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Conflict as a Natural Part of Life

with Rich Rollins | July 21, 2008

On today's broadcast, Rich Rollins, the executive pastor at Valley Bible Church in Hercules, CA, talks to Dennis Rainey about the inevitable threat of conflict that every relationship faces. Today, Rich reminds us that conflict is normal and that God uses it as part of our sanctification process.

On today's broadcast, Rich Rollins, the executive pastor at Valley Bible Church in Hercules, CA, talks to Dennis Rainey about the inevitable threat of conflict that every relationship faces. Today, Rich reminds us that conflict is normal and that God uses it as part of our sanctification process.

Conflict as a Natural Part of Life

With Rich Rollins
|
July 21, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: One of the lessons Rich Rollins had to learn early in his marriage was that leadership in the workplace and leadership on the home front can require two different approaches.

Rich: You know, I'm a take-charge person, I'm in a health care field where I have to hold my own with physicians and people who have great authority, and I would take that ability home and try to be the commander of my house, the sergeant of the household.

Without realizing that my wife, a tender woman that God gave me as a precious gift, was truly being abused.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 21st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  As a husband, as you interact with your wife, are you cherishing her or are you wounding her?  We'll talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I need to let our listeners know before we dive into what we're going to talk about today, Dennis, that this week and next week we have a special opportunity for FamilyLife Today listeners to make plans to attend one of our upcoming fall Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  We're going to be in dozens of cities all across the country this fall with our two-and-a-half-day conference that's held at a nice hotel in these cities – a great opportunity to get away as a couple, relax, refresh, enjoy the time together and, at the same time, learn what the Bible has to say about building a stronger marriage relationship.

This week and next week we're giving FamilyLife Today listeners an opportunity to register for an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and we're hosting these conferences in dozens of cities all across the country this fall at nice hotels.  It really is a great weekend away together where you can relax and refresh and learn more about what the Bible has to say about building a strong marriage.

And if you contact us either this week or next week to register for one of these upcoming conferences, you have the opportunity to save as much as $100 per couple off the entire Weekend to Remember package.  The details are on our website at FamilyLife.com.  If you go to the home page, on the right side of the screen, there is a box that says "Today's Broadcast."  You click to that box, and there will be a link there to a special area of the site where you can register for an upcoming conference, and there's a keycode on that registration form.  You need to type the word "Bob" in that keycode box.  They want you to use my name.  This is just for my friends that we're making this available.

So, again, go to FamilyLife.com, click on "Today's Broadcast," and click through to the special registration page for FamilyLife Today listeners or simply call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and mention you'd like the special offer for radio listeners or just mention my name and, again, you can save as much as $100 off the Weekend to Remember conference experience.  But we have to hear from you either this week or next week.  If you need more information about where the conference is being held, what weekend it's going to be in which location, you can find that on our website at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we really hope that many of our listeners will go ahead and register now and make plans to attend one of these upcoming conferences.  It really is a great weekend getaway.

Now, we want to talk today about the husband/wife relationship, and let me ask you, as we kick it off here, Dennis, can you think of a time when you have experienced what the Bible calls "the wounds of a friend" – somebody who pulled you aside and pointed out an area in your life that needed some work and where that's made a difference?

Dennis: Oh, yes, several times.

Bob: Yes?  What comes to mind?

Dennis: Oh, people who have come to me and have spoken the truth to me and done it enough, in a loving way, that I was able to hear it.

Bob: You're smiling.

[laughter]

Dennis: Well, I've been clobbered with the truth with a two-by-four and would necessarily say that they were all that gentle.  You know, Galatians, chapter 6, says "You who are spiritual restore such a one who is caught in a trespass with gentleness.

Bob: And you're not sure that every time your friends have come, they've been gentle?

Dennis: No, but that wasn't the point of your question.  The point of your question was have I ever been confronted and helped by that confrontation, and I look back over, you know, raising six children and being confronted by them, more than 35 years of marriage to Barbara …

Bob: And being confronted by her?

Dennis: Thank you, thank you for filling in the rest of that sentence.  Yes, that's correct.  And, frankly, Bob, you know, there's a Proverb that says "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  I think marriage can be one of the best sharpeners of a person known to man.

And we have a friend with us on the broadcast – Dr. Rich Rollins, who joins us on FamilyLife Today who I think is going to be a great encouragement to every person who either needs to be confronted or may need to confront another.  Rich, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Rich: Oh, it's great to be here.  Thank you for having me.

Dennis: Rich is the Executive Pastor of Valley Bible Church and – get this – are you ready for this – Hercules, California.  He's done that since 1989, and I have to ask you, where did Hercules get its name from?  Do you know?

Rich: Actually, I do.  The Hercules Powder Plant – they produced munitions during the war.

