How to Overcome and Prevent Arguments and Conflicts

heart condition

Picture by Romi – Pixabay

How many of us can honestly say that in the past month, week or even day that we’ve never been upset or angry or that we’ve been totally free of conflicts? I know that I certainly couldn’t say that. The bible is pretty clear about the cause of the arguments, conflicts and fights and it gives some great advice in regard to overcoming them.

What causes the arguments? James was quite clear about the cause, in just a few words. James 4:1 says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

Notice that he doesn’t say that there is anything wrong with having desires. We all have them. The desires battle within us, though, when those desires become more important to us than God and God’s desires. When our focus becomes the desire, we are setting ourselves up for trouble.

When God is the most important thing in our hearts, the desires are controllable and controlled. When the desires start pushing God out of our hearts, the desires begin to control our words and actions. This means that our arguments are a result of a heart condition. Our hearts can’t serve two masters.

The hard pill to swallow is that when we feel anger, resentment, conflict and other negative emotions, we are responsible. Let that sink in a moment. The cause of the problem isn’t the circumstance but rather the condition of our hearts.

Understanding this and accepting it is extremely hard, but it is the first step toward overcoming the strife of conflict. This is something that I personally struggle with. I can’t say how many times I’ve lashed out verbally and later regretted it. For instance, I take pride in the work I’ve done on the church flowerbeds. If someone told me that they looked bad, I’d take it as a personal insult and would likely at least think about some choice things to say, even if I never said them.

How about this; you are driving to an appointment and you’re late. Everyone in front of you seems to be moving at a snail pace. Have you ever caught yourself saying something like, “Come on, move! Don’t you know that I have someplace that I need to be?” Even if you’ve only thought the words and never said them, you should be able to see that they are nonsense. It isn’t as if the thoughts or words will get you to your appointment any faster than being mild and patient would. However, it does give insights into why you or I often feel frustrated in such a situation. Remember, it isn’t the circumstance that causes the feelings. It is a heart condition.

Luke puts it this way in Luke 6:45:

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Pay special attention to the last 10 words of that scripture. If your heart is filled with God, good things will proceed from your mouth. If it is filled with your desire, your thoughts, words and actions won’t be good. Poorly chosen or spoken words are usually the beginning of an argument or disagreement. Thus, and despite the fact that I dislike absolute statements, all arguments and disagreements come from having the wrong focus in your heart!

This isn’t hard to understand or even to accept. It is far harder to change. The reason is that in order to resolve our arguments, conflicts and disagreements, we much change our hearts. That is hard to do. Indeed, only through help from God can it be done, so we need to pray for His help in this. This is also a truth for everyone who ever feels frustration or finds themselves in a disagreement. It is as true for a Pastor as it is for someone who has only started to study the bible. None of us is exempt.

The world likes to play the blame-game, always trying to blame other people and circumstances for how we feel. When we realize that our negative feelings don’t come from circumstances but from our hearts, we put ourselves in a position to do something about it. Yes, it does mean that we take ownership of our emotions and it means taking responsibility for them. However, it is also liberating to not blame circumstances and to put the cause of the problem squarely where it belongs; in our heart and heart condition.

This has very practical applications, too. A few days ago, I was getting ready to grind up the ingredients for some zucchini relish. The recipe calls for, among other things, zucchini, bell peppers and onions. I bought the bell peppers and onion last week, specifically so I could make the relish. I started getting the ingredients out and discovered that the onion was missing. I looked everywhere for it, while becoming more and more agitated. Finally, I asked my wife if she knew where I might have misplaced the onion.

She said, “Oh, I used the onion in dinner two nights ago. Remember?”

Remember? I wasn’t standing there when she used the onion. I specifically bought that onion so I could make the sweet relish. What in the world was she thinking? How dare she use MY onion! She should have known better. My relish would be ruined and she did it on purpose!

