Jeanne Takenaka

Have you ever considered what is often at the root of conflict?

I was talking with a friend recently about conflict. She shared some thoughtful observations. She had been studying James 4. In verse one it says:

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” describes conflict like this: 

“a struggle or clash between opposing forces; battle. a state of opposition between ideas, interests, etc; disagreement or controversy. a clash, as between two appointments made for the same time.”

Two young people engaged in a chess game. Sometimes the root of conflict shows up when competing against another

What is the root of most conflict? Right or wrong, conflict arises because we want something that’s different from someone else’s wants. When we try to talk this out, a “war” of sorts can happen. Or the war in our hearts spills into conversation with others.

The Root of Conflict—6 Practical How To's for Handling It—Right or wrong, conflict arises because we want something that’s different from someone else’s wants @JeanneTakenaka #tellhisstory #conflict #relationship Click To Tweet

When I’m at odds with one of my sons, our root cause of conflict often stems from me wanting something for them they don’t consider to be important. 

I may be the mom who’s fought with her kids about how much time they spend on screens. Research shows too much time devoted to their phones or laptops isn’t healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. My heart’s desire is that they thrive. 

Perhaps my definition of “thrive” differs from theirs. Even if my version of this word comes from research and life experience, there are effective and ineffective ways to deal with this sort of conflict

A young man standing on black rocks above a roiling ocean

If I push and try to control to get my way, what will be the end result? Momentary resentment from them and, if I continue, long-term distance. God continues to remind me that relationship is more important than winning and getting my way. 

The Root of Conflict—6 Practical How To's for Handling It— Relationship is more important than winning and getting our way. #tellhisstory #conflict #relationship Click To Tweet

Quick note: I’m not a licensed counselor. I’m sharing from a layperson’s perspective. At the end of this post are a couple of resources to help those who may be in abusive situations

Questions to ask to determine the root of conflict before engaging:

Regardless of the situation causing conflict, and with whom our conflict is, we first need to stop and evaluate our hearts

  • What’s motivating us to want what we do? 
  • Are our intentions pure? Will they honor Jesus?
  • Do we have selfish or self-serving reasons for what we want?
  • What is most important to us in this situation?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?

These questions can help us determine our root of conflict. If we can answer them honestly, God will help us to see if we have motives or mindsets that don’t align with Him. 

There are times when conflict must happen. First, though, let’s check our hearts before we enter a conflict situation. When conflict is necessary, let’s approach it humbly. 

Heart-shaped rocks in a random bowl. Often the heart condition is the root of conflict

Sometimes, our reason for bringing up a difficult topic in conversation with another is completely valid, but the way we do it can backfire. I’m learning with my sons and husband to do the following:

Tips for engaging wisely in conflict

We all want to handle conflict well. Here are six ways to engage in conflict.


I try to always ask God for His words, perspective, and wisdom in navigating the conversation

Determine if their current mood is conducive to resolving the conflict

Not that we give in to moods, but if one of my people has had a horrible day, this moment isn’t the best time to bring up one more difficult issue.

Try not to interrupt them . . .

when they’re in the middle of another activity. Even when my sones are gaming, I ask them to let me know when they’re at a stopping point. And then we talk.

Understand that, sometimes, the topic must be broached,

even if the other person doesn’t want to discuss it. In these circumstances, choose gentleness and humility to diffuse the other person’s strong emotions. Validate their emotions when it’s possible to do so.

Ask God to help us see the person through His eyes

Remember the ultimate goal of conflict isn’t to win.

It’s to restore relationship. Sometimes this means setting healthier boundaries. Also, each person involved in the conflict needs the opportunity to share their view on the situation.

Pages of the Bible shaped in a heart. God's word helps us work through our root of conflict

Most of us don’t enjoy conflict. But, conflict is a part of a relationship, so we must learn how to deal with the root of conflict and how to best work with our hearts when they are upset. When we’ve checked our hearts beforehand—and when we’ve checked our motivations at the door of relational wholeness—we’ll be able to approach those difficult conversations with a greater degree of grace, confidence, and intention.

What about you? What have you found is at the root of conflict for you? How do you deal with your heart when in a conflict situation?

I didn’t cover this in the post, but for women in abusive situations, here are a couple of resources:

What constitutes abuse?  Click here for relationship expert Leslie Vernick’s clear-cut guidance on what constitutes physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse.  And you can find help at The National Domestic Violence Hotline here

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