Dennis: How about that?  Well, Rich has a number of degrees, but one is a Doctorate of Ministry from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.  He has been married for more than 37 years, has two adult daughters and has authored a book called "Redeeming Relationships," subtitled, "How to Resolve 10 Common Conflicts and Reduce Their Frequency."  I can use that, I promise you.

Rich, you tell the story of how a friend came to you and confronted you, and I love your description.  You said you needed it because one friend described interacting with you like kissing …

Rich: … a spark plug.

Dennis: Yeah.

Rich: Yeah.  If I had to describe my life, I would say that I was on the fast track in a health care career and loving every moment of it and, in the process, losing my marriage over it.  And this friend was a seminary student I was in school with, but he was also my pastor.  And I was in a far country, and my wife was facing the possibility of our being divorced, and I came home one day, and she said she had called my best friend, and I complained that because he was my best friend, why would you call him?  And she said, "Well, he's my pastor."  And so I had breakfast every Monday morning with him, and he just cleaned my clock.

Dennis: I bet you really looked forward to that breakfast.

Rich: I was very angry when I went in there and very angry when I left, but God used that confrontation to literally change my life.

Bob: Now, some guys would hear about that best friend saying "I want to have breakfast," and they'd just say "I'm not interested, I'm not going." 

Rich: Well, I'd thought a lot about that, but I loved him; I knew that he loved me, and that's probably one of the most important qualities to have if you're going to confront somebody.  He'd earned the right to have the conversation.  I immensely respected him.  I hoped that I could argue him out of his position, but God used him to change my life.

Dennis: Did you argue with him?

Rich: I did.  I tried to give him every explanation as to why he didn't see the problem accurately, but he actually did see it accurately.  Like many of us, I wasn't willing to admit it until God began to take the conversation and really bear it down on me, and as He bore into my heart, I realized that Dave was really right.

Dennis: Proverbs 27:6 says, "The wounds of a friend bring healing."

Rich: Yes.

Dennis: I like the healing part, I don't care for the wound.  Tell us how he wounded you, specifically what did he confront you with?

Rich: He had heard from my wife that there was another woman in the picture.  There really was not another woman – there were a lot of other people, and there was a job taking my life and my attention completely away from my wife.  And I was amazed how accurate – he had every detail in place – all the names right, all the times right, all the places right.  It irritated me, because I realize he'd really been listening to my wife, something I hadn't been doing for a long time. 

And as I began to explain, "Well, you don't understand."  He said, "Well, then, help me understand this," and he would give me something else, and it just began to build like a building.  And by the time we were through, I realized that the evidence was so huge that if I were in a courtroom, I'd be immediately convicted.

And then I had begun to listen to myself over the last year, year and a half and began to believe the stuff I was telling myself and ignoring the reality of where I was.

Dennis: Had you been abusive to your wife verbally?

Rich: Yes.  I think in ways that guys do, you know, I'm a take-charge person, I'm in a health care field where I have to hold my own with physicians and people who have great authority, and I would take that ability home and try to be the commander of my house, the sergeant of the household without realizing that my wife, a tender woman that God gave me as a precious gift, was truly being abused by my language, the words I picked, the way I would put her in the corner emotionally, exclude her from my life.  It was one of the areas that Dave had honed in on – how can I love my wife the way Christ loves the church and act this way?

Bob: You said you were close to the end of your marriage.  Did you realize it at the time?

Rich: Oh, yes.  I had planned to move my wife and kids up into a home my dad owned in the mountains as a second home.  We were preparing to make that move.

Bob: And you were good with that?

Rich: I was very good with it.  In fact, I was so good with it that when I met with my dad, who was a tremendous, godly man, and told him what I was doing, he informed me that he was on my wife's side, and I said, "Well, but I'm your son."  He said, "Well, you're not acting like my son," and he said, "You're wrong here."  He said, "I have Bible for it, and we're on your wife's side," and that was just one more – that happened two days after my conversation with David, and it was one more reminder of how far you can be, how prodigal you can be without ever even knowing it.

Dennis: So what did you do with David's counsel?

Rich: Well, I pouted for probably a week and a half.

Dennis: Did you punish her as you pouted?

Rich: No, I went silent, and if you knew me, that probably wasn't punishment.

[laughter]

Dennis: So she probably welcomed the silence, huh?

Rich: Yeah, she, probably for the first time in 10 years of marriage had a moment to take a breath.  But I do remember a week and a half of just being angry with my parents, being angry with David, and sitting in a parking lot in the hospital for a couple of hours, and I remember looking over into my glove compartment of my car, and there was my Bible, and it had been some time since I'd been in my Bible. 

I remember taking the Bible out and thinking to myself, "You know, I've studied this Bible, I've been a seminary student, I don't even know where to start here."  And God just reduced me to tears, and then I remember going back and sitting down with Luana and apologizing and repenting and saying, "You know, I've been wrong.  It's not you.  It's not anything about you, it's all about me."

