The most useful problem solving technique I’ve learned in the past year is called “triangulation.”
Triangulation is a method of communicating in conflict resolution that allows the two people resolving to see each other as allies together in the battle against the problem. It’s designed to create a space where the two (or more) individuals doing the problems solving are on one side of a fence and the problem is on the other side. The key is truly believing that the problem is the enemy, not the person.
So many times I allow myself to twist even my strongest allies [in my mind] and make them out to be that “one thing” in my way. I have gotten into the stupidest arguments with my husband; so stupid, in fact, that by the end, I don’t even remember why I’m mad at him but I’M MAD AT HIM. Now, my one simple problem has grown into two: whatever the original problem was is still a problem and now my relationship needs repairing, too. All because I didn’t take the time to remind myself that he is my ally and wants to conquer problems with me.
In 1 Samuel, chapter 18, Saul ran into this same dilemma. He has been introduced to David – THE giant-slaying, naked statue inspiration, next king of Israel – David. At this point David has slayed Goliath the Philistine giant and was granted a position of commander in Saul’s army. He also continued to play harp for Saul to soothe Saul’s depression and fear. Because the LORD was with David, he succeeded in every challenge life presented him and all of Israel and Judah came to love him. Everyone except for Saul.
Saul couldn’t get past viewing David as the problem. He watched God bless David’s every effort and witnessed his country’s love for David grow daily. His jealousy and fear clouded his judgment. He got so wrapped up in his anger one day that he actually tried to kill David.
“David began to play the harp, as he did whenever this happened. But Saul, who had a spear in his hand, suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David jumped aside and escaped. This happened another time, too, for Saul was afraid of him, and he was jealous because the LORD had left him and was not with David.” (1 Samuel 18:10b-12)
Saul attacked David in an attempt to stop the problem, but the problem wasn’t David. The problem was Saul’s grief and anger at his own catastrophic loss. He wouldn’t let himself acknowledge this; he was convinced that he was alone on his side of the fence. The truth is, regardless of whether Saul or I acknowledge it, God is always on our side of the fence. That was the whole point of his death and resurrection – he took on THE PROBLEM once and for all.
And believing in that faithfulness and unconditional forgiveness was what made David “the man after God’s own heart.”
Challenge: The next time I am in the middle of a conflict, I will pause and remind myself that it is not “me vs. the world.” God already won that battle and he’s fighting for me. I will take a deep breath and move forward believing that the problem is in His Hands.