same kinds of principles to their children, we also want to recommend a series of comic books that Corlette Sandy has written that takes these principles and teaches them to children called "The Young Peacemaker," and there is information about that resource on our FamilyLife website as well.

 Again, it's, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," and you can order the book, "Peacemaking Women," or the "Young Peacemaker" material.  If you order both of those resources, we'll send at no additional cost the audio CD that features our conversation with Judy and Tara, and you can listen to that again or pass it along to a friend who would benefit from listening to it.   Again, the website, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY and just mention that you're interested in resources you heard us talking about on the radio, and there will be somebody who can help make sure we get those sent to you.

 One of the things that is encouraging for us here at FamilyLife is when we hear from listeners; when you take a few minutes and sit down and jot us a note, either put something in the mail or send us an e-mail and let us know how God is using the ministry of FamilyLife Today in your life.  And I wish you could see the number of e-mails that we get, the letters that we get from listeners all across the country.  It is very encouraging to know that God is at work through this radio program.

 And we also want to say thank you to those of you who are able to include a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today when you do get in touch with us.  We are listener-supported, so it's those donations that keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, and we appreciate your partnership with us in that endeavor.

 During the month of February, anybody who makes a donation of any amount, we want to invite you to request a message on CD from our friends, Jody and Linda Dillow.  It's a message about intimacy in marriage.  They were speaking at a FamilyLife event a few years ago and talked about "The Four Flames of Intimacy."  The message was very well received, and we want to make the CD audio of that message available to you when you make a donation of any amount during the month of February.  You can donate online at and when you do, as you are filling out the donation form, you'll see a keycode box.  Just write the word "Flame" in there, f-l-a-m-e, and we'll know you want the CD sent to you.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and, again, just mention that you'd like the CD you heard us talking about, and we'll be happy to send it to you, and let me say thanks in advance for your financial support.  We do appreciate, again, your partnership with us.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to talk about why resolving conflict is so important.  It's not just important for your emotional well-being or for the sake of your relationships.  There is something even more important at stake.  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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