And God began that process of not only healing our marriage but beginning to change my focus.  I realized that my job had become my mistress and that my wife was taking second seat to everything.  The most important thing in my life was my job not my wife, and I had to change that.  And so we began praying, ironically, independently for a year that God would somehow lead us into full-time ministry because we could not continue to exist in this format.  I just could not live here.

Bob: Rich, for your friend Dave to call you and say, "Let's go have breakfast, I've got some things I want to talk to you about," I know you weren't looking forward to that breakfast, but I'm guessing Dave wasn't looking forward to that breakfast, either.

Rich: Oh, no.  One of the things I've learned over the years is that if you're a strong leader, you're not easy to confront, and I've been always difficult to confront.  I think one of the things that strong personalities can do is to gather around them everyone who is in their life and give them permission to have that conversation because sometimes people are out there waiting for the opportunity to have that conversation, but they're fearful to have it because we're so strong.  And to say to them, "You know what?" – and I still do this with my staff at the church – I sit down with them, and I say, "Now, you know I'm a strong person, and I'm not easy to confront, but I want to give you permission today that if you see something in my life that really needs to be addressed or changed, I give you permission to have that conversation.  I desperately need it."

And I think when you give that permission, you'll get it.  You'll get it from people that don't know what they're talking about; you'll get it from people you don't want to hear from, but you'll get it from the people you need to hear from, and they are the people that will change your life.

Bob: What he did by taking you out to breakfast and confronting you took courage.  It demonstrated real love for you, kindness toward you, and yet who wants to do that?  I mean, every impulse in me would be, "Oh, man, I don't want to go have this breakfast, and I don't want to get Rich mad at me, and I'd just rather let this thing go."

Rich: Exactly, and that's why we do let it go, many times.  And then we see the aftermath of it and regret having not said something, yes.

Dennis: Wouldn't you say, for a wife who is caught in a situation like this, she has to call on other male resources outside that marriage to step into that man's life?

Rich: Exactly.  In fact, I think that there is some theology that's incorrect that we teach in the church today about this whole area.  She might not say anything because she might think that it's not submissive to say anything.  And she might believe in that concept of submission that says that I'm passive, compliant, and I do whatever I am told to do.

And I don't believe the Word of God teaches that.  I think she is that person's life partner, and she has the responsibility to step up and to make it public.  What happens in our homes is we want to keep it private, and in keeping it private, it's never dealt with.

Dennis: Case in point – had you been sorry for what you had said to her in times past and apologized to her for hurting her?

Rich: Oh, absolutely.

Dennis: But it ultimately didn't make the difference that your close friend did coming to you and realizing you know what?  Your sin had been exposed, your shame was on the table, now someone outside the marriage who could hold you accountable?

Rich: Right.  But I think there are a group of men out there who may be where the Lord wants them to be and have learned the wrong way of relating to their wives, and a good conversation from their wife at the right time in the right moment can make that difference – that those men – they need to hear it first from their wife.  I think what's a mistake is for a woman never to say anything to her husband; to never stand up to that, and then to go around him and remove his dignity by going to someone else and, he, for the first time, then, hears he's got a problem from someone he should have not heard it from.

Bob: Let's talk about some of the reasons why people don't confront one another.  We have some misconceptions when it comes to this issue of confrontations.  In some cases, we think it's unspiritual to confront other people, right?

Rich: I think so.  I think it goes deeper than that.  I think we have taught for years in the church that disagreement is sin, and when I disagree with you that somehow I am doing the wrong thing, and I think the problem that we have, it's not the disagreement it's how we disagree.  I think the sin comes to play with, many times, how we have the conversation.  I think we really do believe in the myth that every relationship can be happy without any conflict.

I do a lot of premarital counseling, a lot more when I was at the college and Marty, the co-author, he does a ton of it today.  And we always laugh when we get to that section about resolving conflict, and you look at the couples, and half of them honestly believe they'll never have a conflict.

And so it's a lesson that we've decided we'd defer until after they've been married six months, and we're open to the phone call and we, inevitably, will get the phone call – "He doesn't love me," "She doesn't love me," "We fight all the time."  Now they're really interested in the information.

That's born out of that myth that we really believe that a great couple, a great relationship, will never have conflict, and we believe that's just not true.

And I think also that we believe that we can actually grow without a little stress and tension in our life.  We don't understand that God's in the business of making us like His Son, and He does that sometimes by the people around us and by that tension and that dialog and that confrontation, I am profoundly a better person today not only in my marriage but in the way I look at life because of the confrontations that people have had with me in my life.

Bob: Some folks, though, look at this whole issue of conflict, and they think, you know, frankly, it's just easier to live with the problem and just adjust myself than to have the confrontation.  In every kind of confrontation, we are putting our relationship at risk.

