In this week’s episode, Carrie is joined by Dr. Janine Davis, an expert in conflict psychology and biblical conflict resolution to discuss how to handle conflicts in a healthy way, emphasizing the importance of self-reflection and grace in resolving relationship challenges.
- How to navigate relationship challenges with grace and understanding.
- The practical wisdom of the Peace Pursuit model for resolving conflicts.
- The role of self-reflection in achieving genuine peace in relationships.
- Strategies for fostering open communication in difficult conversations.
- Practical steps to promote forgiveness and reconciliation in conflicts.
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Episode 110 (1)
Carrie: Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD episode 110. A lot of what we talk about on our show is healthy relationships, as well as reducing shame and increasing hope for people who are dealing with anxiety and OCD, we wanna say Happy New Year to everyone as this is coming out on January 3rd. Here on the show with me today, I have Dr. Janeen Davis, who is of Purpose and Peace Solutions. She does a variety of different things, so I’ll let her tell a little bit more about herself and what she does.
Janeen: Thank you, Carrie, for the intro. And yeah, Purpose and Peace Solutions is hopefully aptly named. Because in all the different ways that I work with people these days, I think that does reflect the heart of what we’re after.
I do a lot of what I call member care counseling these days, and that’s because that’s the term that we often use overseas. And on the mission field, when we’re working with people overseas, we call it member care. And I’m not sure why we call it that other than that. A lot of times we’re dealing with everything that life throws at us.
There’s no parameters, there’s no insurance companies, like, we’re not dealing with things in that way. We’re dealing with people living cross culturally, might be struggling with how to secure a visa to continue living in their country, or wrestling with their call to ongoing overseas ministry, or wrestling with anxiety, depression, OCD or really acute traumatic events that they go through. And so because it just runs the gamut of situations and ages and family, individual ministry teams, all that stuff, we just call that member care. And that is really a lot of what I’ve been doing. Well, that’s primarily what I’ve been doing for the past more than a decade.
I’ve been doing overseas ministry myself and living in Asia since 2007, actually. But shifting into a member care focused role, and then supervising a team of member care providers throughout all of Asia, that’s been my life for so long, that when I got stuck in America, because I had to evacuate during COVID, It didn’t occur to me to change that framework of just really like holistic care and looking at people’s what does life look like on the ground for you, what is your local situation like, what’s your family situation like, as well as the maybe specific thing that they’re expressing need for and asking for help for.
So I do a lot of that. That’s just one answer. That’s just one part of it. But kind of introducing that term, I feel like is maybe necessary because it’s oftentimes just associated with overseas work and I brought that to where I am now based out of Nashville, but still providing care full time for overseas cross cultural people working in ministry around the world.
My work schedule is crazy. I usually start at 5:30 or 6:00am with sessions because of time zone stuff.
Carrie: Yes, wow. How did you become interested in helping Christians on the mission field resolve conflict? Was this something that you had encountered a lot or you had seen this was a common occurrence, something that people were bringing into their time with you?
Janeen: I like the way you phrased that because you’re including so many components that were so relevant. I didn’t even say the thing about conflict resolution, but that did arise out of my work in a cross cultural ministry context because, well, I’ll say it like this, we can see a correlation between interdependence and conflict potential.
So what I mean by that is the more that we depend on other people for like our basic needs or basic core aspects of our life, the more there is potential for conflict. And that is particularly true on the mission field, where sometimes there’s only one other family in your village who speaks English.
Our need for one another to kind of be our whole social support in the way that we want it is really high when options are limited. The more that we need another person who didn’t necessarily sign up to be our best friend or to like to play board games at night to decompress or whatever, like they didn’t necessarily sign up for that.
And yet if we come to them with those expectations, then it just increases the opportunity for conflict. And that’s just the lighthearted things. In my experience working overseas. Of course, we see the full gamut of the human experience. People are going to struggle with things regardless of where they’re living and working.
