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From Conflict to Connection: How Tetzaveh Teaches Us the Importance of Reconciliation

In a world full of conflict and division, learning how to navigate and resolve disputes effectively is crucial to maintaining healthy relationships and promoting peace. In the Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we learn about the rituals of atonement and purification that the priests had to undergo to be considered worthy of serving in the Holy Temple.


These rituals were physical and involved the washing of hands and feet, wearing special garments, and offering sacrifices. However, they also held symbolic meanings related to forgiveness and reconciliation, reminding us of the importance of resolving conflicts in our lives.


The Impact of Conflict Resolution Strategies on Relationship Success


Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of human relationships. Disagreements and misunderstandings can arise, leading to hurt feelings, broken trust, and damaged relationships. While conflict and arguments can be unsettling, it is not conflict itself that ruins relationships but the aftermath of unresolved conflicts and the emotional distress that follows.


John Gottman, a renowned psychologist and researcher known for his work on marital stability, has extensively studied relationships and conflict resolution. His research has identified key factors that predict the success or failure of a relationship, with a particular focus on how couples navigate disagreements and conflicts.


Gottman has found that a couple's repair attempts, which are gestures or actions used to de-escalate tension and reconnect after a disagreement, are critical. Successful relationships have a higher frequency of repair attempts and a willingness to make amends after conflicts, such as sincere apologies, offering support, or showing empathy and affection. Unsuccessful couples, on the other hand, ignore bids to reconnect and remain entrenched in self-righteous anger.


One of Gottman's notable contributions to helping couples manage conflict is an exercise called "Aftermath of a Fight." This exercise focuses on the key elements of conflict and how they can be repaired.

The chaos of conflict includes:


1. Physiological arousal: Individuals experience heightened physiological arousal, such as increased heart rate, sweating, or shaking after a fight. This physical response can persist even after the argument has ended.


2. Emotional disengagement: Partners may emotionally disconnect from each other following a fight, shutting down, or withdrawing to protect themselves from further conflict.


3. Negative interpretation: There is a tendency to interpret the actions and words of the partner in a negative light, leading to increased feelings of resentment and hurt.


4. Persistent conflict: The aftermath of a fight can lead to ongoing conflict and tension in the relationship as unresolved issues continue to simmer beneath the surface.


5. Avoidance behaviors: Partners may engage in avoidance behaviors, such as stonewalling or avoiding difficult conversations, to prevent further conflict.


To restore the calm, couples can:


1. Take a break: When conflicts arise, couples need to take a timeout from the argument to cool down. This break allows both parties to calm down and approach the issue with a clearer perspective.


2. Reflect on personal feelings and emotions: Each person involved in the conflict should take time to reflect on their feelings and emotions related to the situation. This self-reflection helps individuals understand their reactions and triggers, which are often from unresolved childhood wounds.


3. Express feelings using "I" statements: Instead of blaming or accusing the other person, they should express their feelings using "I" statements. This promotes effective communication and prevents the conversation from becoming a blame game.


4. Validate each other's perspective: It is important for couples to validate each other's perspective, even if they disagree with it. Seeking to understand shows respect for the other person's point of view.


5. Find common ground: Finally, couples should work together to find common ground and identify potential solutions to the conflict. This collaborative approach helps strengthen the relationship and resolve conflicts in a healthy way.

The Gift of Conflict

Helen LaKelly Hunt, who partners with her husband Harville Hendrix, the pioneer of Imago Theory, explains that "conflict is growth trying to happen." Ironically, it is conflict-avoidant couples that fail to reach their relationship potential.


At the heart of the successful resolution of conflict is the willingness to engage in repair attempts, which is based on our suspension of judgments to understand the pain and perspective of the other person. If the definition of intimacy is "into me see," the conflict-avoidant couple never really gets to know each other and stays on the surface, where things are "safer."


Empathizing with your partner's pain increases compassion and invites us to examine our own behaviors and opportunities to grow since we don't want to hurt the people we love. Many times, in my own relationship, I have taken steps towards the middle, meaning making a change for the sake of my marriage, when, in fact, these were changes I needed to make to become a better person. That's a win-win.      


How we address and resolve conflict significantly impacts the outcome. By following the example outlined in Tetzaveh, where forgiveness and reconciliation play a central role in the process of atonement, we can learn to navigate conflict in a way that strengthens our bonds with others rather than tearing them apart. By embracing the principles of forgiveness and understanding, we can work towards healing wounds, restoring trust, and ultimately building stronger, more resilient bonds with those around us.


Just as the priests were able to undergo rituals of atonement and purification to restore their relationship with the divine, so too can we seek to mend the broken relationships in our own lives through the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.


Internalize and Actualize:


  • Reflect on a recent conflict you experienced. How did you feel both physically and emotionally during and after the conflict?

  • How do you typically approach conflict resolution - by avoiding conflict, engaging in blame, or seeking understanding and reconciliation? Reflect on the impact of your approach on your relationships.

  • Think about a time when you made a change in a relationship for the sake of reconciliation and growth. How did this impact the dynamics of the relationship? What did you learn about yourself in the process?

Are You Looking To Start Building More Loving Relationships?

"The Little Book of Loving Well: A 30-Day Practice to Transform Your Relationships with Simple Daily Habits" provides a practical and accessible guide for cultivating love, compassion, and understanding in relationships through everyday practices that can easily fit into daily routines.


Interested in learning more? Click here to schedule a free 15-minute chat to explore how you can live the life you love with the love of your life.

1 Comment

Feb 23

These loving comments should be taught and Hanna’s observations are succinct and direct.

I wonder how my life would have changed had I been exposed to these thoughts earlier in my life?

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