Do you see the progression if I let the desire (to make the relish) take center stage in my heart? I’ve been guilty of letting things progress in exactly this way.

What did I do in this instance? I told my wife that I’d forgotten about it being used in the dinner and that the dinner turned out very well and that I hoped she made that dish again in the future, some time. I then drove the short distance to the store and got another onion, before proceeding to make the relish. A war of words didn’t ensue, neither my wife or I got angry and something worthwhile got accomplished. As an extra benefit, my wife appreciated the compliment on her dinner (which really was good) and to show that she appreciated it, she helped me make and can the relish.

What was the difference between how I might have formerly acted and how I acted by following my own advice above? I recognized that my budding anger wasn’t about my wife and it couldn’t be about a circumstance, so it had to be a heart condition. Once I realized that, I took ownership and responsibility of my feelings and resolved the issue, while leaving God firmly in place in my heart.

Oh, and the little thing about complimenting my wife on the dinner in which she used the onion? “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” My heart was full of God, and as the bible says, God is love. (1 John 4:8) So a loving compliment came quite naturally.

Will I always be able to do this? As much as I would like to and pray that I will, it’s doubtful. I’m as flawed as anyone reading this. I’m also mindful of the fact that any time we let anything at all other than God take center stage in our hearts, it becomes idolatry and we know what the bible says about idolatry.

Still, this really works and it is the way to avoid arguments and conflict. This is probably the most important thing I’ve ever said in an article or post, and it comes right down to this: Circumstances don’t create conflicts. Conflicts are always, always caused by a heart condition. Do you have a heart condition?




  • Comments

    1. Profile photo of Vickie Ewell
      Vickie Ewell

      I loved this article! Anger paralyzes us to act responsibly. It really does. You said that beautifully. Believing and acting on unloving thoughts would have only prevented you from going to the store and solving the problem. I love the idea of stopping before we respond to what’s going on in our environment and checking our heart’s condition. It was just an onion. Something easily fixable.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        Thank you. This is important to Christians especially, but really to everyone. It is an even more pointed way of saying that our emotions will either control us or we will control them. Lots of people know the truth of that, but fewer have figured out why that is. It explains a lot of things. Literal wars start with words and words are important. Choosing the right words, though, are contingent on a person’s heart condition and I don’t know of any self-help books or articles that put it all more plainly than the bible does. We can’t change until we admit that there is a problem and know what the cause is. That is why I said that this is the most important thing I’ve ever said. If it helps even one person, it is so worth it!

    2. Profile photo of Andria Perry
      Andria Perry

      I am the calm one in my relationship, he is a hot head. I told him just today, “let me handle this quietly.” No, he did not listen but it worked out anyways.

      I know I am not perfect and I do not try to be, I also understand that no one is any better than anyone else.

      I have learned to walk away and let it be, I don`t need to be stressed out all the time.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        It can at times be very difficult to take ownership of our emotions, though, Angie. I am living proof of that. It is difficult to understand that our anger is never…NEVER…caused by circumstances. It is always caused by the condition of our hearts. People who ignore that fact often find themselves using excuses. Often they even know that the excuses aren’t true. “I wouldn’t have slammed the door if you hadn’t told me that my clothes looked dirty.” Huh? Obviously there is no connection between the two actions, yet every single one of us is occasionally guilty of this sort of thing and knowing that anger isn’t caused by circumstances, it gives us a way to take corrective action rather than letting it escalate.

        This is something I’m going to really need to work on. If I can, with God’s help, I know that I’ll be a better person and a lot better to be around. It won’t be easy, but it WILL be necessary, if I want to grow into the person I want to be.

    3. Profile photo of Sandy KS
      Sandy KS

      I am trying to teach my daughter to think positive in all situations. As she is quick to anger, judge and accuse. I find myself falling in to that trap at times. I understand she has mental issues and sometimes can’t help it.

