That's Just the Tip of the Iceberg


"One hundred years after the RMS Titanic foundered in icy waters 375 miles south of Newfoundland, the dangers of vessels striking an iceberg continue," according to meteorologist Alex Sosnowski of[1]

Icebergs provide an apt analogy for disagreements or arguments that emerge in the church. The topic of the argument may be obvious, like the tip of an iceberg, yet it’s the large mass concealed beneath the surface that actually poses the most danger.

The tip of the iceberg might be, “Should we buy blue carpet or red carpet?” Some want blue, while others want red. Both insist and become heated.

Why such strong feelings over some possibly trivial (or maybe not so trivial) topic? Because the lower 2/3 of the iceberg consists of emotional and relationship issues!

Those deeper issues require your utmost attention when responding to conflict.

I suggest using these five “iceberg questions” as your radar to analyze the underlying causes of conflict:

  1. What is the level of trust between each party?

  2. How much power does each party have to influence the outcome?

  3. What will the consequences be to each party if he or she wins or does not win the conflict?

  4. What fears drive each party?

  5. What needs motivate each party?

After careful prayer, reflection and consideration of the five “iceberg questions”, you can better respond in a way that helps you:

  1. Take steps, even if small ones, to begin rebuilding trust.

  2. Advocate for fairness and protection of weaker groups or persons.

  3. Reduce negative consequences (such as losing face, for one example).

  4. Address fears, both legitimate as well as unfounded ones.

  5. Meet the actual underlying needs of each party.

Emotionally intelligent pastors assess underlying issues during conflict and use this information to inform how they relate to others during a conflict situation. They help people move beyond the substantive issue (the tip of the iceberg) and their stated positions on a topic (red carpet or blue carpet).

Emotionally intelligent pastors deal with the “iceberg below the surface” and work to create focus on deeper issues, underlying concerns, and creative strategies for achieving win/win solutions.

What other things have you discovered lying below the surface of conflict?


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[1] Retrieved on 5/18/2016 from


Dr. JeannieComment