It is no secret that The Crystal Cathedral is in trouble. A combination of money woes and interpersonal conflict has brought this once powerful, dynamic church to the brink. The drama is being lived (partially) in public. The future looks difficult.
I am not connected with any person in leadership at the Crystal Cathedral. I have enough experience to know that the media reports are incomplete at best and very often manipulated by one or more of the players for their own purposes. So I hold no predetermined conception of their troubles, beyond that they have some.
I help pastors deal with the conflict in their churches. I help them restore relationships in their congregations. I help them establish patterns that prevent and minimize conflict in the future. I help them move past the damage the conflict has wrecked in their own lives.
If Dr. Coleman asked for my help here is how I would begin. I want to know these things before we go through the details of the history of the conflict. I want to know this before I know the finances of the situation. I want to know the answers to these questions, before we go into a broader consultation. These questions will let me know about the needs of my client. These will let me know how to move forward.
How is this conflict impacting your life?
In a conflict of this size and duration, each person involved will suffer in a number of ways. This is natural and can be expected. Each person will experience conflict differently. These are some of the common ways people will experience.
I expect to hear that stress is taking its toll. Trouble sleeping, gaining weight, new health issues (usually minor), decreasing sex drive and other physical symptoms are common.
I expect to hear expressions of anger, frustration, anxiety and depression. These can run the range from having an unusually short fuse to needing the medical help of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications.
I expect to hear that friendships are becoming more difficult. Close relationships may become strained or more distant. People may be viewed more critically, with more suspicion and less trust. People my become a source of dread and lead to greater isolation.
I expect to hear that praying and other spiritual practices may become more difficult. God may seem distant, silent or unconcerned. There may be deep feelings of betrayal that rise and fester. Forgiveness may seem impossible, undesirable and foolish.
There are a couple of things that might arise that will cause me to look at the conflict in a different way. For example, if my client needs to infuse our discussion with blaming someone else for the situation, I will be concerned. At first I will redirect my client to our more basic questions letting them know that we will cover the details of the conflict exhaustively. If they continue to blame someone else for their situation I will treat that as a yellow flag.
In this discussion, no one is important except my client. How my client is managing the conflict and what toll it is taking on them. But if my client is more focused on someone else, especially in blaming someone else, I will begin to suspect that my client is a high conflict person.
High conflict people drive conflict. This is because they are driven by deep compelling fears. These fears create disturbing emotions and feelings for high conflict people and they must seek relief. The most common way they seek relief is to blame other people for their situation.
To test my concern that my client is a high conflict person, I will ask a second question:
For the moment, without considering how others have behaved, how have you contributed to this conflict?
This one is pretty simple from my perspective. If someone is unable to accept their role, no matter how small, in the conflict, then it is very likely that they are a high conflict person. Knowingly or not, they are driving this conflict. Knowingly or not, they are in the way of a reasonable resolution.
I can and often do work with high conflict people, but the process is different. It is slower. It is more difficult. It is emotional, intense, dramatic and heart breaking. There may be many tears, vitriolic anger and blaming. Lots of blaming.
Still with all of this, high conflict people can solve disputes and come to good, solid and workable solutions that they will honor. It is worth the effort to go through the process with them.
Without an understanding of the high conflict personality your conflict will continue and escalate. It will be costly in time, money and goodwill. It can lead to a scorched earth approach of conflict resolution.
It is almost certain that high conflict people are driving the disputes at the Crystal Cathedral. If I was working with Dr. Coleman, I would want to identify the high conflict people. If that includes my client, that is okay, we can still move forward.
By identifying the high conflict people we can identify their real needs. By identifying the real needs of the high conflict people involved we open the door to a solid resolution.