How to avoid contention in daily life

When my husband was called to be stake patriarch, our stake president challenged us to maintain a home free of contention. That seemed impossible, but we accepted the challenge and shared it with our 19-year-old son.

Life is very busy. There is a certain amount of hustle and bustle, but we have learned that this does not have to translate into contention. To start with, we focus on the message of 3 Ne. 11:29, reminding us that contention is of the devil.Some steps that help us are:

Pray for kindness and the ability to forgive. Nothing matters so much that we should say or do something that offends someone else.

Love others. The Lord has said that if we love others, there will be no contention among us.

Repent of bad habits. Most of us keep our tempers and remarks in check in public and can try harder to use the same approach in our homes and personal relationships.

Practice good communication. Refrain from retaliatory or judgmental comments.

Listen to music that calms.

Life holds many opportunities for misunderstanding and conflict, but we have our agency to choose to avoid contention and enjoy the resulting peace. - Janice Auger, Salt Lake City, Utah

Additional Information

Don't point finger

In my college communications classes, I teach the following on avoiding contention when resolving something:

Consider the other person's point of view first. The other person may look at the subject from a different point of view than you.

Use "I" and "We," not "You." The word "you" is a pointed finger. No one likes to have a finger pointed at them. "I" and "we" remove the personal attack and encourage a positive interchange.

Discuss all valid positive points of the issue. Deal with the issue under consideration, not the person. Be sincere. No one likes a phony, especially someone on the defensive.

Point out areas needing change. Concentrate on the issue. Point out parts of the task that can be corrected.

Make suggestions for change. Initiating criticism without suggestions for change is like shooting the rapids in a raft without oars. - William A. Bahrt, Richland, Wash.

Turn other cheek

The Savior's counsel in the Sermon on the Mount to turn the other cheek should be our most common reaction when we feel we have been offended. Most of the time, people don't mean to give offense. If something isn't a big deal, we shouldn't turn it into one.

The Savior realized that there were times when problems needed to be dealt with instead of ignored, so He counseled His disciples to go to the person who had given the offense and discuss it with them. If that didn't work, they were to get a couple of friends to go with them to talk to the offender. Finally, they were to go to their priesthood leaders if they couldn't deal with it on their own. (See Matt. 18:15-17.) - Janice Leilani Smith, Kingsville, Texas

Divert mind

I have found if I think of others more, my life has less worry, and I do not get caught up in my own little problems as much.

If I divert my mind from the constant daily pressure of having everything perfect for myself, I can then concentrate on things like an activity with family and friends away from my cares and silly fretting. Also, just thinking about something or somebody besides myself helps calm me. I change from an unhappy person to a happy daughter of our Heavenly Father. - Melinda Sue Webber, St. Louis, Mo.

Be positive

In our daily lives, there is contention around us constantly. But the surprise is that we are usually the cause of it ourselves.

So to avoid some of it, we simply don't start it. We suggest that you try to be positive with everyone you come in contact with. And when a situation arises that may prove contentious, recognize it before it gets out of hand and stop it. We have found this most easy and extremely effective. - Elders Adam Shupe and Daniel Andrews, England London Mission

`A soft answer'

"He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention." (3 Ne. 11:29.)

What exactly is contention? The Random House Dictionary defines it as, "heated dispute or controversy." What causes contention? Causes can include money problems, frustrations, tiredness, differences of opinion, etc.

What are some solutions? Have family meetings to solve small problems before they escalate into major problems. Set up basic rules for the family so everyone will have guidelines. Recognize we all make mistakes and have our own opinions. It's OK to disagree if done in a civil manner. If you can't agree, agree to disagree. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." (Prov. 15:1.) - Becky Robinette Wright, Richmond, Va.

Be prayerful

Be prayerful and study the scriptures. In these latter days, we often have a lot of contentions because Satan is trying to destroy us and our families. Having regular scripture study and prayers as our living prophet urged us to do can help us overcome contentions.

Be obedient and be faithful to the commandments. Keeping the commandments and being faithful will help us draw closer to God. Thus, His Holy Spirit will always be with us, which will then enable us to live a Christlike life. Remember that contention is not of God, but is of the devil. (3 Ne. 11:29.)

Endure to the end. Surely our Father in Heaven wants us to be happy in this life and have His Spirit with us always in our homes and in our hearts instead of the spirit of contention. Therefore, He expects us to endure to the end by living the gospel in our lives. - Egildo P. Dalde, Bedford, N.H.

`Happy jar'

Having six sons and six daughters, we have learned the following:

Nip contention in the bud. Don't be argumentative.

Don't "advertise" others' mistakes. All the children know right from wrong and can gently correct each other. The whole family doesn't have to be involved.

Use a "happy jar." Each family member has 20 smiling faces on paper of their favorite color with their name on the back of each. For a kind deed, an extra job, or making someone happy, they are told, "Feed the happy jar." For upsetting someone, forgetting a chore, or making a mistake, they are told, "Feed the frowny jar." When all our happy faces are in the happy jar, we "win" a special treat. - Brenda and Tom Spillane, West Plains, Mo.

***** Write to us:

June 4 "How to make family scripture study fun, interesting."

June 11 "How to help children learn to properly bear testimonies."

June 18 "How to cope when a loved one is suffering from dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease."

June 25 "How to gain an eternal perspective."

July 2 "How to overcome personal weakness and achieve greatness."

July 9 "How to help children learn the steps of repentance."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date. How to checklist:

Seek Spirit in personal life; be forgiving, pray for kindness.

Be considerate; consider others' points of view, opinions.

Practice good communication; don't be retaliatory.

Don't take offense or make little things into a `big deal.'

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