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Learn ways to resolve conflict

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Former individual and marital counselor Alice Richmond has seen it time and again.

Someone begins to apologize to a hurt friend and suddenly tacks on the thought, “but if you weren’t so sensitive,” and negates the possible healing.

Richmond understands, though. She readily acknowledges that she has done nearly the same thing.

But she wants to help others find the tools she now uses to face and resolve conflict. That’s the heart of the 12-week class, “Peace-fakers, Peace-breakers and Peacemakers” beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Columbus’ First Baptist Church.

The focus: to turn opportunities of conflict into ways to highlight God’s grace and goodness. The Rev. Dan Cash, First Baptist’s pastor, said he thinks most people could use training in conflict resolution.

“Besides, the Bible tells us in Matthew to seek out each other (in the case of offenses) face to face,” Cash said.

His pastoring experience has taught him that many church people see conflict as generally negative.

“It’s one of the great misunderstandings,” Cash said. “We think if there’s conflict, then we must be doing something wrong.”

Not so, said Cash and Richmond, who said conflict is a normal part of life. What unfolds as wrong and unhealthy are some of the ways people react to conflict, Richmond said.

For instance, she said peace-fakers are those who pretend they aren’t emotionally wounded by another even when they are. If wounded people don’t eventually acknowledge the hurt and forgive the offender, they run the risk of allowing anger and unforgiving feelings to seep out in unsuspecting ways and ruin their relationship with the offender.

Richmond will use materials from Peacemaker Ministries in Billings, Mont., for the class. An attorney launched the ministry to find a better way to settle disputes.

“Prayer certainly helps all this,” Richmond said. “What also helps is simply finding ways to learn to stop for a second before you speak and say, ‘God, help me really think about what I’m going to say and not just react.’”

She said one of the most important elements of a Christian’s handling of a disagreement is go to the Holy Spirit in humility and prayer. And then the person should ask, “What have I done wrong here and when?”

Richmond acknowledged that, though the technological age has made some painful comments rather permanent, psyches can do the same.

“Some people’s memory of hurtful things,” she said, “can be pretty permanent, too.”

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