Conflict, Communication, & Enjoying Life
By Judy Kirwin

Judy Kirwin was shortlisted in the 2014 Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest for her young adult novel, Cross Your Heart. Judy’s work as a conflict resolution workshop coordinator inspired her to write a novel about highschool conflict. Judy joins us on the blog today to share a bit more about her work and novel.

Want to enjoy life? You may be surprised that centuries ago the psalmist asked the same question: “Do you want to enjoy life?” and then gave the answer: “… avoid saying anything hurtful, and never let a lie come out of your mouth. Stop doing anything evil, and do good. Look for peace, and do all you can to help people live peacefully.” (Psalm 34:12-14, ESV).

The way I see it, honest communication and getting along with others are keys to enjoy life. And personally, I don’t want to come to the end of my life and have regrets in this area. What is your experience in relating to others? Is it anything like mine? Misunderstandings happen. Expectations are not met. Communication fails. Result: conflict! Not all the time, but more often than we’d like it. Have you ever heard of the acronym H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired)? Sometimes it helps to remind me to avoid conflict when I’m feeling any of these things.

I naturally shy away from conflict. But my husband, Peter, likes it. His perspective: “Great! You see things differently than me. Tell me how you see it so I can understand your view.” Coming from failed marriages, we both are sensitive to the influence that our words can have on each other and our relationships.

While dating, Peter asked an unforgettable question, “What if we had a framework to work through conflict?” Excitement bubbled up in my soul, which released a spring of hope in a place where there was deep pain. Six years later, after studying mediation and conflict resolution in formal courses, books and most importantly in Scripture, we’ve compiled two workshops: “Treasuring Differences” and “Cracking the Conflict Cycle.” The purpose? 1) To treasure differences instead of fighting over who is right. And 2) to crack the conflict cycle by reaching out to hurting people stuck in the quicksand of repetitive patterns, providing them with practical insights and language tools to break free.

I’ve learned it is essential to deal with conflict in a respectful way because issues can escalate quickly. Scripture warns of the devastating effects of hurtful communication: “… They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.“ (Psalm 64:3) Even if they say, “I was only joking … don’t take things so seriously!” This statement will not erase the heart-damaging effects of unkind words, whether spoken, written in a text, or posted on Facebook.

Cyberbullying takes conflict to a disturbing level and is reaching epidemic proportions in our culture today. Once hurtful words are posted online, they are there for everyone to read and comment on. The destructive damage is done with devastating results.

I’m burdened by the number of young people, victims of cyberbullying, choosing to end their lives out of desperation and hopelessness. This must be stopped! On September 6th 2013, _Maclean_s had an article by Amanda Shendruk titled “Cyberbullying and its Victims”, which noted, “Cyberbullying isn’t just a problem for kids. Online tormentors don’t discriminate by age: On average, seven per cent of Canadian adults have experienced some form of cyberbullying.” The article contained information from Statistics Canada providing “a detailed look at the who, what, and where (but unfortunately not the why) of online bullying.” Isn’t it amazing that the author is puzzled over the why? Government programs focus on the symptoms of this epidemic, but these, too, do not answer the why. They are not getting to the root of the problem because it is a heart issue. Jesus says, “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34). For those who don’t know what the heart refers to here, it is who someone is on the inside. You get to know someone when they talk. If someone chooses to hurt another with their words, it reveals something about their heart. This is why healing of the heart is so important. And why getting to know Jesus, who heals the broken-hearted, is the crucial step towards recovery. I’ve found that it is often a painful journey Jesus takes us on to admit our urgent need of His forgiveness and to restore our hearts. Once your heart is restored it is important to guard it: “above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The allegory, Cross Your Heart, highlights the Scriptural truth that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov 18:21). It follows the heart journey of a cyberbully whose insulting Facebook message is believed to have contributed to his classmate’s suicide. According to Jeff Smyth of Youth Unlimited, the story goes below the surface of bullying, focuses on the impact of our choices on those around us, and points to how we can find inner healing and redemption regardless of our past.

As writers we often agonize over our choice of words to clearly express what we wish to communicate. What if we took the same time to think before we speak? One of the challenges in life is to control our tongues and build up rather than tear down our relationships. Do you want to enjoy life? I do. I want to use healing words in my relationships, using Proverbs 16:24 as a guideline: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” I desperately need the healer of hearts to speak through me. What about you?

Meet the Author! Judy Kirwin will be holding a book signing for Cross Your Heart at Faith Family Books, 45 Milner Avenue in Scarborough on Saturday, March 21st at 2 p.m.

About this Contributor:

For over 20 years, Judy Kirwin has worked in profit and non-profit capacities in the communication field. In 2008 Judy received her Alternative Dispute and Conflict Resolution certificate. Coming from a Christian worldview, Judy and her second husband Peter have made it their focus to come alongside those experiencing conflict. Together they have co-authored and facilitate two conflict resolution workshops called “Treasuring Differences” and “Cracking the Conflict Cycle”. She is passionate about diffusing conflict through the use of healing words and has written Cross Your Heart to dramatically illustrate how cutting words damage and healing words rebuild.

Judy and Peter live in the Greater Toronto Area and are almost empty nesters.

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