Rich: Exactly.

Bob: If this confrontation doesn't go well, we could do damage to a relationship that might never be able to be repaired.

Rich: Well, I think that's true if we don't follow the basic rules of confronting people.  I think when you abandon rules, and you just do it from the seat of your pants, I think you can really ruin relationships.  But I believe if you pray about it, if you couch your confrontation from a biblical standpoint, if you really have insight and a heart for them and for their best, I believe that, in the short run, you may, in fact, lose what appears to be a relationship but ultimately will come back and be a relationship that will blossom.

Bob: Your friend, David, put his relationship with you at risk …

Rich: Exactly.

Bob: When he took you out to breakfast but, ultimately, it strengthened the bond, didn't it?

Rich: And I would still count him as one of my best friends.

Dennis: You know, you spoke of the rules of engagement around conflict, and I actually referred to the passage that I think is one of the classics in the New Testament, Galatians, chapter 6.  Paul writes, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression" – anyone, a spouse, a child, a family member, a friend – "if anyone is caught in any transgression you, who are spiritual, should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."

Rich: Yes.

Dennis: You know, if you just unpacked …

Bob: Keep going – "restore him in a spirit of gentleness, taking heed."

Dennis: Yes, "Keep watch on yourself lest you, too, be tempted."

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: And then it goes on to say, "Bear one another's burdens, for if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: So it really talks a lot about before you confront another person, you go underground in your own soul, and you weight your own life before you confront another person.  And then after there has been a healthy time of spiritual introspection, you then go to the person in a spirit of gentleness.

Rich: Yes.

Dennis: Now, here is the question for you – the person who is receiving the rebuke – what would you coach him or her to do as they receive that correction?

Rich: Well, obviously, they need to listen.  It's really interesting – we just took a survey among a number of couples at the church, and I asked the question, "How do you know when you're loved?"  And 90 percent of them answered, "When I'm listened to."  So I think the person has to truly listen, and they have to see the heart and the maturity of the person who is saying it, and they need to see that their best interests are really at hand here.  Now, it's not someone that is just beating them up, but it's someone who truly cares for them.  The word "to restore" there is the same word that's used for resetting a bone.  And it is a great illustration that when people are in desperate need, if you come alongside of them, and you show them that you care for them and that you love them and that there is a biblical principle involved here, I am amazed how often they will listen.

Now, they may not change immediately, but you've planted the seed.

Dennis: And anyone who has been near the resetting of a bone know that the moment is incredibly painful, but it's the beginning of the healing process, and what we have to realize is that the resetting of that bone enables that limb to grow straight and not to be crooked, and that's our assignment, Bob, I think, as we face difficult circumstances in relationships, we need to have the goal being forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.

Bob: Right, and I don't know anybody – well, maybe I know a few people who find some delight or some pleasure in that bonesetting moment, you know, they kind of think of it gleefully, but most of us look at it and go, "I don't want to be around when that happens."  But it is a profoundly loving thing to confront.

Dennis: It is.

Bob: And, ultimately, if we're going to have a real relationship with somebody else, we have to press into some of these issues, and Rich's book on this subject, which is called "Redeeming Relationships," is a helpful guide to pressing into this kind of conflict and getting the bone set right so that the relationship can grow and be strong again.

We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if our listeners are interested in getting a copy, they can go to our website, FamilyLife.com.  On the right side of the home page there is a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and you click where it says "Learn more."  That will take you to a page where you can find out more about Rich's book, and you can order a copy of it from us online, if you'd like.

Again, the title of the book is "Redeeming Relationships," and our website is FamilyLife.com.  You can also call to order at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team will let you know how you can have a copy of this book sent out to you.

And then when you get in touch with us, don't forget that as a FamilyLife Today listener, you have an opportunity to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference this fall in one of dozens of locations all across the country, and we're making a special offer available to our listeners this week and next week only.  You can save up to $100 per couple off the complete Weekend to Remember package, but we have to hear from you.  You have to register this week or next week in order to take advantage of those savings.

So, again, go to our website, click where it says "Learn More" about "Today's Broadcast," and you'll find a link there that gives you all the details about the special offer.  You could register online, if you'd like, and if you do that, type my name in the keycode box.  Type in the name "Bob" and that will make you eligible for this special offer, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, and, again, just mention my name or mention that you're a radio listener, and you will save up to $100 per couple off the entire Weekend to Remember package.  But to qualify, you have to register either this week or next week.

So either give us a call or go online to take advantage of this special offer and plan to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference this fall when it comes to a city near where you live.

Now, tomorrow we're going to continue to talk about conflict in relationships, and we want to talk about what happens when the things that used to just delight you about one another – those quirky little differences wind up getting on your nerves, starting to annoy you.  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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