But we also see conflict arise in a way that’s really problematic and distracting and destructive for this kind of work. Because if people can’t be in right relationship with one another, then how can they even really claim to be disciples of Christ? I mean, Jesus said, don’t know, they’ll know you’re my disciples if you have love for one another in John 13:35. So that’s really a big deal and something that we have to work through. We can’t do ministry together if we’re not speaking, you know, there’s tension. Everybody feels that. So in my experience, conflict has been the most difficult or even untreatable issue, across the board and that’s partly because of its commonality and I just say that like as a general rule. My member care team and I would understand that when conflicts got really severe to the point that leadership or management. However, you want to think about it.
We’re reaching out for help with mediation or something. They would want us to show up and help these people fix their problems like help them resolve their conflict It’s the one thing that I really didn’t want anything to do with, because we don’t have a gold standard of treatment for conflict. We don’t have a specific standard approach that consistently produces positive outcomes for relational conflict.
And ultimately, seeing that pattern and seeing that problem, but also seeing how persistent this is, like in the human experience, It influenced the direction of my doctoral research in looking at, like, where does conflict come from? We need to have a better standard understanding of the nature of conflict so we can more effectively treat the right thing.
Because I think part of the reason conflict is so difficult to resolve is we’re often trying to fix the wrong thing. So all of that to say that it was a huge problem because conflicts constantly arise, and it’s extremely destructive in a ministry context where we are relying heavily on one another for work, for personal needs, for social needs, for kids, for adults.
And so we have to find a way to work this out. We can’t just part ways. We can’t just be like, I’ll just go to a church down the street. I don’t have to deal with you anymore. We have to deal with each other. We had to come up with something that worked, and we weren’t able to find it until I came across some materials called Peace Pursuit that had been circulating in the global ministry world for a long time.
And when I got my hands on those materials, I could see that it was a systematic, really action oriented, measurable process of working through conflict in a way that addresses conflict in different terms than I’d ever seen. And it would clearly, clearly produce new positive outcomes and I started using it in my organization consistently as in 100 percent of the time for the first year I was being called in to deal with really significant conflicts that had been going on a long time and using this model 100 percent of the time we would measure the success really thrilling.
So my passion for this ongoing work of helping people get this tool in their hands, know how to use it effectively and just know how to find peace in their own hearts, in their own lives from relational hurt and from wounds from the past in this way has come out of seeing it as a really huge need previously without a good solution on what we would call on the mission field or in an overseas context. And so now I’m working in the States and have the privilege of getting to do a lot of training for ministries and for overseas organizations or local ministries in the States that want to help their staff or church staff or just local, any kind of office setting in a Christian context, equip their personnel or their staff with a really specific process of how to resolve conflicts well and reach peace. No matter what.
Carrie: What I like about it is that it really starts the conflict resolution process with you and God really praying, examining what is my part in this, is as you said, a lot of times we’re trying to solve the wrong thing, like we want to come to the conflict table and try to get that other person to change. But we don’t have control over that other person and what they’re doing. And ultimately, God is the one that can speak to their heart and soften them and open them up towards resolution as well. I mean, that’s the spiritual component is very important there, I think, for people to recognize and understand. And then there’s also this element of you have different, I’ll call it a pathway. I don’t know if that’s what you would call it, but there’s a different pathway depending on if you feel like you’re the person that’s offended. if you feel like you’ve possibly offended someone else, or say you’re a third party mediator and you’re not actually involved in the conflict.
And so there’s different systematic steps for each, depending on who you are in the conflict, to go through. And I like that a lot because it’s very practical and step by step oriented.
Janeen: I think it’s great because you’ve clearly looked at these peace pursuit materials. That’s what you’re describing is this peace pursuit model of conflict resolution, we would say, It does start you out with a couple of things that are very, very unique that I’ve not seen in other models addressing this one is first asking people, do you want to resolve a relational problem? And the reason that that question is so, so important is because as we start to unpack it, because initially people will just say, yes, of course, that’s why I’m here.
Yes, of course I do. But then you already pointed it out. We want to do that by having the other person change or something like that. We want to do that by receiving the apology that we know that we are due, possibly, and that is the kind of mentality that keeps us stuck in conflicts when everyone else involved isn’t cooperating with our definition of peace.
We have to really start checking our hearts right from the beginning with that question and realize it’s really challenging us to reflect. Do I want peace or do I want to win?
