Conflict Resolution. When to stand firm and when to step aside.

family conflict

I hate conflict.

I always have. Whenever tension enters a situation, I squirm. I’m not sure why I have that reaction since I didn’t grow up in an argumentative home. I can probably blame being a perfectionistic people-pleasing first-born.

For years my children watched me “stuff.”

Any time there was conflict between their dad and me, I’d compromise: stuff my emotions and bite my tongue to keep the peace. Yes, I sometimes wondered if all that pressure might cause the hair to blow off my head, but I didn’t want to argue in front of my children. I figured stuffing was worth it to keep peace in the family.

After all, isn’t it good  to be a peacemaker? Jesus said we’d be called the sons of God (or daughters, in my case). I thought I was doing my part to be a happy camper, going along to get along.

It wasn’t until my children left home and became involved in relationships of their own that I realized I’d done them a huge disservice.

No matter how much you love someone you’re never going to see eye-to-eye with them all the time.

family conflict


In fact, you probably won’t see eye-to-eye with them half  the time! And having a different opinion isn’t unhealthy when it’s shared the right way:

Thoughtful words spoken in a respectful tone of voice.

Even with the niceness, I still have to decide when to stand my ground and when to step aside. Scripture points both ways: stand firm and prefer one another, so what’s the right balance?

I don’t know. Every situation is different but after 29 years of marriage I’ve discovered what works at Casa de Stilwell. It’s a series of questions:

  • Will this matter next week?

  • Will it matter next year?

  • Will it matter in 10 years?

Think about it: what issues really matter in life?

What we have for dinner? No.
Where we go on vacation? Probably not.
How to properly load the dishwasher? Hmm… that one’s debatable.

What does matter? Issues of character.

Good work ethic. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Few things are as irritating as a half-hearted attempt at something.

Faith. It’s not to say that someone who doesn’t have faith can’t have good character. But my experience is that a strong faith strengthens our character because it keeps us grounded in good times and bad.

Decisions that reflect integrity. Being honest. Admitting when you’re wrong. Apologizing. Making restitution. Asking for forgiveness. Extending forgiveness.

If the issue reflects character, I’m prepared to confront in a (hopefully) thoughtful and respectful way. If character isn’t in question, I’m happy to step aside and let the blessing of peacemaker fall on across my shoulders.

While I quietly rearrange the dishwasher.

Image Credit: Artur84,

Susan Stilwell

Susan Stilwell consults, writes and speaks on a variety of topics. Her clients appreciate her technical expertise and attention to detail on their websites, projects, and social media strategies. Technical "how-tos" are Susan's favorite articles to write. You can find her working as a blog designer and contributing writer at Fistbump Media. Susan also serves as a hospital chaplain associate and is a voracious scripture memorizer. She's a conference speaker and passionate expositor of God’s Word, and active on Twitter, Facebook, and

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One comment

  1. I couldn’t help but smile as I read about Casa de Stilwell. For the first 15 years of our marriage Brian encouraged me to “un-stuff” because it was the healthy thing to do. For the last 10 years, however, he doesn’t seem quite as concerned about my health. 🙂 It’s one time he wishes I’d not submitted so fully. ha! Great points in this post, Susan. Thank you.

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