10 godly ways to handle an online conflict

conflict online, christians online, blocking online, defriend

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:10


by Toni Birdsong
How do you adapt to a culture of substandard communication, express your intent in 140 characters, qualify, clarify, employ diplomacy, dodge bullets, and honor Christ every day in the online space? You don’t. Not with a 100% success rate that is.

Living out your faith on a digital stage is not for sissies. If you think about it, millions of people posting personal ideologies, opinions, beliefs and values to abbreviated channels such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, is kind of like an invitation to miscommunicate on a global scale.

You will make mistakes. You will step on landmines. You will have to put yourself back together again. But, you will survive.

10 ways to handle an online conflict:

  1. Evaluate objectively. Go back over the dialogue that lead up to the conflict and determine if you are responsible. Get another (objective) person’s opinion.
  2. Cool off before clicking. Rather than firing off a response, chill out and log off. Depending on the level of emotion, this may require a few hours or even a few days as a “cooling off” period. Read Romans 12:2.
  3. Ask forgiveness if needed. If you realize that you mispoke, relayed incorrect information, or responded inappropriately—you need to own it. Ask the person (if digitally possible) if they will forgive the offense.
  4. Maintain a “real” perspective. Match the worry to the relationship. Were you close to the person or were they a stranger prone to spar with anyone? Go read their feed/wall/blog to get a full picture. Cyberspace is huge and words are dangerous. If you angst over every person who disagrees with you, you won’t last long. Pray and determine if the issue is worthy to pursue, if not, let it go and move on. Read 2 Timothy 2:23-25.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Communicating online leaves a lot to be desired. If humans who talk face-to-face have conflict, you can bet that people writing brief posts will run into collassal confusion over written “intent.” It’s rarely about you and often about the deficit in the medium.
  6. Take the conversation off-stage. Clarify a comment by sending a Direct Message (DM), private message, or email if possible. Chances are you can resolve an ambiguity before it escalates.
  7. Realize where you live. Conflict is part of your life on earth. Interacting online is no different. You may be judged, misunderstood, bullied, and ridiculed. And, there will be times when you will be at fault. It’s human nature this side of heaven and a cultural reality digital communities. Read John 16:33.
  8. Take it to the throne. God is with you at all times. He knows the snares of the wired world and He is willing to take the burden from you—immediately. Pray for the person with whom you are in conflict. Present your heart to God and let Him sort out the details. Don’t re-engage with others online until your heart is pure and aligned with the Father’s heart.
  9. Don’t ignore people. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss, block, or delete a negative comment. However, you may miss an opportunity to echo Christ to someone in need. Address a comment in love—no matter how different it may be from yours. Sometimes your biggest crtics can end up becoming your biggest fans—if you work through and not around the tough stuff.
  10. Assume the best in others. Simply being alive and pursuing relationship requires courage. That is true of you, and everyone you encounter. Everyone has bad days. Everyone makes mistakes. As Christians, grace is our response (not always natural but a discipline of the faith). Walking through a conflict with honesty and kindness will speak more about Christ than posting a thousand bible verses . . . and certainly more than automatically hitting the “block” button.

Have you ever had to deal with conflict online? If so, how did you handle it?

Post/Tweet this today:
Lord, make me a digital channel of your peace through which grace and mercy relentlessly flow. Amen. #LiveSticky

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  • http://twitter.com/peteccsb Peter Guirguis

    I’m so glad that you brought up this topic Toni.  I’ve been sharing the Gospel truth on Twitter and I have run into some conflicts. I always pray before I share and I ask the Lord to show me what to share and who to share it with.

    From my experience, I found that there has been one group of people that tend to create conflict and that has been our atheist brothers and sisters. Many of them (not all) seem to be very mad at God and Christians. I think we need to pray extra hard for these people that the Lord would bring them into His family.

  • Anonymous

    I think you are onto something – I see a pattern too (friends, frenemies, grumps, haters). I’ve prayed myself to this conclusion: If someone is my friend on Facebook then God has brought them across my digital path for higher purposes and I need to pray and continue the conversation (usually through a DM). If they are on Twitter, I go look at their stream and see if there’s any pattern of attacking others – if attacking others online is their career, I usually don’t engage them. I ignore the comment & see it as a distraction from the enemy. I try to stay mission-centric online. If it’s on our blog – I always take that opportunity to go deeper and address the issue from a scriptural point of view. 

    All of this takes time but each situation has been worth it. Each situation is different though.

    Thanks for weighing in  @twitter-208568172:disqus . Keep at it. Never grow weary! 

  • http://twitter.com/tim_hutchings Tim Hutchings

    Thanks for adding this comment, Toni! Your post says “don’t ignore people” – which is a really bad idea. Sometimes you need to step back, see what’s happening and follow the oldest Internet rule instead (“don’t feed the trolls”). There are times when the willingness to listen and be patient can turn an argument into a friendship, but that’s not always the best approach.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Toni for that feedback, I think that that is godly wisdom :-)

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-206134015:disqus … good point. I did mention that in the comment above yours. Maybe I could make it more clear in the post. I do go look at people’s Twitter or FB stream and decide if I should engage at all. You are right some people are haters and there’s just no point going in and getting scorched. 

    One time I did go in head first and it paid off but several times the results have just been wasted time. Satan definitely has his minions doing his bidding online. They come out to frustrate our message and our mission!

    Thanks for clarifying, Tim. :)