How to Handle Conflict in a Healthy and Holy Way

Donna Jones

by Donna Jones


Nothing sucks the joy out of our professional life, personal life, or spiritual life quite like a conflict gone wrong.

If you’re like me, unresolved conflicts play on repeat in our minds. We rehearse conflicts in our head. We rehash conflicts with our family and friends. We even revisit conflicts in our prayers to God.

Conflict consumes us.

As a pastor’s wife and ministry leader for over three decades, I’ve seen conflict tear relationships, families, and churches apart. You. Have. Too. But I’ve also seen conflict heal, restore, and build deeper connection.

What makes conflict bad is not its presence, but our practices amid its presence.

The outcome of the conflict you’re facing right now depends on what happens next.

The responsibility of managing conflict well is important for all believers, but for those of us in leadership, the implications of how we handle conflict is monumental.

Frankly, when most of us face conflict, our first inclination is to think, I want this conflict to be over. This mindset leads us to all sorts of unhealthy and unholy ways of relating: passive- aggressiveness, acquiescence, avoidance, accusations, power plays, over-spiritualizing non-biblical preferences, manipulation, outbursts, slammed doors, silent treatments, raised voices, ghosting.

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But what if we altered our paradigm about conflict? What if instead of, I want this conflict to be over, we thought, I want this conflict to make us better? (Or, if that seems impossible, I want this conflict to make me better?)

This mindset shift opens the door to new possibilities of handling conflict in healthier, holier ways.

When my son got married, he wrote personalized wedding vows. As he faced his adoring bride and recited his vows, one line stood out to me: “I promise to seek to understand as much as I seek to be understood.” If kept, I knew this would mark their relationship with happiness and health.

Of course, seeking to understand takes humility, which isn’t difficult when our relationships clip along seamlessly. But when conflict causes headaches, heartaches, and hurt? Well, that’s a different story.

However, humility is a mark of a Christ-follower. It’s also the single quality no conflict can be resolved without. At least not in a healthy way.

Biblical humility is “strength restrained.” Humility is born out of strength, not weakness.

Here’s the beauty of biblical humility: Humility doesn’t make us doormats for exploitation, humility makes us doorways for conversation.

If we’re led by pride—which powers up—or by fear—which cowers down—we can’t follow God’s mandate to speak the truth in love. Prideful people attack (sometimes subtly, through manipulation) and fearful people avoid. But humble, Spirit-filled people address issues that hurt relationships or the people in the relationships.

Since handling conflict in a healthy way means neither attacking nor avoiding, but addressing, the million-dollar question is, “How?”

Here’s a pathway for having a hard conversation in a holy way:

1. Pray

When I was writing Healthy Conflict, Peaceful Life my daughter told me she prays, “Lord, make this a conversation between three, not just two.” Ask God to direct your words and open your heart to understand the root issue of the conflict rather than the surface issue.

2. Affirm the Relationship

Most people begin hard conversations with, “We need to talk.” This phrase raises defenses, making conflict more complicated than necessary. Begin hard conversations with words that lower defenses and promote unity such as, “you’re an important member of this team,” “you’re my dear friend,” “I want us to have the best relationship possible.”

3. Ask a Question

Questions like, “What’s your perspective on…?”, “What happened when…?” “How do you see…?” open the door for us to gain understanding about how the other person views an issue. If we allow the other person to speak first and are genuinely curious about their answer, we’ll often discover information we wouldn’t have otherwise. This gives us wisdom to know what to say next.

4. Express Your Thoughts, Feelings, or Opinions

Finally, we move forward by expressing our perspective. We don’t drop hints like breadcrumbs hoping the other person will figure out what we think. We speak the truth in love. And with love.

Conflict will always be part of our human experience. Depending on how it’s handled, conflict can either consume us or conform us to the image of Christ. Conflict has the potential of making relationships better, and more important, of making us better. We won’t always agree with others (and that’s ok!) but we can learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

They key to it all? Humility.



Donna Jones is a national speaker, church planter, and Bible teacher who’s passionate about loving and following God in real, everyday life. She’s the author of Healthy Conflict, Peaceful Life: a Biblical Guide to Communicating Thoughts, Feelings, and Opinions with Grace, Truth, and Zero Regrets (Thomas Nelson. 2024) andhosts the “That’s Just What I Needed!” podcast which ranks in the top 2% of all podcasts globally. Connect with Donna on Instagram @donnaajones or at