Carrie: And that is a very good question.
Janeen: It’s a gut wrenching question. We haven’t even started. That’s the first question of the process because we’re not going to start down this pathway until we’ve really made peace in our own hearts with even what the goal is. Because if I’m trying to win, if I’m trying to build a case or develop some kind of amazing communication technique that will then open this person’s eyes to the wrong that they did and I will finally get my apology and that’s how I define peace.
Then we’re going to be spending our time in a very different way, the common way. We’re going to do conflict resolution trainings on all these communication techniques, because that’s based on a philosophy that conflict comes from, like, just poor communication. Which kind of, but no, not really, because that would mean that every time someone doesn’t, like, use I statements instead of you statements, it would consistently result in conflict, which of course it doesn’t, because really it comes down to our own heart, our own expectations about the relationship.
Yes, so we start with that and then we choose our role. Am I the offended? Am I the offender? Am I a potential initiator where I just saw this go down and I want to help but I don’t want to make it worse and I want to stick my nose where I shouldn’t? Should I? Should I not? Like what should I say? And then of course the coach, which is for those of us in the counseling field, we’re often in a position to be a coach or at least potentially be a coach where we’re just Utilizing these resources to help another individual, or maybe multiple people if we’re working with different people in the conflict, to help them reach peace.
All of that is such a fresh way of entering into the conversation. And it really just starts to prime us to shift our thinking toward a more rational perspective, because we’re going to be asked to describe the situation objectively, not emotionally, not using like judgment labels on the other person or moral labels on the other person, like rudely or harshly or carelessly or whatever we might say as we’re describing the situation, but really starting to process back what happened and why exactly it was offensive to us or hurtful to us in the first place, not to justify our hurt, but to really start to understand the nature of the wound. So that we can better understand how to reach peace, like, what does forgiveness need to look like in this situation, possibly.
Carrie: And sometimes the wound is that they did the exact same thing that your mother used to do, or your father used to do, or your ex used to do, and really taking that time to self examine, recognize like, Oh, okay, I’m getting triggered by past relationship stuff. It’s not even have to do anything with this particular person, for this particular relationship.
Carrie: How do we know? I’ve kind of picked some questions for people who deal with anxiety surrounding conflict, and I would include myself in this somewhat. My husband and I do a anniversary episode every year, and we just talked about how I brought something up of like, hey, I’m unhappy about this.
And he said, yeah, me too. So then we had the opportunity to make changes in that aspect of our relationship, which was really beautiful. But how do we know whether something is worth, like, bringing up and addressing? Like, we all are, in the Bible, we want to extend grace to other people. And I know that I have bad days, and I know that other people have bad days.
How do I know if it’s like, okay, I just need to extend grace and just let that one roll off and move on, forgive them, or do I really need to address this with this person? Do I really need to bring it up and say, hey, that hurt me?
Janeen: Yeah, I love the question, and I think there’s a couple different ways that we can look at this.
First of all, it would be helpful if we realized that the Bible actually gives us three different options for how to respond to a hurt. It’s not just, go. Because sometimes we feel like the right thing to do is go directly to the person and talk to them directly about it. But we also have a whole slew of passages that tell us, like, it’s to my benefit to overlook an offense.
Overlooking and just releasing those moments of offense is also an equally valid option. But also, A third option is to just wait, watch, and see if a momentary offense was possibly a misunderstanding, it was a bad day, or discern, is this a pattern? Is this something where for the sake of the other person or the relationship, the most loving and gracious thing to do is bring it up and bring it into the light and address it.
And sometimes we need time to discern that we’re not going to know that from one incident. So that’s one thing to think about. But then the other is this significant shift or separation between my peace in my own heart and making wise decisions about how to best care for the other person and the relationship.
