Growing up my brother had a gorgeous cast metal chess set with the characters in the shape of great Italian sculptures. For example David was the king. I admired it regularly, but I never played it. The family I grew up in was pretty careful about the “chess game” they played. By that I am referring not to the actual game of chess, but to the way we walked relational conflict out.

I have recently been thinking about how relational conflict is like a game of chess. One person makes a move and the other person makes a counter move. The moves they make are directly in opposition to the other person because the goal is to win, to overtake, to take captive. Often when something goes wrong in a relationship we start playing chess. One person does something and the other person reacts instead of acts. They respond to what just happened as they are feeling confronted, defensive, frustrated, etc. What gets lost is where this all started. Somewhere in the past someone choose to pick up that first piece and start the game. Unfortunately it is a game with no winners!

I want to stop playing chess. I want to learn how to not react out of my emotions even when things are tense or difficult. I want to learn to look at the other person with a tender and loving heart and recognize they are a child of God (whether they are a believer or not they were still created by God and he would embrace them if they came to him). I want to learn to put down my weapons, my defenses, my pain…. to be vulnerable and open even if it means I am putting myself at jeopardy of further hurt. Ultimately what I am saying boils down to the condition of our hearts. If my heart is set on playing a game of chess and making counter moves toward my opponent instead of embracing my family in Christ and living in unity then all that will happen is destruction of myself, them, and Christ’s work. Oh how deeply I pray my heart can change.

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26″In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Eph 4:2-3, 17-18, 22-32)

I have been especially stuck in the above passage by verse 29. It says we are not to speak unwholesome talk. How we define that probably comes from our definition of what is unwholesome, but Paul continued on to describe that it includes speaking only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. In other words, we have to be focused, alert, and aware of what their needs are before we even speak! Wow do I have a lot to learn!

Have any of you learned things that have helped you change your heart and perspectives in this way? It is a paradigm shift but one that is well worth the price!