Collapsing Relational Triangles (Part 2)

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By Rev. Jay Fowler

God’s heart is that we be at peace with one another. Relational triangles can bring conflict that eats away at peace in the body of Christ. In part 2 of his blog post, Jay Fowler gives biblical strategies for collapsing relational triangles.

How to Collapse the Triangle If You Are Person C

In this scenario, suppose you are person C. When person B comes to you with a problem about person A here is what you could say to person B:

  1. “Have you had a chance to talk with person A about this?” You might add, “I don’t want to be in a triangle on this.”
  2. “Go talk with person A as soon as possible. I will be praying for you.”
  3. “At the end of the week, I will check in with you to see if you had a chance to talk to person A yet. If you did not, I will tell person A that he/she needs to talk with you. I won’t tell person A what you said, only that there is an issue that needs to be resolved.”

If person A and B cannot get reconciled, offer to go with them or to find another mediator that could help them talk through their issues. This is in accordance with Matthew 18:16.

If there is still a problem, ask a paid staff member, the senior pastor, or one of the elders of the church to go help in the reconciliation process. You may find it helpful to call in an outside resource, like PastorServe. This is in accordance with Matthew 18:17.

How to Collapse the Triangle If You Are Person B

  1. Go face-to-face to the person who hurt you. Avoid the temptation to triangulate. There may be times when you need to process your feelings with a trusted Person C. But that is only so you can go to person A with a clearer heart and head. Hopefully person C will love you enough to help you take the log out of your own eye as well. If you do include a person C, it is important to tell them how the reconciliation goes, so person C gets to celebrate the reconciliation as well.
  2. Go humbly. Be willing to admit to person A your part in the conflict. As Jesus says, first take the log out of your own eye. Matthew 7:4-5.
  3. Go honestly. The Bible exhorts us to speak truthfully. Ephesians 4:25. Jesus tells us that we need to show our brother or sister their fault. Matthew 18:15. This should always be done respectfully and with grace. 1 Peter 2:17.
  4. Go, ready to forgive. We have been forgiven so many sins by our Lord. We are right with God only by grace through faith in Jesus’ death for us on the cross. He asks us to extend that same forgiveness to those who sin against us. Ephesians 4:32.

How to Collapse the Triangle If You Are Person A

Sometimes triangles are formed in churches because person A is a dominant, prideful person who is unapproachable and/or manipulative. People do not feel safe in confronting this type of person. As a result they may go to others and begin to triangulate out of frustration and fear. So here are some things person A can do to help collapse triangles.

      1. Go to the person who has something against you. Matthew 5:23-24
      2. Graciously receive people who come to you with a complaint or to work through conflict. 1 Cor 16:10
      3. Ground yourself in Christ’s love for you. It is hard to hear criticism. But it is easier when we can freely acknowledge our own failings and sins and know that we are forgiven and by our Shepherd. Rom 8:39
      4. Give a listening ear. James 1:19
        • Repeat back what you hear the person saying to you. Sometimes that’s all people need. They just want to know they were heard. They don’t actually want you to change anything. They just want to be understood.
      5. Gather points of agreement in what they say. You may not agree with everything, but start with the places you do agree and focus on them. Phil 4:2
      6. Genuinely admit your fault and ask for forgiveness. James 5:16.
      7. Generate a preferred future together. How do you and person B want to go forward together? What can you agree to do in the future so you will not hurt one another? True repentance leads to changes in how we live. Matthew 3:8.

In Conclusion

God’s heart is that we be at peace with one another. Romans 12:18. But he also knows that conflict is inevitable, even in His family, the church. So He asks us to do with one another, what He modeled for us when He came in the person of Jesus Christ. No triangles. No secrets. No covert messages. He came to meet us, challenge us, and save us. He came so we could be forgiven and reconciled. And that is His heart for His family. That is what He wants us to do with each other.

Of all the disciples, Peter probably had the most relational conflict with Jesus. But he worked it out, face to face with his Lord. So when he was an old apostle writing to other Christians, he challenge them to do the same thing by saying, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

Love collapses triangles.



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