And I think what we see in research as well as practical just realistic outcomes is I will get the best outcomes in my conversations with the other person in a relationship or speaking into issues in their life if I deal with it first in my own heart, rather than trying to find my piece through that conversation, because then I’m bringing my needs into it. In addition to the topic that we’re talking about, like I’m putting extra pressure on that conversation if I’m trying to find my peace from that person, taking it well, not getting defensive, understanding what I meant, and if I can come into that conversation already at peace. In my heart from the Lord, then I’m gonna be so much better positioned to speak in a way that the other person is more likely to hear and receive partly because I don’t have an agenda anymore other than just to love them well. I think we’re trying to decide, well, what’s the gracious thing to do? When should I go and speak with them about this? When should I kind of be merciful and just release them of this? I think one thing we’re looking at that we would want to look at is evaluating the seriousness of the offense.
And this would be, like, the peace pursuit model contains all this, so it’s really easy for me to answer this, because all of these are steps in what we call stage one, this time that we spend with the Lord, before we even decide whether or not to have that stage two conversation with the other person, is what we would call it. So we want to evaluate. What’s the nature of the offense? What’s the potential consequences if I don’t say anything?
Carrie: That’s good.
Janeen: And really considering just a Philippians definition of love, where I’m considering the needs of the other person as more important than my own, as more significant, like I’m really taking into account what’s best for them, what’s best for the relationship and me.
So in making that decision of when do I bring it up? What should I bring up? What should I just let go? One thing we want to do is try to understand the nature of the offense. Could this rightly be called a sin? Is this not just about something that I didn’t like because it didn’t suit my preferences, but this is actually really impacting their relationship with the Lord?
This is a moral issue. I think that’s important for us to understand because I think that should influence maybe. How we think about what to address and what not to address and how to address it. Because if I’m really particular about how I want the dishes done, they know it. They already know it. We’ve already had a conversation about it.
And then they’re still not doing it. Well, at that point, do I think that they’re sinning against God or am I going to think of this like they’re not loving me? Well, because they’re choosing not to do what I ask. But then in my orienting definition of love is the whole world needs to do what I ask to love me well and like if people don’t do what I want, then they’re sinning because they’re not loving me well.
So even just like checking my own heart about that really is a humbling process because it often helps us to realize conflicts maybe are best understood. As not a moral violation per say, but really as unmet or unequal expectations. And when I can reframe my offense or the thing that I want to address in terms of expectations, like what exactly did I expect them to do or not do, to say or not say, and then really work through a process of questioning my own expectations, like, well, okay.
Did we talk about it before? Have we ever talked about it? Or am I like, indignant because they should just know. I shouldn’t have to say it. Then that’s my issue really. Because I’m expecting them to read my mind. That’s not how communication works. That’s not how people know things. So then even right away in this process, If I’m thinking about it in expectations, like they should know that they’re not supposed to do that, they should know that whatever, if we’re thinking about dishes or something much more significant and impactful, we can also look at, okay, are my expectations legitimate?
We did talk about it, but is there any basis for my expectation that they do it my way? Reasonable is another one where it’s like, would another person in their context in their circumstance, is it reasonable for them to be on time? Even if they get a flat tire, like they should have just left early enough, even if they get a flat tire, they won’t be late.
Well, that’s not reasonable for people to live like that. And then loving is the last criteria that we use to really question our expectations. Is this about my needs alone or am I even taking into consideration their needs and what’s best for them as I have expectations about this situation? Some of these kind of questions, these self reflective questions, as well as evaluating like what’s the nature of it? Is it miscommunication? Is it a cultural difference? Is it different in perspective? Is sin involved? These are really just reframing, we could call it reframing techniques, that help us to think about it in a way that is automatically going to just start cooling down the flame, that’s fueling that hurt, that’s just continuously fueling that offense.
And as we think about the nature of the hurt or the offense differently, We can better understand what we want to say to them and why we want to say it, and that can really help us make the decision. If I want to say it so that they will know how bad they hurt my feelings, so that they’ll feel bad, that’s actually not great to elicit shame, essentially. That’s not a great reason to go. But if we’re able to forgive before the Lord, And just be humble before Him, and to receive our peace from the Prince of Peace, and really receive healing for these hurts, the real hurts, from Him. And realize that I do have expectations and preferences.
I’m not really able to make demands on that. So if I’m going to go for that reason, or if I’m going to go for a real moral violation issue that I want to speak into their life about, like an anger issue or something like that, I’m going now out of love for them, out of care for them. My motives are now different because I’m not going because I don’t like it.
