contention

The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Avoidance doesn't resolve conflict

Helpful interview with Chad Ford of BYU-Hawaii here:

https://religionnews.com/2020/11/25/how-do-mormons-deal-with-conflict-and-faith-crises-avoidance-doesnt-work-expert-says/

Excerpts:

How do Mormons deal with conflict and faith crises? Avoidance doesn’t work, expert says

Step One, says Chad Ford, is to let go of the fear of conflict, and recognize that conflict itself is not sinful. But for Mormons steeped in both niceness and hierarchical leadership structures, that may be hard to achieve.

RNS: You say in the book that when we fear conflict and go to great lengths to avoid it, we damage our ability to solve problems. This of course made me think of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because I feel like we do a lousy job of even acknowledging problems. It’s like any disagreement is bad because it’s considered “contention.”

Ford: It’s called conflict avoidance — sweeping something under the rug, pretending it isn’t there. It’s wearing a mask that on the outside looks pure and holy. This is a consistent theme you hear again and again from Latter-day Saints, this idea that conflict is of the devil. That there is something unholy and shameful about conflict, and if I was really holy, I wouldn’t experience it.

That’s really self-defeating. If there is conflict in my life or in my family or community, I don’t want the world to know that....

RNS: So how should Latter-day Saints approach conflict?

Ford: Step 1 is to let go of our fear of conflict. It’s recognizing that conflict, in and of itself, isn’t sinful.

There’s this romanticism in our faith that if we’re of one heart and mind, our needs should always be the same. Instead, where we’re trying to go is actually a partnership, where I have to be present with my own needs at the table as well as be present with your needs. And it’s OK when our needs and dreams don’t always align. That’s natural and normal. There’s nothing sinful about having different needs or desires. How do we find a higher way to pursue them?

If you can convince people that 1) conflict doesn’t have to be inherently evil and destructive, and 2) that it’s OK to pursue my own needs and for them to pursue theirs, then conflict loses much of its mystery and scariness and becomes a problem-solving exercise...

RNS: What are your areas of concern when it comes to members who are struggling?

Ford: I’ll start with faith crisis. As a university professor working with young Latter-day Saints, many are going through a faith crisis. Think about our unhealthy approaches: We ignore it, we hide it. This makes young people afraid to talk about it with their friends or parents. Parents may feel shame about it.

So we start mistreating each other: we’re not open to their questions and concerns, and we don’t create space to have collaborative problem-solving. We think there’s something inherently wrong with asking questions, instead of seeing questions as a way to go deeper with faith. I see this all the time with my students and in my own family....

 

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