      Tonight my boyfriend asks me to make him a sandwich to take on one of his towing jobs. The trip is long. I started making it but had my daughter help. As my neck is out. My boyfriend asked for pickles to be placed on his sandwich. I jokingly told him he was lucky. As there was one left after my daughter eating pickles. Wow, did that turn out all wrong. My daughter argued she did not eat any pickles. I put my head down and sighed. As she was eating pickles earlier. I had to point that out to her. I meant it as a joke. She took it the wrong way and thought she would be in trouble.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        Yep, that is a good example of how desires can quickly get the best of us. It sounds like she felt guilty about giving into her desires (to eat the pickles) and her expectations were that she’d get in trouble for it. She didn’t see that it was a joke because of her guilt and since she had no circumstance to blame it on (and we know that circumstances can’t cause the problem), she tried to cover for herself by saying that she hadn’t eaten any, even though she did.

        This shows how something that is extremely minor, in retrospect, can blow up into a three alarm fire. I would have been so much better for everyone if she’d just said that she got hungry and the pickles looked good. Perhaps you could have simply told her that you were just joking and that nobody was upset about her eating pickles.

      2. Profile photo of Sandy KS
        Sandy KS

        That is exactly how I handled it. I waited to she calmed down and explained it was only a joke. That she did nothing wrong. That was why I smiled when I said she ate the pickles. That she was welcomed to all the pickles she wanted. Sometimes she does not understand humor. Sometimes I forget this.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        It is also extremely helpful to realize that the cause of the disagreement is the desires everyone has, and to identify those desires, before even starting the discussion.

    4. Profile photo of
      Jacky Hughes

      I enjoyed reading this and shall think about it as I drive to London today. I am fairly calm most of the time,but alays end up getting cross with bad drivers even if they have no idea. God does.. So lovely to hear the onion incident was resolved in such a sensible way.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        I think we all find ourselves in situations like that when we don’t really think about why we are getting frustrated or what we can do about it. That is very easy to do in traffic, too. It is quite enlightening when we remember Luke 6:45, though. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. That is very powerful stuff!

    5. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne

      You know, I think it’s admirable that you realized you had a choice and that you chose to compliment your wife before heading out to buy another onion. Of course, the whole inner battle between God and desire could have been avoided rather simply by telling your wife about your intentions to make the relish when you brought the ingredients home from the store – or even by asking her right away about the onion when you didn’t find it.

      It may be a Pagan thing, but it seems that sometimes people look for a spiritual cause to a problem when such a minor crisis could have been easily averted by a little communication.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        My wife did know why I bought the onion in the first place and I repeated it after we got home, because I’d been talking about making the relish. She even got out the jars. When she cooked the dinner, she really wasn’t thinking about it. If she had, she’d have simply asked me to go get another onion for dinner. When I couldn’t find the onion, I honestly thought I’d put it somewhere that I shouldn’t have. I have a tendency of doing things like that. The circumstances obviously weren’t an issue. Nobody was at fault. However, it really is spiritual because the conflict would have come directly from what we allowed to reside in our hearts.

        We really are talking about communication, too. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Combine that fact with the fact that there is always more than one way to say anything and the situation could have gotten ugly in a hurry. Still, it is quite spiritual, too. So often when I do my daily reflections, I realize that the times when I’m most filled with love, peace, tranquility, calmness and joy is when I’m also most aware of God and my thoughts and feelings are on Him. The deceiver would clearly like me to think something else and to put doubts in my mind when there really isn’t any doubt, but even when he tries to do that, the doubts evaporate when I think about what my thoughts and feelings were when I felt the love, peace, tranquility, calmness and joy. 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        Yes. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. When our emotions begin to get churned up, we start losing our restraint and control of our tongues, so our true feelings come out. If our hearts are filled with love, that will show in what we say and do. If our hearts are filled with this world and the petty problems of this world, that will also show. Very often, even a good person will find areas in their own hearts that they need to work on.

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