You need to agree to never do this again. When we go like that, it’s like our needs are in their hands. And I think that is part of why conflict resolution is often so unsuccessful. Because we have seen something that we want that’s important to us, and we’ve put our well being into the hands of the other person.
So now we need them to agree. And they might not agree. That’s just the reality is they may not agree. They might not do it the way we want. They may not apologize. Even if they were so, so wrong, they may never come to that point of repentance. And so if we’re stuck saying that my peace, I can only find my peace if they give me what I need.
Then that’s actually no way to live, just big picture. That’s such an external locus of control. And a lot of times that’s how we approach conflict resolution, as though if we do not reach this external satisfying outcome, then we’re not at peace, rather than I’m going to spend time with the Lord and just remember where my peace comes from.
And it is unshakable. And then from that point of view, now I can go to this person in love, and care for them, and the relationship, and the situation, and we can work it out, but I’m going to be okay either way, because my well being, my life, is in the hands of a loving, loving father, and not in this person’s hands.
I mean, it’s like a whole worldview shift if we really keep going down this path.
Carrie: That’s awesome because when you talk about things like anger issues or someone maybe comes across a certain way and they may not even realize that that’s hindering, like you’re talking about on the mission field, that that’s hindering their ministry or how people are viewing Christ, then going to that person, they’re most likely If they’re utilizing that type of language or tone of voice with you, they’re most likely utilizing it with other people as well.
So it’s not just going to help your relationship with them to hear that truth spoken in love. It’s going to help their relationship with other people and they’ll start seeing that like, Oh yeah, I saw, I did that thing again in relationships and they can kind of catch themselves before as it’s happening in the moment.
Janeen: It’s so true. It’s so freeing and you were talking about anxiety relating to deal with conflict, which is so, so prominent because so many of us are afraid to address it at all because we don’t know what exactly to say to get the outcome we think we need. So we’re afraid if we say anything, it might just make it worse.
We don’t want to deal with it. A lot of times when I’m doing trainings, I’ll ask everyone, all right, who here is a conflict avoider? And it’s almost everybody in the room would identify as a conflict avoider. And why is that? It’s because we don’t know. The conversation about conflict feels very, very risky.
And we don’t know if we’re going to be able to communicate in such a way as to elicit the response that we think we need. And that’s why this approach I have found to be so, so incredibly effective and successful is because if I realize that the hurt and the conflict that I’m experiencing, I’m going to take that to the Lord, and I’m going to find peace there.
And even only after that, will I even decide whether or not I should talk to the person. Then when I do go have that conversation. It’s just that it’s a conversation. It’s no longer a confrontation. I’m not going to them to meet my needs anymore. My needs are met. I’m at peace. I remembered who and whose I am.
And so now I’m coming to them out of love, which means I know it can be successful. It decreases the perceived risk. Which is what we think of when we’re thinking about anxiety, right? Like, I’m afraid of an unwanted outcome. There’s something about this that feels risky, and I’m afraid of what might happen.
But if I know that my so called conflict conversation with this person is really just going to be a conversation given in love to them, and I’m already good, Then the risk, the threat, goes down. I don’t have to be afraid because I’m not going in hot, and I’m not going to try to work, I’m going to try to express the right kind of emotion strongly enough that finally they see, or finally they agree, or whatever.
I can just go in gently, and I’m going to have a different measure for success that’s guaranteed. Or that can be guaranteed, because now it all depends on me. Because I can go into that and say, this conversation will be a success if I say what God really put on my heart to say, no more, no less. And throughout the conversation, I embody the fruit of the Spirit.
And I just stay right before the Lord from start to finish. If I’m being obedient and expressing to them what I feel convicted to do, to say, and if I’m saying it in the way God commands me to say it, with kindness and gentleness and self control.
Janeen: Not demanding, not aggressive. That’s all, those are things that depend on me.
Those are choices that I can just choose or not choose. If I make the choice of what to say, and I make the choice of how to say it, and stay in that place, Then really that’s the determinant of a successful conversation with them because it’s not going to base success on their response and that’s where the anxiety just starts to go down and down and down because now success is based on choices that I can make. So I can feel more confident of the outcome from the beginning.
Carrie: Yeah, I know I’m going to be okay regardless of how they respond, because I’ve already gotten peace and I’ve already prayed through this process.
Carrie: And Peace Pursuit has an app that people can download and go through that process together?
Janeen: Yeah, it’s been something that we’ve been really excited about in this last year as it’s been in development. And now, yes, it’s at the Apple Store, the Google Play Store, a mobile app for phones or tablets that allows people to work through this process without any prior knowledge. Even that first question, do you want to resolve a relational problem?
It really walks you through that and unpacks that right from the very beginning. And then, yes, you choose your role. That am I offended or offender? Usually everyone is going to choose offended and that’s okay. But the app has all of the content that we would use in trainings and all of that, that allows an individual person to just start with the first part of the app and just start working their way through and making choices.
And it’s interactive and it just really leads you through this time to spend time with the Lord and then even prepare for that conversation and know how to evaluate it and know Kind of how to organize it even in very practical ways of like, okay, what should I say? First, second and third, how should I structure this conversation?
If that’s where I get to, it has so much content in there, broke down into very small steps so that you don’t need any prior knowledge. And we’ve been really, really excited about how people are responding to it in just the first. Maybe month and a half now that it’s been available. So yes, absolutely.
That’s been a huge step forward for peace pursuit.
Carrie: That’s awesome. Towards the end of the podcast. I like every guest to share a story of hope, since this is hope for anxiety and OCD. What’s the time where you received hope from God or another person?
Janeen: I’ve been thinking about something this week that’s just continued to be on my mind and come up in a couple different counseling conversations, actually.
And so that’s what came to my mind first was this passage that I heard spoken about on Sunday, actually, which is Colossians 1:16 and it just says, For everything was created by him. In heaven, on earth, visible, invisible, whether thrones or dominions, rules or authorities, all things have been created through Him and for Him.
And the reason that I find so much hope in that is because it’s this maybe paradoxical or ironic somehow thought, but I find it so comforting, which is that it’s not about me. I don’t have to define my life, or my value, or my worth, or my purpose in life, or my accomplishments, as though it was all about me.
I am, in a way, so encouraged, and find so much hope in my life, knowing that I’m almost like, a background character. in someone else’s wonderful story. I get to be a worshiper, I get to be a part of this story, but it’s not about me. So I can enjoy the peace and the victory that comes from someone else accomplishments and the hope that someone else has provided for me, which is in the Lord and a future that’s already secure.
So I think those words have just been really powerful for me. I’ve been thinking about it this week. That all things were created by Him, through Him, for Him. And I think maybe, I guess it just takes the pressure off. And seeing people that I’ve been working with in these areas, specifically in anxiety or discouragement in their lives, whether it’s overseas or here in the States.
I find so much, maybe surprising, hope and relief in remembering that this is all for him. That kind of, in a way, all we have to do is just like, know who he is and what he’s done and cheer for that and just cheer. That’s it, that’s enough. And it just kind of takes, yeah, it just takes the pressure off. So I think that’s something that I really found hope in this week.
Carrie: Yes, it’s so very different from how our society functions where it’s all about me and it’s all about promoting myself and what am I doing and those types of things. So I think that that’s great. I appreciate you sharing that with us and I hope people will check this out. You and I had met at the AACC conference and I talked with someone else that was at your booth who had said they use this in their lay counseling ministry at their church and have been able to work with like mothers and daughters or different family members that weren’t able to talk to each other before and now they’re actually able to utilize this and communicate with each other. So I think that’s great. That’s awesome.
Janeen: Yeah, it’s wonderful to be able to give people hope in things like really deep or long lasting relational conflict, because I think sometimes that’s one of those topics where people feel like it’s lost, and it’s lost forever, and there is no hope, like specifically broken relationships, I really do think, is one of those areas where people truly believe there is no hope.
Some things are broken beyond repair, and so to find hope that, at the very least, we can reach peace in our hearts about this loss, rather than let it always be a hurt, an unresolved hurt, I think, oh, it’s so encouraging. And then to bring people together in that and see restoration happen, it’s really been a wonderful thing to be a part of, for sure.